With Food Prices Jumping, How Do UWS Markets Compare? Frugal Frannie Investigates…

By Frugal Frannie

Tis the season of check-out shock. My typical grocery shop used to hit around $50 a go. But in September, each trip started landing at over $60. How about you?

According to the Consumer Price Index report issued October 13th, food prices nationally are rising at a 4.6% annual clip, with overall inflation hitting 5.4%, the highest in 13 years

To ensure I’m spending my food budget as wisely as possible, I’ve been hunting in multiple Upper West Side supermarkets within a 15-minute walk of my apartment. My discovery? Bargains can be had at almost every one; but prices on individual “benchmark” items vary widely, with some costing DOUBLE at one place versus another.  

Instead of keeping all that data in my head, I decided to create a “market basket” of 21 common items and do a survey of seven markets in a single day. On October 15th, I checked prices at:

Comparing apples-to-apples, even among apple prices, wasn’t always simple. So here’s my GIANT METHODOLOGY DISCLAIMER:  I looked for the lowest available price on a given item, using unit pricing to standardize. 

For example, Trader Joe’s sells Granny Smith apples for 69 cents each; Fairway has a three-pound bag for $6.99; Brooklyn Fare posted $1.99 a pound. A typical apple weighs a half-pound. I calculated a standard pound price for all stores. Is it perfect? No. 

If an item was on sale, say three cans of tuna for $4, I went with the unit price based on that deal. Again, this is a snapshot based on the lowest price I saw on a single Friday. 

Finally, some stores are rather haphazard with posted prices, with many shelves missing proper tags. And I don’t know if the shelf price reflects what will be scanned at the register. Vigilance is your best defense, frugalistas. 

My findings:

 

 

 

 

What are you finding in your gustatory travels? Are you buying from different places than usual to save a buck? Have a secret source that always has the goods at great prices? Let’s hear it!

COLUMNS, FOOD, NEWS | 75 comments | permalink
    1. Sarah says:

      Don’t forget the H-Mart!

    2. Juan says:

      This is interesting – thanks. It is too bad you have some N/A’s as the most helpful metric would be to add up the bundle for each store and compare the total price. I’m also curious where Fresh Direct fits in.

    3. Sid says:

      Should include Barzini’s and Uptown Whole Foods (nee Gary Null).

    4. LivableCity says:

      Thanks- what a community service! And thanks for including the new Brooklyn fare. This confirms my sense – that TJs beats most on price – sometimes by a lot- but Fairway can do OK. Jubilee if I have to go there is usually the worst – sometimes shockingly so – but I also found good deals there on things like flour when there were shortages, For meat, veg and cheese if one is picky about organic or specific producers the comparisons are harder. Fairway has a lot of decent cheeses at good prices.For price stay away also from the Gourmet Garage on 66th but even they had summer sales on haagen daz ice cream ($4.88/pint) that we’re hard to resist!

    5. Dee says:

      Thank you for doing this! I guess Whole Foods is not near you. Honestly, I would not shop at any of the stores you list here. I cook/bake all the time and these spots do not have healthy/good selection. Fairway customer service is poor.
      Brooklyn Fare just opened — they’re trying to gain a customer base.

      • Eric says:

        Underscore “poor” for Fairway customer service. Plus, the store always seems slightly dirty.

        On the other hand, Trader Joe’s (on 72 and Broadway) sets the standard for customer service and cleanliness. in these many years, I’ve never had a negative encounter at Trader Joe’s.

        • Got No Time says:

          And great opportunities for positive encounters with the shoppers in front of you and behind you at the long, slow check-out lines.

    6. Papa Ra'Della says:

      calling all Data Nerds!!

      Hopefully some Data Scientist can put these into some spread sheets and give us the statistical outcomes?

    7. Truth and Reason says:

      Thank you for doing this. Sort of like a GDP for the neighborhood. I love it!

      Also, thanks for noting sticker price is not always what’s actually charged. This is why I stopped shopping at Fairway: multiple items coming up higher at check out than labeled.

      • Ella says:

        That is against the law and should be reported immediately to the manager. That happened to me once in Whole Foods and they gave me a $100 gift certificate as an apology.

      • Eric says:

        That happens frequently at Fairway. They always blame ‘the system”. Well, the “system” This is their business. Many people don’t check their sales receipts. More should.

        Westside Market (on 110) has a similar problem with correct pricing. Their philosophy is “the customer is always wrong”.

        • Phillipe and Suzette says:

          Thank you for this helpful guide.

          True about Westside Market. They also have large signs in their entry with all of their customer do’s and dont’s. This is something we have not seen before at a store front.

          H Mart is pretty good, we wish they had allotted more space for their interesting produce.

