Life really may be better under the sea, especially if delicious seafood is on the menu. For those who love the surf part of “surf and turf,” finding the cheapest places to buy seafood that is still high quality seems like a never-ending search.
But by knowing when and where to find the cheapest seafood, you can enjoy this delicious food in a variety of dishes all year. Don’t live on the coast? There is still a way to find affordable seafood.
The cheapest places to buy seafood include buying directly from fishermen based on season, the local supermarket when using store loyalty programs, and joining a subscription club. You may opt for frozen seafood over fresh to get a larger variety or take advantage of sales and buy in bulk.
Finally, if you like to fish, you can get free seafood as long as you pay for a license and live in an area with edible sea life.
- Finding the Best Seafood for the Best Price – Fresh vs Frozen
- When is the Cheapest Time to Buy Seafood?
- Should I Buy Fresh or Frozen Seafood?
- Cheapest Deals on Seafood in Stores
- Cheapest Deals on Seafood Online
- Buying Sustainable Seafood
- Learning to Fish
- Final Thoughts
Finding the Best Seafood for the Best Price – Fresh vs Frozen
Some of the best seafood may also be the cheapest if you know where to look. If you live near the coast, you can buy fresh seafood directly from fishermen.
Not only is it delicious and affordable, but it can also make a memorable shopping experience. Experienced fishmongers can point you to affordable offerings and provide tips on how to prepare them.
Offerings can include locally caught seafood as well as some frozen fish from other regions. The quality of seafood markets tends to be good and the knowledge that shop owners provide is second-to-none.
Some popular seafood destinations include:
- Fulton Fish Market (NYC)
- Pike Place Market (Seattle)
- Monterey Fish Market (San Francisco)
- Honolulu Fish Market (Oahu)
- Harbor Fish Market (Portland, ME)
- Mac’s Seafood (Cape Cod)
The prices of seafood are impacted by the availability and fishing seasons. This is especially true when purchasing directly from fishermen.
Their costs are reflective of how easily they were able to catch fish and how plentiful they were.
When is the Cheapest Time to Buy Seafood?
Just like many foods sold, different types of seafood have peak seasons based on fishing. Here are a few of the most popular seafood varieties and when to look for them at the lowest prices.
- Soft Shell Crabs: April – September
- Pacific Salmon: May – November
- Striped Bass: May – September
- Albacore Tuna: May – September
- Scallops: August – November
- Halibut: March – November
- Blue Crabs: July – October
- Stone Crab: October – May
- Dungeness Crab: October – May
- Skate: Year-round
- Monkfish: Year-round
Should I Buy Fresh or Frozen Seafood?
Nothing compares to freshly caught seafood, but the frozen offerings available today are delicious and often much more affordable. In fact, most of the seafood labeled “fresh” at the supermarket was actually flash-frozen right after being caught to ensure that it stayed fresh and safe to eat.
It is then thawed (but not refrozen) once it gets to the store and is put on display.
Salmon is a great example of how buying frozen can result in cheaper prices without sacrificing quality. Many fishermen flash freeze their salmon so that it can be shipped to areas inland as well as be available outside of the peak fishing season.
Some retailers keep this fish frozen so that customers have a longer window to buy it without sacrificing quality. You can find wild-caught frozen salmon for $5.00 to $10.00 per pound, while wild-caught fresh salmon costs as much as $20.00 per pound and is only available in certain areas.
Cheapest Deals on Seafood in Stores
Many consumers like to choose seafood in person from the store. This can help you identify any potential red flags, such as improper storage or unclean conditions.
When selecting seafood, it is important to be confident that it was stored and handled properly. Here are some ways to find the best prices when buying seafood in stores.
Store Loyalty Programs
Many local grocery stores offer rewards cards through their store loyalty programs. These can automatically apply discounts on items throughout the store or track points from purchases to apply to future discounts on things like gas.
A few popular store loyalty programs include:
- Harris Teeter VIC Card
- Kroger Plus Card
- Target Circle
- Food Lion MVP
- Stop & Shop GO Rewards
These programs are almost always free and may be accessible via a smartphone app as well.
Using my Target circle app, I was able to get 10% off a $2.49 pouch of tuna and $1.50 off a $7.99 package of two Tilapia filets for a total savings of $1.75 just by using the app. I also earned 1% of my purchase towards future rewards. Win-win!
One of the best ways to find the cheapest prices is to compare weekly ads from the stores in your area. This highlights the best deals for the week.
