Stretching Your Food Dollar: A How-to Guide

I’m going to start this article off with some stone-cold facts.

We all moved to Southern Wake for the lower price point (don’t argue with me, Steve. No one likes being 25-35 minutes away from work).

Food prices are out of control and eggs can arguably be counted as dependents on your taxes.

Kids aren’t selling lemonade on the corners anymore because none of us can afford to launch a business right now.

A party pack of Crumbl cookies is roughly equivalent to in-state tuition.

We’re making salads with the wild green onions growing in our backyards.

No one is coming to save us.

(I could go on, but psychiatrists in the area have roughly a 4-to-6-week wait time and I want to be mindful of that.)

What I’m trying to say is, times are tough — but the good news is, there are ways to get around it, particularly in Southern Wake. Ready to save some money and eat like a king? Read on, poor people, read on.


Feed the whole family with junior trays from Cook Out for less than $5 a meal — from burgers to chicken strips to corn dogs to whatever your fat heart desires. Even better, this place is open until 3:30 a.m. on the weekends, for all your late night (early morning?) binge-eating needs. Honestly, this is one of the cheapest (and most iconic) places to get a meal in Southern Wake, so don’t sleep on it.

Fuquay-Varina Meat Market


Fuquay’s new pOpshelf, weirdly, has a food section. A cheap one. Bear in mind, pOpshelf is also full of a million decor options that you 100% don’t need, so DO NOT walk into this store for food without a trusted handler who can lead you to the six-pack of frozen White Castle sliders without being distracted by the faux palm plant, orchid car freshener, or leopard salt and pepper shakers. Stick to your goal. In and out.


Also known (by me) as the Horned Jesus Store, this local treasure sits at 112 W. Vance Street in downtown Fuquay. In addition to having an insanely cheap selection of meat (pick five and mix and match for $19.99), this place has fresh produce, the biggest (and cheapest) packs of Capri Suns you’ve ever seen, bath tissue, cowboy hats and boots, pinatas, and a LIFE-SIZED VIRGIN MARY AND HORNED JESUS.

Disclaimer: I am not Catholic. I’ve been told that this horned Jesus is actually a saint, but it totally looks like a horned Jesus to me. If you’re feeling like a smaller saint or Virgin Mary statue, they’ve got those too, as well as ceramic jars, unicorns, and pigs — the magic never ends. If you’re in downtown, Do. Not. Delay.


I’m going to assume that if you’ve gotten this far into the article, you probably need this. No shame, friends. We’ve all grown up with struggle meals, and some of them are pretty freaking good. ALDI — either in Holly Springs or Fuquay — is the perfect place to pick up ingredients for tuna macaroni salad, rice and beans, spaghetti, and other meals that you’d never be caught dead serving in public. Below I will include the #1 struggle meal I ate when I was a poor college student that still gives my husband the dry heaves.

Mix-and-match food bargains at the Fuquay Meat Market.

  • 1 can of tuna (packed in water)
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise (… more or less)
  • 1 pound of macaroni
  • salt/pepper/paprika to taste (or whatever you’re feeling, honestly)

Cook up the noodles and throw them in a bowl — but rinse with cold water first so they’re not hot. Add a can of drained tuna, chopped green pepper, a cup (or whatever) of mayo, and random seasonings (I add curry powder because you can’t stop me). MIX, MIX, MIX. Keep in fridge. Offer it to your kids when you deny their requests for McDonald’s because “there’s food at home.” Watch them die inside.


Between Fuquay-Varina and Holly Springs there are five discount retailers (i.e., dollar stores of some variety). No, you can’t buy meat at these establishments (and if you could, you probably shouldn’t), but this is the place to go for nonperishable items such as canned beans, pasta, rice, ramen, baking mixes, snacks (to a point), etc. Check out “Dollar Tree Food Hacks” on the internet (cough, TikTok) that will chop your grocery bill down to size.


I’m not saying that all off-brand products are the same as name brand — that would be a bald-faced lie, and I’m not here to throw hands — but you can’t tell me that Great Value elbow macaroni doesn’t taste the same as Barilla. Or that the Great Value Ultra Soft Premium toilet paper doesn’t get the job done.

In these trying times, no one cares if you serve Food Lion gummy bears at a party or use Harris Teeter brand frozen french fries at a cookout. It goes without saying here in the South that you should never use off-brand mayonnaise, but other condiments are fine (I think). We’re all doing the best we can.


Listen, if you can’t spring for a Costco membership, find a friend who has one (or avoid the Costco police) and get yourself to the food court ASAP. A hotdog and a 20 oz. drink is $1.50, a pizza slice is $1.99, a chicken bake (whatever that is) is $2.99, and a BBQ beef brisket sandwich will set you back $4.99.

But tread carefully through the aisles. A trip for paper towels and alfredo sauce will inevitably lead you to a six-person sauna and a gallon of Nutella. None of us are immune.

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