        • West Ender says:

          Westside on 97th and Broadway also has this “problem.” Oftentimes I will notice it during check out, mention it, and the next time I go back it’s still wrong. It seems intentional — most people probably don’t pay that much attention.

      • Sid says:

        more CPI than GDP

    8. Brian says:

      Second the motion for a review of Freshdirect. It is so ordered!

      • Maisie June says:

        But how would you account for the $5.98 service fee, delivery person tip and fuel surcharge that each Fresh Direct order typically includes?

        Appreciate this shoe-leather reporting in support of local businesses and look forward to more.

        • West Ender says:

          I order from Stop and Shop (formerly Peapod) every couple of months and the amount of money I can save on regular priced items, plus their sales is significantly more than the delivery fee and tip. You can also select a wider delivery window to get a discount on the delivery fee. Plus I can order heavier items (e.g. soda, water) and not have to schlep them myself!

        • Leon says:

          You can sign up for the annual delivery pass which reduces the cost per delivery if you order fairly often – I think it is about $125 a year. You also more than make up this cost on their generally lower prices.

          Plus the amount of time you save not going to the super market is worth a lot – we started using Fresh Direct when our oldest child was a newborn. Some people derive joy from going to the supermarket. I would rather spend my time doing other things.

      • Marky says:

        A review of Fresh Direct’s impact on our community is in order.

    9. Danielle Remp says:

      Regarding the Trader Joe’s blueberry, lately the bags have shrunk from 1 lb to 12 oz.

      I don’t know whether this is permanent, but we no longer find the delicious Boreal Blueberries in 1-pound packages there.

      • Sydney Barrows says:

        Regrettably, you’ll find most things at TJ that used to be sold in 16 oz. packages are now 12, someimes 14 oz pkgs.

    10. Cadu Cado says:

      Kind of a separate issue, but also important to factor in loss to spoilage.

      I am a frequent flyer with TJ’s, but I find that their produce simply does not have the same life, even refrigerated.

      Same with their dairy and eggs–not as bad, but I have experienced loss before the ‘use-by’ date, more than once.

      My parents, who live in a different part of the country, have had the same experience with Aldi’s, who owns TJ’s.

      So it seems that there may be something going on with their suppliers, or the quality of product.

      • Sarah says:

        I buy a lot of staples and frozen foods at TJ’s, but generally not fresh produce. It’s usually a little tired.

        Also, for some reason their organic milk has a much shorter expiration date than most do (organic milk tends to have a significantly longer shelf life than regular, which is good if you’re a small household).

      • woodcider says:

        I used to find rotted produce on Trader Joe’s shelves a lot. Especially the bagged apples.

    11. Phil says:

      would be interesting to compare non-food items as well: paper towels, laundry detergent, SOS pads, aluminum foil…

    12. Marky says:

      Shopped at Key Food yesterday. Good value.

    13. Linda says:

      Thank you to Frugal Fanny for doing this survey! I would caution every shopper to carefully inspect the due dates on all items in Gristedes.

    14. Duh says:

      Here’s a short version, based on my experience
      Trader Joe’s which sells mostly store brand products is the cheapest overall on a regular basis (except possibly on produce.(butter, frozen vegetables, yogurt, sauces and condiments)
      Store brand products at Whole Foods are high quality and often significantly cheaper than brand name products elsewhere (canned beans, olive oil, sandwich bread)
      Name brand products are overall more expensive but can be cheaper than generics when on sale. That would explain most of the deals at Key Food and probably at Brooklyn Fare (I’ve never shopped there but I’m guessing they are having some grand opening loss-leader deals)

    15. Julia says:

      Key Food is the only place I shop where my bill is less than I expect. I get a lot of bnsics there. TJ’s (Columbua)has good things abd treats but it is not a health food place–you really have to look carefully at the nutrition labels. Nuts cheap there. We get some things at Fresh Direct–mostly heavy stuff in bulk, like sodeas and other things we especially like. Before the pandemic I shopped there every three weeks and am trying to get it back to that again. Then there’s Gristede/s which is expensive but at our loal one, Tuesday is senior citizens discount day.

    16. Gladys Mauroza says:

      This comparison prices of West Side supermarkets are all close to me W 60th St., was helpful infos. I have noticed the prices on West Side are to high but I decided to make trips 2x monthly to lower east side supermarkets where prices are half the cost. I will use my reduced fare to take advantage.
      Your list of supermarkets helps me to plan different trips.

    17. Keith says:

      I wonder if those are introductory prices at Brooklyn Fare to hook people. On a related note, the store is really nice. Big, great selection, clean, etc.

    18. UWSer says:

      Broadway Farm at 85th and Broadway, at the north end of their outdoor display, has a little table where everything is a dollar. It’s usually produce that needs to be consumed quickly. You can find some real bargains.

