Name your favourite alternative household products and where to find them cheap!
November 28, 2010 2:54 PM   Subscribe

Where do you find the lowest costs for various household products?

After reading this comment:

... Paper products are cheapest at store A, meat at Store B, poultry at store C, diapers at store D - and you need the savings from every one of these stores to make your budget and food stamps work.

I started thinking about where to find cheap products and/or alternative products for the house that aren't specifically food but still fall under the category of "need to purchase this every few weeks or every month". For an example: paper towels. I prefer dish clothes to paper towels because I feel that having a big roll around encourages excessive waste.. nevertheless, sometimes it is the perfect solution. If I could find those giant low-grade brown recycled rolls you often find in public bathrooms and tuck it away for occasional use, I'd use them instead.. but where do you find them for a good price?

(Sure, finding the best price for food items is great too - feel free to add suggestions, though this has been somewhat done to death here at

(I'm in Portland, ME. We have WalMarts, etc, but I'd prefer no suggestions for club-stores like Costco or Sam's Club).
posted by mbatch to Shopping (10 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I get a lot of my regular purchases, like cleaning items, using's Subscribe & Save. It often saves me at least a few dollars per order, and it comes right to my house.

For example, I like the Mrs. Meyer's All Purpose Cleaner. At the grocery store or Target, it's about $7-8/bottle. Ordering a case of six bottles using Subscribe & Save brings it down to $5.55/bottle. I've probably got a half-dozen things set up like this - and I only do it after I've compared the prices - and it's made life easier for sure. It's pretty easy to manage. You get a notice before the next shipment goes out (which can be as infrequently as every 6 months) and can cancel the shipment, no problem. And the shipping on S&S items is free, even if you don't have Prime.

This assumes you have the space to store a case of something, and the funds to lay out up-front. But if you do, I recommend checking it out.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 3:06 PM on November 28, 2010 [2 favorites]

I like and Alice is great because it allows you to sort by price per unit (whether thats per oz, load, use, etc...) Also, once you find a price that works for you, you can just set it to ship to you every few weeks. Enjoy.
posted by jourman2 at 3:34 PM on November 28, 2010

Restaurant supply stores that are open to the public. (One example is GFS, but they don't have stores in Maine, unfortunately.)

Also, I've found good deals occasionally on cleaning supplies at office supply stores. But you have to watch for the sales in your area, which can be a full-time job in itself.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:12 PM on November 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have a Daiso in your area? Here in Seattle, we have a couple of these stores. They are Japanese stores that sell various household items like dishes, lots of different organizers, and paper towels for $1.50 a piece. None of it is amazing quality, but some of it is pretty cool and useful stuff you wouldn't be likely to find somewhere else.
posted by wansac at 4:13 PM on November 28, 2010

I see that you're in Maine, but maybe there's a site similar to for your region. Yes, it's a bit of a hassle to clip coupons, but I end up getting tons of free or cheap cleaning supplies and other household items. For example, I'm just now using up the last of the GladWrap I got for FREE in July. Of last year. I love getting free cleaning supplies! I have a huuuuge stash of free GreenWorks cleaning products that I'm still working through from last winter. It just takes a little planning and clipping.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:16 PM on November 28, 2010

I use and (which, in turn uses for just this purpose. I don't have a car so buying things like cat litter and toilet paper (things that are cumbersome and/or heavy) used to be an event. Now they come straight to my door. Some things may not ALWAYS be cheaper, but the savings in car share rental and time pretty much always makes it a no-brainer.
posted by ilikecookies at 5:40 PM on November 28, 2010

There's a Big Lots in Portland. Ostensibly off-brand and overstock, they sell a lot of discount branded stuff. It's a good place to stock up on things like tissue, light bulbs, or cereal. Household goods, pet supplies, you name it. There's probably something there you can save money on. It isn't bulk like the warehouse/club stores, either, so you can pretty much get the same stuff at a (usually) lower price without doing math or having palpitations about using up the giant peanut butter. They also have a repeat customer program that gets you as much as 20% off certain items.

Granted, I have made some boneheaded purchases there. I bought a steel rake for $6 because I figured, hey, it's just for yard clean-up, and the first time I used it the screw came out and I had to find a bigger, better screw to hold it together -- and the wood handle has warped more and more until it resembles a hunting bow. I think I was unhappy with the duck tape I bought there that stuck more to itself than the thing I stuck it to. Et cetera. So use your judgement -- there's a lot of generic household stuff you can buy there that looks decent but is quality compromised in some way. But other stuff is pretty much indistinguishable from what you can get elsewhere, although you should probably double-check expiration dates on anything perishable.

Around here we have a grocery retailer (or two) that's pretty similar to discount club pricing (and store size), but that's something that may not exist where you are.
posted by dhartung at 9:13 PM on November 28, 2010

Nthing wholesale restaurant supply for paper products, buckets, etc., and gonna throw in the usual Mefi recommendation to stop buying cleaning spray products and just use diluted distilled white vinegar, baking soda, and maybe a wee drop of detergent soap in different iterations for cleaning your entire house (of course, YMMV depending on the materials of your floors, counters, bath, etc.). Oh, and Bon Ami powder. These four things are all I need now and are cheaper, always around, safer, and super versatile and effective (really removes smells and grease in the kitchen in particular).

I'm not personally a fan of Big Lots, etc. for this stuff; I find the materials sub-par, where whatever money you saved you waste in frustration and using way more to do the same job because the cheap products are relatively ineffective.
posted by ifjuly at 11:35 AM on November 29, 2010

I don't buy much in the way of cleaning products, either, ifjuly.. preachin' to the choir on that one.
posted by mbatch at 2:03 PM on November 29, 2010

My travels today took me past a store I go to a lot, but forgot to mention before: Farm & Fleet. (Sorry, it's another store you don't have in Maine, but you do have Tractor Supply Company which is similar.)

A lot of things for the house or yard or garden (or farm, of course!) are usually a good deal at these kinds of stores, especially if there's a house brand. And sometimes they have the bulk sizes of items that you can't find in a store like Target (like OxyClean, in my case).

Farm supply places are good for a large variety of pet supplies too. I can get the same special dog food that I get at PetSmart, but in a bag that's 30-50% bigger, at the same price as PetSmart's. (And if I ever need it I know where to get pig chow.) If you're not a fashion maven but need some good solid work boots or a rain poncho, you'll find a much larger selection than at a department store, and at reasonable prices.

The downside of course, is these stores are out in the boonies...
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:12 PM on November 30, 2010

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