Where to buy food and clothes

There are many places you can shop locally and online in the USA. Get tips on where to buy food, clothing, and household items. Learn how you may be able to find traditional items from your home country.

Buying food

The word groceries means food you buy. You should try to spend about 20% or less of your total family income on groceries each month. This means if have $1,000 in income each month, you should spend $200 or less on groceries. If you get $500 each month, you can afford to spend only $100 or less on food, if you are to also pay for housing and utilities.

Here are some useful things to know about buying food:

  • Some things that cost little in your home country may be expensive in the USA. For example, refugees from Burma may like to eat fresh coconuts and mangoes, but these items are expensive.
  • Meat and fruit are often expensive in the USA. So, you may need to eat some new foods as well as your traditional foods.
  • Buying food, especially rice and beans and many vegetables, from the grocery store and cooking it yourself is generally less expensive than buying food from a restaurant.
  • If an item in a store is priced, you have to pay that price. However, this is less true in markets or stores selling used goods.

Where to buy groceries

Here are some different places you can buy food:

Grocery stores

Grocery stores in the USA are large stores that carry many different types of food. There are several large grocery “chain stores.” A chain is a group of stores that are the same in different cities across the USA. Grocery stores are divided into sections such as fruit and vegetables, meat, canned foods, etc. Many large grocery stores encourage you to sign up for free “Club” cards, or membership cards. This is good to do because you often receive a discount on your food with a card, even though the card is free. Other stores, such as Costco, do charge for their cards and sell large quantities of food more cheaply. These are worth joining if you have a big family and are buying food and household items in large quantities.

Farmers’ markets

Most cities in the USA have farmers’ markets, especially in the summer. At a farmers’ market, you can find fresh fruit and vegetables grown and sold by the farmers themselves. In summer, you may spend less money than you would at a grocery store for the same items, but not always – some big grocery stores are able to sell for less than farmers who grow small amounts of organic produce, for example.

Convenience stores

These are small stores that sometimes sell small amounts of groceries or food. While these stores may be convenient because they are close to your house, they are often more expensive than the grocery store.

Ethnic stores

Some communities have ethnic stores, meaning a store that sells groceries from a particular ethnic background. For example, there might be an “Indian Market” or a “Chinese Market” that sells foods from those countries. You can find ethnic grocery stores in many cities in FindHello.


Restaurants in the USA tend to be the most expensive place to get food. Fast-food restaurants are cheaper than regular restaurants, but you have to choose carefully so as to not eat too much unhealthy food.


There are a number of websites selling ethnic food and other specialty foods that are hard to find locally in your town or city.

You can find specialty foods by searching online. Type the words “buy [food you are looking for] online.”

Where to buy clothing and household items

In the USA, you have lots of options for where to shop for clothes and things for your home. If possible, try to buy things when they are on sale!

Thrift stores and secondhand (used) stores

When you are thinking of where to buy clothes, consider thrift stores if you want to save money.  Thrift stores sell clothes, household items, and furniture that other people have given away. If you take time to look, you can often find very nice clothes, items for your kitchen, furniture, toys, and more at thrift stores. These stores tend to be very low-cost, and they often have days where everything in the store is on sale.

Garage sales and yard sales

A garage sale or yard sale is a great place to find used clothing and household items. These items are normally quite cheap. Garage sales and yard sales are one of the few places you can bargain in the USA. This means if you are at a garage or yard sale, you can try to get a lower price than what is written on the item.

Department stores and malls

You can also shop at department stores or the mall. These stores tend to be more expensive and have famous name brands. This means the items are popular because the brand is well-known, such as Nike shoes.


Superstores are stores in the USA that sell nearly everything. These include stores like Walmart, Target, and Kmart. These stores are generally cheaper than department stores.

Shopping locally

There are probably lots of local stores in your new town. It is nice to shop locally because your money stays in your community.

Hardware stores

If you need items for your house or to repair your home, you can shop at a hardware store. The people who work at these stores will answer your questions about home repair.

Online and mail order

A lot of Americans buy their clothes online or from catalogs that come in the mail. In the USA, you can return clothes you buy online or from a catalog, just like you can return items bought in stores.

Returning items

Stores in the USA let people return goods if there is something wrong with them or even if they just change their mind. But they will not allow you to return something after you have used it. Whenever you shop, keep your receipt. This is proof that you bought the item and when you bought it. If you decide you want to return an item, you will need the receipt. It is harder to return fresh foods, but you should always return food if you found it was spoiled or past its “sell by” date.

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