    19. Adam says:

      What’s the lesson, shop at Trader Joe’s!!

    20. Otis says:

      I buy a lot if fruit from those dudes on the street. Some of them have very good produce at dirt cheap prices.

    21. Isaac says:

      Thank you for confirming my priors – Gristedes and Pioneer are the worst, I don’t get how they stay in business.

    22. Mark Moore says:

      I nominate this for most useful West Side Rag story ever.

      That new Key Food site on Amsterdam and 96th is labeled a Key Food Fresh, and it’s advertising organic foods in a lit up sign on the sidewalk. The last Key Food Fresh & Natural at the spot where Gyu-Kaku is now was a disaster. It tried to be all things to all people and closed in a few months. I hope that’s not where this is going. Key Food has it’s niche and it’s not upscale.

      • Not new here says:

        The problem with the last Key Food Fresh was the store layout not the concept. Ice cream was in 5 different locations. The new store will be big and better organized. I look forward to more options including more organics. The prices for regular items should be the same as before but in general the 97th st location has always been a little more expensive than 86th st

        • Mark Moore says:

          With all due respect the concept was pretty bad. They tried to go upscale while keeping that Key Food grit and it just didn’t work at all. Like their fish counter, it was trying really hard to mimic Fairway or wherever but it was grubby and smelled funny half the time. They need to just embrace their role as plain old Key Food.

    23. Matthew Evans says:

      Its probably too late to post this analysis, but based on the items that were available in all locations, here are the percentage away from the average each store performed (positive numbers are more expensive):

      Trader Joes -26% (26% cheaper than the average)
      Key Food -17%
      Brooklyn Fare -12%
      Fairway 0%
      Pioneer 6%
      Jubilee 19%
      Gristedes 30% (30% more expensive)

      • LivableCity says:

        Not too late! Not everything is “average” but the averages tell a story alright.

        Here’s non-average notion for those who pass that way, or can easily take a bus: Westerley Natural foods market on 54th and eighth is one place in my old neighborhood I still return to for the freshest greens and widest organic selections. Their prices have gone up over the years but overall good value for quality and excellent selection. (And much less pricey than WholeFoods)

    24. Larry Lox says:

      I can’t help but think that your time and effort would be better spent volunteering in the community. Penny wise, pound foolish.

      • Sarah says:

        Geez, who peed in your Cheerios this morning? Plenty of people on the UWS on a fixed income who need to manage their money carefully.

        • Fixed Incomer says:

          Tip for people on fixed income: Fairway offers a discount (6%, I think) to seniors on certain weekdays (Wednesday, I think. Maybe one other day). You have to request the discount at the register.

      • dh says:

        You are so wrong. This helpful report IS community service.

    25. Jo says:

      For those willing to venture into Dollar Tree, they sell frozen blueberries at $1/10oz. Also frozen peas, tuna and spaghetti. Guessing they don’t have an outpost on UWS, but I visit the one in Harlem off 125th. Love a bargain!

      • MaryC says:

        Target has a pretty limited selection of food but their prices on pantry basics and some dairy products are very good.

    26. gina says:

      Disappointed! The 60’s is barely the UWS. No shops in the 90’s or 100’s listed…

    27. Bridget Russo says:

      Wegmans delivers thru instacart and the prices are very competitive.

    28. Josh says:

      How do you think the Pioneer at 73rd and Columbus compares to these?

    29. A. L. says:

      Love this! Thank you!! Agreed with some of the other commenters – would be very cool to see more stores/Fresh Direct added to your analysis.

    30. Kathleen says:

      Thanks for this comparison. I went to Brooklyn Fare Sunday and will never go back (and it’s right downstairs from me). When you enter you have to walk down a short produce aisle, then do a u-turn into another produce aisle that has bins all up the center so it’s like 2 very narrow aisles. While I was shopping in that section suddenly a group of men, some employees, others not, suddenly came into the aisle yelling, shouting and fighting. I was trapped and terrified. It went on for several minutes. Not one store employee asked me if I was ok or said anything about the incident. I called 911 and the police never showed up. When it was finally over I was able to enter the main part of the store which is like a maze. Difficult to find things, very narrow aisles and if there was ever a fire it’s a death trap. Never thought I would say this but I miss Western Beef. And I definitely miss Fairway which, though they bought the name, is NOT Fairway anymore.

    31. Elaine Epstein says:

      Great job! So good to have actual comparisons. I was a great deal of work for you but so many of us will benefit.
      I always knew Gristedes was overpriced but now I know for real.
      I am fortunate Trader Joe is my closest market. But Fairway does have speciality items that are worth a once in a while special trip. Key Food provides a service with their fair pricing for many in the neighborhood.
      Now… one more job..pricing on cleaning and paper goods. Any volunteers?

