Being a broke college kid is the worst. For me, it's especially true this year — I've moved into an apartment, and switched to a lower on-campus meal plan. Grocery shopping at the usual Schnucks or Target was burning a hole in my pocket, what was a struggling college gal to do? The answer: ethnic grocery stores.

About a month ago, I was planning to make a ton of dumplings so I could just toss them in the freezer and have a backup meal whenever life got busy. I first tried to get supplies from a local grocery store, but realized that I wouldn't be able to find the dumpling wrappers that I wanted. Instead, I ventured to the nearest Asian food hub, Olive Boulevard. The difference was life changing, as both an enriching cultural experience as well as a gift to my wallet.


pak choy, bok choy, pasture, cabbage, vegetable
Kristine Mahan

Produce at many ethnic supermarkets are not only cheaper than your average chain grocery store, they have a larger variety. You can still find typical vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce, but you'll also find a selection of bean sprouts, taiwanese cabbages, and a variety of mushrooms. The same concept applies for fruits. You'll be winning with a larger selection, while saving a pretty penny.


pork, seafood, meat, fish
Jocelyn Hsu

I cannot emphasize this enough—meat purchases are the real money saver. While a couple pounds of pork would have cost me nearly $10 at Schnucks, the same quantity only cost me about half at Olive. On top of that, instead of getting a prepackaged quantity like you do at a chain grocery store, at many ethnic grocery stores, you ask for the specific quantity you want, and they'll package it for you on the spot.

Condiments and sauces

Jasmine Chan

The variety of condiments and sauces at ethnic supermarkets is truly unreal. You'll be able to find just about anything you're looking for (at least I've been able to), while paying less inflated prices for them, especially when you're buying imported goods from Asian countries. With all of these options, you can up your cooking game and explore new flavors.


goody, dairy product, milk, candy
Alice Wen

I grew up on Asian snacks, so this aisle is near and dear to my heart. You'll find less American staples here, and more imported ones. Trade you normal nacho cheese Doritos for other unique Doritos flavors that are marketed in Asia. Or, try something new entirely. So many of these snacks are sold at bougie hipster establishments, with an inflated price tacked on. Ethnic grocery stores are the perfect place for snack exploration, without paying a hiked up price.

Bonus: ramen

Isabella Neuberg

Okay, so instant ramen is already pretty cheap. But, ethnic supermarkets take the ramen game to a whole new level. Don't get me wrong, I love Maruchan ramen as much as the next person, but the option of chicken, beef, or oriental gets old pretty fast. Any ethnic grocery store will house at least a whole aisle of ramen options, so you can try something new every time.

So get out of your comfort zone, and try this money saving hack. Enjoy a new kind of shopping experience to avoid having your wallet drain faster than you wish it would, and to gain access to ingredients and brands you never knew you needed.