Life in the San Fernando Valley is full of perks. You’re in the heart of the action in this sun-drenched suburb, and you enjoy close proximity to some of America’s biggest and flashiest cultural touchstones and food meccas without having to pay the full price.
Indeed, San Fernando Valley is rated as much more cost-efficient on the cost of living index than many of its neighbors. Compared to an average national ranking of 100, San Fernando Valley checks in at 133, a full 20 points below California as a whole. Housing, though, is still much pricier than it is across the country as a whole.
The silver lining is that grocery costs in San Fernando Valley are actually slightly below the national average. Living in sunny California has the added perk of being close to where so much of the nation’s garden grows. If you’re looking to save some money and stretch your dollars in the San Fernando Valley, the grocery store is a great place to start.
1/ Make It Yourself
There are plenty of pricey grocery items that we consider luxuries that can become much more affordable if we put in the effort to make them ourselves—and it usually doesn’t even take that much time to do!
Here are some delicious grocery staples that you can start making at home to stretch your food budget without giving up taste or nutrition.
Almond Butters: California is the site of much of the nation’s almond production, but almond butter is still super expensive. However, you can usually find whole nuts at reasonable prices, especially if you shop in bulk.
The result is that making your own almond butter gives you a delicious, long-lasting supply of protein-packed goodness without any unwanted additives. All you need is a blender powerful enough for nut butters or food processor to start saving today.
Smoothies: If you’ve gotten in the habit of stopping at Robeks of Fleur de Lima for a breakfast smoothie or a quick lunchtime pick-me-up, you could be spending thousands of dollars a year on something you could make for a fraction of the cost in your own kitchen. These popular shops are beautiful and charming, but they often charge $8-10 for a single smoothie, and that adds up quickly—especially if you’ve made it a daily habit.
Stock up on frozen fruits to make the homemade option even more economical. Experiment with flavors and learn to imitate some of your counter service favorites at home. Investing in a blender — like those found on ThriveCuisine’s buying guide — could pay for itself in a matter of weeks or months if you’re big into smoothies.
Hummus: If you’re buying pre-made hummus, stop! There couldn’t be anything simpler to make at home. With just a few shelf-stable ingredients (which means you can keep them on hand to get your hummus fix whenever the craving hits you), you can have a delicious, creamy dip ready in minutes.
All it takes is some canned chickpeas, tahini, and lemon juice. You can get creative with your additions. Try it with spinach and artichoke, red pepper, or garlic. You can also control exactly how smooth or chunky you’d like your texture. Simply toss the ingredients together and in a food processor. If you’re bold and want to make a huge batch, you can also use one of these stick blenders and a large container.
2/ Buy Frozen
Produce, in particular, can be hard to buy fresh at an affordable price. If you find a good sale, it’s difficult to stock up because you worry about it spoiling before you’ve used it all. The answer is to buy it frozen. It will last a long time, be on hand for you to use in whatever quantity fits your recipe and keep you from being tempted to eat out because you’ll have a meal already on hand. Here are some frozen items that are particularly great to keep on hand.
Berries: These delicious treats are versatile. Eat them by themselves, liven up oatmeal, or toss them in a smoothie. Fresh berries can get expensive in a hurry, though. Stock up on frozen options instead, especially when things are out of season.
Bananas: Freeze bananas when they start to brown if you aren’t going to eat them. You can use them to make banana ice cream for a sweet and healthy treat for pennies on the dollar.
Ready-to-eat Veggies: If you often find yourself eating out instead of cooking at home because of the prep work required to cook a meal, turn to ready-to-eat veggies instead. You can get corn without having to cut it from the cob, cauliflower that’s already “riced,” and peppers that come pre-diced. Save yourself time and keep some of these delicious options on hand.
Skip the Frozen Meals: Frozen meals are usually not all that healthy and quite pricey. Skip these and stuck to basic fruits and veggies.
3/ Buy Food in Bulk
Whenever possible, buy in larger quantities to save money. Of course, you are usually limited to non-perishable, shelf-stable foods for this option. Look for flour, nuts, oats, and cooking oils. Stocking up on these common items can really help reduce the overall grocery bill. Here are some great bulk buy options in the Valley.
Sprouts Farmer’s Market: Stock up on spices, dried fruit, nuts, beans, and grains.
Vineland Fresh Produce: In addition to the produce they’re named for, Vineland also has a section of bulk foods for you to stock up on. 11009 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601
4/ Shop at Ethnic Grocery Stores
Ethnic grocery stores often offer both a variety and prices that can’t be found anywhere else. There are plenty of options in the San Fernando Valley that can help you save money and provide delicious options in your culinary adventures.
Araz International Grocery: This store offers Middle Eastern cuisine staples at reasonable prices. 10668 Zelzah Ave, Granada Hills, CA 91344
Pacific Coast Food: This Eastern European market offers a large variety of goods. 10703 Vanowen St North Hollywood, CA 91605
Sabzee Mediterranean Market: This shop offers Mediterranean fare for all your cooking needs. With a little planning and a good shopping routine, you will be well on your way to slashing your food budget in the San Fernando Valley while still eating nutritious, filling, and delicious meals. All it takes is a few key kitchen tools and the willingness to experiment until you find what works for you. 17461 Ventura Blvd, Encino, CA 91316
Joey Bruno is Thrive Cuisine’s Nutrition Researcher. He has a Masters in Food Science and Nutrition and is a wannabe vegan chef.