For example, the ALDI in my area is offering a 12 oz. package of frozen cooked shrimp for $5.49 (normally $5.99). All I needed to do to find this out was browse their weekly ad when entering the store.
It is also available online to make meal planning ahead of time much easier and cheaper.
Cheapest Deals on Seafood Online
I am generally wary of buying seafood online due to the inability to see how it is stored and handled, but today there are a lot of reputable companies with long histories of delivering quality seafood for a great price.
Join a Seafood Club
Clubs aren’t just for kids anymore. Consumers can sign up to join a seafood club, which sends them a subscription box periodically.
Some allow you to choose what type of seafood that you want, while others send an assortment based on availability.
Subscription clubs can be one of the cheapest places to buy seafood, as long as you like what you will be sent. Seafood is sent frozen and often in individually-portioned packages.
This makes it easy to just thaw and eat what you need, reducing overall waste and saving money.
You can save up to 40% off typical grocery store prices by subscribing to Misfits Market. They bring food that doesn’t meet the standards for shelf display (but is still high quality) to consumers for a cheaper price.
Reasons that foods end up at Misfits Market can include being too big or too small for packaging, an unusual shape, or surface imperfections that do not impact the quality.
You will need to subscribe for a whole box, which includes produce and other foods as well.
Wild Alaskan Company
This subscription is for those who prioritize sustainably caught seafood and are willing to pay a bit more. It is one of the cheapest places to buy seafood that is sustainable, though, and is worth looking into if you eat a lot of fish.
Subscribers choose from a box of white fish, a box of salmon, or an assortment. Boxes of 12 cost $10.99 per 6 oz. filet and boxes of 24 cost $9.99 per 6 oz. filet. You can also get $15 off your first order, which is nice.
For those craving a fresh Maine lobster roll, you can now make your own with lobster shipped from the state directly to your door.
Lobster in general can be quite pricey, but the frozen lobster tails are one of the cheapest options available at $64 per pound.
It’s expensive, but one of the better values for lobster of this quality. Buying in bulk can mean additional savings ($62 per pound for 2-3 pounds, $59 per pound for 4 or more).
Buying Sustainable Seafood
It is worth mentioning that the best seafood is caught sustainably and responsibly. Look for varieties that are not overfished or farmed.
Fish that has the blue seal of approval from the Marine Stewardship Council meets their strict sustainability standards. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch is another great resource to learn how to make your fish purchases more sustainable.
If you want to buy sustainable seafood but worry that it is outside of your budget, canned or tinned options are often much cheaper while still meeting the same standards.
A single 6 oz. filet of wild-caught salmon from the Wild Alaskan Company can cost $11 (and must be purchased in boxes of 12), while a 6 oz. can of wild-caught salmon from Wild Plan costs just $5.99.
Learning to Fish
If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime. This can be true for you, too!
Learning to catch and eat your own fish does require some initial work, both in finding and buying the right gear as well as learning the actual art of fishing. You may also need to purchase a fishing license from your local authority.
When you add up the total costs, the starting costs for fishing can run around $100 – $150 for a basic rod and reel, some lures/bait, and a license.
Many outdoor stores start offering sales and promotions in the late Spring and early Summer to entice customers interested in fishing.
Red snapper, mahi-mahi, and trout are all relatively easy to catch and delicious to eat. The availability will depend on your location. Some larger fish like tuna require special equipment or access to deep water.
Expect to spend up to $2,000 or more to charter a boat that can handle this type of fishing. Unless you are looking for the experience, it’s cheaper to get your tuna from the store.
Adding seafood to your diet can improve your health and introduce variety without emptying your wallet. Finding the cheapest places to buy seafood may even introduce you to a new location (fish market or coastal town) or a new hobby.
Take advantage of shopper loyalty programs, weekly store promotions, and online retailers to enjoy savings from the comfort of home.
Once you find an affordable way to start buying and preparing seafood, you will wonder why you didn’t try it much sooner. Soon, you may even be able to splurge on some more expensive options, such as lobster tail. Yum!
Katie is an experienced writer, who wrote for big magazines like The Spruce. She is also a mom of three (Sebastian, Lincoln, and Hannah). In her spare time, she likes to read, day hike, and explore hidden gems around her home in North Carolina. You can connect with Katie on Instagram @katiebwriter or her website, www.katiemelynnbegley.com.