My Momma Told Me… Ya Better Shop Around!

Chandra’s Kitchen

Low-carb shopping can be hard on the budget, particularly if you are purchasing hard-to-find or specialty items. Where should you look for your groceries, and how can you be sure you’re getting the best price?

Usually, the best place to start is the supermarket chains in your area, both the big regional chains and the smaller local ones. More and more of them are now beginning to carry low carb items alongside their low fat counterparts. Set aside some time to browse the shelves – you might be surprised at what you find! Look especially for Walden Farms products, microwave pork rinds, and sugar free syrups. Don’t forget to read the labels on different brands of barbecue sauces, salad dressings, and the like, because you may be able to save money by purchasing a brand that is not specifically labeled “sugar free” or “low carb” but fits the carb count profile you are looking for. Some of the larger supermarkets that have “organic” sections now carry flax seeds or flax meal, vital wheat gluten flour, plain whole milk yogurt, and other low carb staples.

The next place to look is at a “whole foods” or “natural foods” or “health food” store.  These range from tiny storefronts in strip malls to huge supermarket-sized places like Wild Oats Market. Again, you will want to take the time to read labels, because “sugar free” in these places may mean that an item is sweetened with fructose, fruit juice, honey, or something else that is just another form of sugar. But you can often find some real low carb bargains, particularly in the bulk foods section of these stores. If you are very fortunate, as I am, you will find a local health food store that has a relatively large low carb section. One store local to me, Hobart Health Foods, carries the complete line of Keto products, along with Nutribiotics rice protein powder, sorbitol, xylitol, Atkins products, and a local bakery’s fresh and frozen low carb breads and rolls!

You may, indeed, be lucky enough to have a low carb store in your area. One opened last summer in my city (actually about 25 miles away, but still close enough to be “local” to me). This store carries Atkins, Keto, Walden Farms, DaVinci, Cheeters, and quite a few other low carb brands.

But if all else fails, and you cannot find low carb items locally, and your health food store refuses to special-order them for you, what then? You can order just about any low carb food online. Furthermore, if you don’t have a credit card, or feel unsafe entering your credit card numbers in an online form; many of the low carb stores online will allow you to phone in your order, or even mail a check or money order to them with a written order.

Now, having found an establishment, local or online, that has the products you want, how can you be sure you’re getting a good price? The only answer to this is to price-shop. You can do this by going from store to store and jotting down the prices of your items in each place. Obviously, this is much easier online than if you were tramping from place to place in person.

I have found that for the best price on the widest variety of items, CarbSmart is definitely the place to shop. But I admit (don’t peek, Andrew!) that occasionally I am looking for a particular item that CarbSmart doesn’t carry, such as O’SoLo bread rolls, and I do compare prices at other online stores. The low carb store across town from me carries them, but for $5.99 per box of four! I can get them online for less than half that price. Likewise, the low carb store carries Keto Cocoa Crisp cereal – for $9.00 a box! The suggested retail price is in the neighborhood of $6.00 a box, and I can get them at that price at the Hobart Health Food store. 

Note From Andrew: Even though Chandra is a “paid” contributor to CarbSmart magazine, I did not pay her to push CarbSmart’s online store. I encourage you to check out all local and online low carb stores and make your own judgement. Thanks!

On the other hand, when I needed a packet of not/Starch in a hurry, the day before Thanksgiving, off I went to the low carb store. I think it cost me a couple dollars more than I would have paid online, but I was able to get it the same day and without paying shipping. So sometimes it does make sense to buy a particular item at a slightly higher price for the sake of convenience.

Because low carb specialty items are more expensive than their high carb counterparts, it is only sensible to check around for the best prices, figure in the costs of shipping if applicable, and make comparisons before purchasing. Since you won’t be going for the 89-cent generic label brownie mix in the grocery store, you’ve got to find out whether you can do better than the suggested retail price of $6.99 for the Atkins brownie mix, or whether it’s even worth buying at all. (The answer is that CarbSmart has it for less than MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price), and if you really hunt, you can find it for a bit less than CarbSmart’s price, but it tends to be perenially out of stock at the places that advertise the lowest prices. And yes, it’s worth buying for a special occasion treat if you’re DYING for a brownie!)

