There’s one undeniable fact about shopping and dining at a Zingerman’s business. It’s expensive, relative to ordinary places. In my book, Satisfaction Guaranteed: How Zingerman’s Built a Corner Deli into a Global Food Community, I talk about the reasons for Zingerman’s high prices and how it justifies them. But I’m here to tell you that there are ways that Zingerman’s can be less expensive, and in some cases, a downright bargain. 

My first tip applies to all Zingerman’s operations: sign up for its newsletters. From the Deli to the Roadhouse, Coffee to Cornman Farms, and the Mail Order business, Zingerman’s is awash in emailed newsletters. These are the first place you will find out about classes, special events, and, most importantly, sales. You can sign up for newsletters on the websites for each business. 

Along with its newsletters, follow the various Zingerman’s companies on social media. When a sale is winding down, that’s usually where Zingerman’s will let you know that time is running out. Zingerman’s is most active on Instagram and Facebook, less so on Twitter, but you’ll find information across many outlets. 

Now, let’s look at where you can find bargains across some of its businesses. Keep in mind that deals can vary, depending on Zingerman’s inventory, and that shopping ability might be affected by pandemic restrictions. When in doubt, call their locations. 

Zingerman’s Deli isn’t the first place anyone would think of as a home to bargains. After all, balsamic vinegar can cost well more than $100 a bottle and a sleeve of spaghetti that can run $19. But the Deli has many opportunities that will appeal to the thrifty. They include:

  • Sales. The Balsamic Blowout takes place in January, and there are other regular sales on groceries, such as pasta and cheese, throughout the year. Zingerman’s also puts on an “oil change,” clearing out vintage olive oil and bringing in a fresh harvest. 
  • Closing time deals. If you are able to visit the Deli in person, the pastries in the bread box are marked at 50 percent off beginning at 5 p.m. every day. You can also find day-old bread loaves (instructions for reviving them are on the bag).
  • Buy in multiples. Zingerman’s regularly offers discounts when you buy several of something, such as the pot pies that are available in the winter. 

Zingerman’s Roadhouse can easily set you back $40 to $50 at lunch and $100 a person at dinner, if you choose top-priced items and accompany them with alcoholic drinks. However, there are some cheaper options, too. 

  • Daily breakfast and lunch specials. In the book, I explain how these blue-plate specials came to life, and you’ll see them displayed on signs over the kitchen and on the daily printed and online menus. They’re generous portions, and you may find yourself taking home leftovers. 
  • Happy hour drink and snack specials. The Roadhouse is constantly inventing new cocktails, offering different types of craft beer, and often has snacks available in late afternoon. 
  • The kids menu. I know some adults are embarrassed to order portions meant for little appetites, but sometimes, you simply can’t face a big plate of food. Ask your server to show you what’s available. (I recommend the sliders.) 
  • Half portions. The Roadhouse will make small or half portions of many dishes, and you can also ask for orders to be split (if you do this, please tip well, since the server is bringing you only one meal).
  • The Roadshow menu. There’s a separate list of breakfast features and sandwiches available for carryout only from the little aluminum trailer called the Roadshow. The Roadshow sells a ton of breakfast burritos, and I’m partial to its BLT, which is just the sandwich, without fries.  
  • One scoop of gelato. My mother and I used to enjoy dropping into the Roadhouse after a movie and enjoying one scoop of gelato (a regular-sized serving has three scoops). It’s a way to try a new flavor without a major commitment.

Zingerman’s Bakehouse is an ideal place for bargain hunters. The individual pastries are usually just a few dollars, and you also can luck out on other items.

  • Half-loaves of bread. Most of the full-sized breads are available in half-loaves (some of the specialty flavors are not, so be sure to ask before you order). You can get most of these sliced.
  • Bread of the month and day-old loaves. There’s always a bread of the month that costs around $5, and if there’s leftover bread from the day before, the Bakehouse provides a discount. Ask before you order bread if day-olds are available. 

Zingerman’s Mail Order is a fantastic place to find good deals. You might find that hard to believe, given that you can spend $100 and up on curated Weekend boxes. But it’s true. Here are some examples. 

  • Post-holiday sales. The after-Christmas sale is a way to snap up sweets and savories. It’s important to act quickly, because they will sell fast. There are generally spring and summer sales, too. 
  • Pasta and groceries. Mail Order has its own pasta sale, separate from the one at the Deli. If you like a particular pasta, this is the time to buy several. Likewise, groceries also go on sale when Mail Order is overstocked. This is where the newsletter comes in handy, because that’s where you’ll find the info first. 
  • The Warehouse shop. If you’re in Ann Arbor, you’ll find some excellent bargains in Mail Order’s own shop, about a mile east of the other Zingerman’s Southside operations. You can buy things that aren’t normally listed in the catalog, including dairy products like buttermilk and yogurt. 
  • Also, Ann Arbor area residents and visitors can order from the Mail Order catalog and pick up their items at the store. That way, you don’t pay shipping. 

Coupons. If you take a Zingerman’s class, fill out a survey, or attend one of its special events, it’s likely that you’ll be given a coupon that generates a discount on your next purchase. Coupons at classes and events generally have to be used that night, but the online coupons are usually good for a week or two. 

Samples. Zingerman’s used to be a sampler’s delight. Staff members were willing to offer tastes of just about anything in the shops. These days, because of Covid, wide-open samples are less frequent, but you can still ask for tastes. Recently, I got a sample of poppyseed coffee cake in a paper bag that I ate when I got home. 

Satisfaction guaranteed. It’s not just the title of my book, it’s a pledge posted on the Zingerman’s website. If you aren’t happy with what you buy, let them know. They’ll offer you numerous options—a replacement, a refund, or the choice of something else. Although you can spend a lot of money at Zingerman’s, your expense brings you value, and, they do want you to be happy. 

Zingerman’s Deli, 422 Detroit St., (734) 663–3354. Mon.–Sun. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Zingerman’s Roadhouse, 2501 Jackson Ave., (734) 663–3663. Mon.–Thurs. 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Fri. 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

Zingerman’s Bakehouse, 3711 Plaza Dr., (734) 761–2095. Daily 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Zingerman’s Warehouse Shop, 710 Phoenix Dr., (888) 636–8162. Daily 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (No separate web address.)

Zingerman’s Mail Order,