Frugal Tips
for the San Juan Islands Washington

Here are my Frugal Tips for San Juan Island, ideas for saving money whether you live here or just come to visit. Some of these tips are simply common sense strategies that work anywhere, and some are specifically meant to guide you around the Island while keeping your costs to a minimum. These are the Frugal Tips that work the best for me.

Rumor has it that King's Thriftway Grocery Store in Friday Harbor is the most expensive grocery store in Washington state. Keeping in mind that food prices are constantly fluctuating, the dubious honor of being the highest priced grocery store in the state could probably be juggled between a handful of stores. In any case, King's Thriftway is among the top five highest priced grocery store and so it makes for a more economical visit to plan ahead with this in mind. For example: On September 27, 2009, a gallon of Organic Valley 2% milk cost $6.99.

Friday Harbor Marketplace

The other town grocery store, Friday Harbor Marketplace, is a bit more affordable than King's, and they are a much larger store so they carry a greater selection of foods and brands. (Frugal Tip #1: Shop at Marketplace instead of King's for a less-expensive grocery bill.) The gallon of 2% Organic Valley milk costs the same at Marketplace as it does at King's, but there are more brands, one of which is $6.59.

Compare these random Marketplace prices:
1 lb. Darigold butter, $3.92, August 12, 2009.
Large box of Honey Nut Cheerios, $4.18, July 15, 2009.
1 box Kleenex tissues, $3.67, July 15, 2009.

I always buy organic when I can, which costs more. You can spend less if you are willing to buy store brands or "regular" instead of organic. (Frugal Tips #2 & #3: Store brands are more affordable than name brands, 'regular' is more affordable than 'organic.')

Whichever you do choose, however, purchasing groceries instead of eating in a restaurant is one way to massively save on food expenses. (Tip #4: It costs less to purchase food in a grocery store than it does to eat meals in a restaurant.)

If you will be camping or staying in a place with a kitchen, I highly recommend buying groceries on the mainland before you board the ferry. (Tip #5: Shopping at a mainland grocery store costs less than buying your food on the Island.) Bring a cooler and stock up. You'll definitely spend less, and you will find a better selection, as well. Many residents food shop at the Costco in Bellingham or Burlington in order to save on food money, and believe it or not, even with the added cost of ferry fare and the Costco membership, it still costs less to do that than making all your food purchases at Island stores.

San Juan Island has an extensive farming community who sell fresh produce and various items at the Farmer's Market through the warmer months, once or twice a week. The produce is certainly fresher than grocery store goods, and it will always be either less expensive or somewhere in the range of store prices. There is frequently live music by Island musicians, which makes shopping a fun event, especially when there are ready-to-eat treats like meat pies, cookies, and pastries for the choosing. (Frugal Tip #6: Farmer's Markets can offer a better quality of food, at a lower price, and has the added bonus of being a fun place to shop!)

Share some money-saving tips!

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