>Now, what about those things we want to buy that are not specifically low-carb specialty items? What about pork rinds, heavy cream, real butter, eggs, cheese, poultry and meats? Bagged salad blends, fresh strawberries? Where’s the best place to buy your regular groceries?

Again, the answer is that you need to look around and compare prices. And again, you’re lucky in that I’ve done some of the looking and comparing for you.

If you are looking for bagged pork rinds, your best bet is a supermarket or grocery store in a Hispanic neighborhood. Also, Big Lots stores usually stock large bags of them for about 99 cents. Microwave pork rinds can usually be found at Wal-Mart (often in the checkout lanes), but you may find that your local Wal-Mart only carries the hot and spicy ones. If you are lucky enough to have a Save-A-Lot grocery store in your area, they carry the Lowrey’s brand, regular variety, in the boxes of three packets that look like microwave popcorn packets. They run about $2.69 a box. You can also order bulk microwave pork rinds online, in several flavors, from In order to prepare the bulk ones, you need a 1/3 cup measure and your own supply of brown paper lunch bags, but they are very tasty and worth trying.

Heavy cream is expensive. The supermarkets in my area charge around $2.00, sometimes more, for an 8-ounce carton. Fortunately, I’ve discovered two wonderfully inexpensive sources for this low-carb must-have. The first is GFS Marketplace, the Gordon Food Services store that is open to the public. They are a large regional chain serving Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and northern Illinois. At GFS, a quart (32 ounces) ounces) of heavy cream costs under $3.00, a savings of more than 60% over grocery store prices. For those of you in California, check out Smart and Final. But wait – I recently found an even better deal.  I signed up for a free one-year membership to Costco, a warehouse club chain, and discovered that at Costco I can buy a half-gallon (64 ounces) of heavy cream for $4.59! This is a savings of nearly 75% compared to supermarket prices. The cream is “ultra-pasteurized” and stays good for at least a couple weeks after the stamped expiration date.

Butter is another item that’s not cheap. I used to stock up when it was on sale for $1.69 a pound or less. Now I don’t wait, because Save-A-Lot’s regular price is around $1.39. You should also check the per-pound price on the multi-packs at your warehouse club, because you can usually find it at a pretty good price there. Butter can be kept for many months in the freezer and thawed one pound or one stick at a time.

The prices on eggs, cheeses, and meats are subject to frequent sales. Compare prices and don’t feel guilty if you go into a store and only buy the “loss leader” advertised items! For meats, you can also shop for “last-date-of-sale” reduced prices and freeze your finds for later use. Also watch for sales on bagged salad blends, mushrooms, etc., but don’t overbuy produce only to have it go bad before you can use it. (Yes, I’m guilty of that one myself.)

If you have a farmer’s market or produce store in your area, you may find the best prices on fresh vegetables and fruits. Supermarkets typically charge up to $4.00 for a half-pint of fresh raspberries or blackberries, but I can often find them at the farm market for between 99 cents and $1.99. Also, if you have a “you pick” berry farm in your area, you can get a truly incredible deal with only an afternoon’s work on your part (and all the berries you can stuff in your face while you’re picking!).  Strawberries are typically in season in from early May to early July, depending on where you live; blackberries from July to September, and raspberries from mid-August until the first frost. And don’t forget to stock up on pumpkin in the fall – par-cook it and cut into chunks for freezing. Pumpkin is a wonderful low carb vegetable that can be used like potatoes in stews, casseroles, and even corned beef hash! But it’s typically only available fresh from September to the end of November in the U.S., so get it while it’s hot!

Now that you know where to find what you need, what’s holding you back? Get out there and shop ’til you drop – and drop those pounds eating great low carb food!


*** Costco is an international chain with outlets in most states of the U.S. as well as in Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.  You can find your nearest Costco location at: Click here:

*** Save-A-Lot is a national chain with over 1000 locations in the United States.  You can search for a store near you at:

*** You can search for GFS locations at: Click here:


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Low Carb Product Reviews

In the process of collecting all this low carb food, I've tried a great many low carb specialty products. Note that I am aspartame-intolerant, so there are many perfectly good low carb products that I've never bought after reading the labels. Also, there are many products I haven't tried because I've already found something good in that category and therefore haven't explored further. Keep in mind, too, that tastes differ, and you may love something I hated or vice versa. So here, without further ado and in alphabetical order, are my picks and pans.

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