Many years ago, I became friends with a gal who lived on produce and dried beans. When she dropped by my house for coffee, I served Chinese almond cookies. When I went by to see her, she put out beautifully sliced fruit. I thought she was a health nut. Turned out she and her husband were poor, even poorer than my husband and me. While I scrimped from our miniscule grocery budget to purchase the cookies, she scrimped from an even smaller budget to purchase extra fruit.
Here's my point, we both went with what was out there. And what was out there were ethnic groceries, lovely ethnic groceries filled with fresh fruits and veggies and slightly exotic treats like the almond cookies at a fraction of the prices demanded by the mainstream grocery stores.
Nothing's changed from those early days when I counted the food to ensure there would enough for the week. In an economy which has pushed 1 in 6 Americans below the poverty line, ethnic grocery stores still rule for anybody looking for good, cheap eats.
The Phoenix area is fortunate. We have three Hispanic markets - Pro's Ranch, El Rancho and Food City - and several large Asian markets - including Lee Lee's and Asiana (two locations, Glendale and Mesa).
On Wednesdays, the Hispanic markets rule with produce specials so good, you'll be in juicing and smoothie heaven. Today at Pro's Ranch I scored 28 avocados, 2 pounds of Red grapes, a 40-ct package of yellow corn tortillas, 7 pounds of brown onions, 20 pounds of bananas, 22 pounds of oranges (so large they looked like grapefruit) and a pound of sour cream for about $25.
I also picked up pork chops at $1.48/lb and 8 24-count packages of toilet paper at $3.99 each (because I have a recurring nightmare that Armageddon will come and we'll be down to our last roll.)
Check their website for a location near you. Most of the specials are good for the whole week, but on Wednesdays, the produce is always piled high and plentiful.
Go to The Coupon Girl for a listing of specials at Pros Ranch and the other Hispanic markets, as well as not to be missed local and national deals.