    32. MARY says:

      WOW- I’M SO GLAD I HAVE TRADER JOE’S; I DO GO TO OTHER STORES FOR A FEW ITEMS HOWEVER.

    33. CNS says:

      Probably unfair to include Brooklyn Fare. They are still in the market share grab phase and prices low. I’m sure they’ll bump up prices within a few months.

    34. Wendy says:

      This is great work – thank you! But I don’t even have to look at the chart : just from the supermarket names I can tell you that Key Food will be much cheaper than Gristedes or Jubilee. They will almost always are the most expensive. Trader Joe’s is in a class by itself for inexpensive “gourmet” food, but their fresh produce is really lacking imho. TIP: Look for Lidl to open in Harlem (118th and FDB) and take a trip up there to shop. Great prices especially on meat, chicken and fish, dairy, prepared foods, party food (chips, crackers, etc). Tate Choc. Chip cookies are always $3.99 as opposed to $5 or $6 elsewhere. Beyond Burger patties – $4 for a double package. Prices like that.

    35. MY says:

      Key Food has always been cheaper on most items, though prices have recently gone up, but you have to contend with a filthy store (check under the dairy case gratings or breathe in near the 5 lb. bags of potatoes) and you’ll see and smell what I’m talking about), poor quality fruit( that’s why pineapple is $1.00) and, with the exception of a few employees, the most unfriendly and unhelpful employees around. I grit my teeth before I enter the store, the only “supermarket” in the 80s.

    36. Leslie Middlebrook says:

      This was helpfful especially as i shop for invisble Hands as well , BUt i am so disappointed that you do not include Westside Supermatket I guess you do not have one in your west side neighborhood You used to . I like them very much but their prepared food have gone sky high i cannot believe that even well to do people can shop there i have asked and they simply say that all costs have gone up . which east side markets are cheaper ? so ironic .

    37. Ellen Benoit says:

      Thank you for confirming my awareness that Gristedes is the price gougher that it is.

    38. Janet W. says:

      People with SNAP find AMAZON online to have rock-bottom prices. Its biggest selection is in snack food, which is outrageous.

      COSTCO has good deals but it means buying in bulk.

      KEY FOOD, 97th Street & Amsterdam, which was formerly Associated, has been raising its prices since its change in corporate affiliation & during COVID, so you have to shop smart there. Key Food will soon move to Amsterdam & 96th but nothing has happened yet.

      The new & small TARGET (Columbus & 98th) is pricier than expected – and very limited in its selection. Target features snack foods and sodas to an alarming degree.

      The UWS is becoming pricier, with all the new construction in the 90s. Those of us on SNAP are in a quandary about how to stretch our EBT budget so that we eat healthier. It’s been getting harder & harder.

      Thanks to Frugal Frannie from Canny Janny.

    39. Keith J Schwebel says:

      Please add totals for apples to apples comparison

    40. RIchard says:

      Fresh direct
      Carrots $1.49
      GS apples $1.99
      Iceberg $1.99
      Green pepper $.75
      Pineapple $3.99
      Cheddar cheese $3.99 (8 oz block)
      Milk $3.99
      Butter $4.99
      Eggs $3.29
      Flour $4.29
      Chickpeas $1.49
      Tomato paste $.99

    41. Richard says:

      Fresh direct continued
      Spaghetti $1.75
      Tuna $2.29
      Chicken breasts $5.99
      Lean ground beef $6.99
      Ground beef $5.99
      Beef hot dogs $6.85
      Ezekiel bread $5.99
      Frozen peas $2.79
      Frozen blueberries $5.79

      Seems overall among lower prices

    42. Deborah N Godinger says:

      Is target out ofthe 15 min walk?

    43. David Goldstick says:

      Great job but Whole Foods should have been included

    44. Doe says:

      Thanks! It confirmed what I thought, that Key Food is one of the more reasonable. But it means running the gauntlet of unbelievably narrow aisles and a produce area that is always logjammed. I have to put on my big girl bloomers to face it.

    45. Merrick Dean says:

      Ha ! I have said this many times, that Trader Joe is the best or cheapest option 🙂 Had a big fight on Nextdoor about that:) Also the food in general is very good quality, although I agree the produce could be better but for that I prefer Greenmarkets. Not cheap but long lasting compared to supermarket produce. The only place that Trader Joe falls down is that they do not have things like aluminum foil for the most part. They do have an excellent range and well priced vitamins, as well as some household type items.
      Interestingly enough, for things like foil, garbage bags, some cleaning products the best place is Whole Foods..! Their 365 brand ( store brand ) has some really good bargains all the time.

    46. Liz G says:

      I live a block away from Gristedes, thank you for validating my assertion that it’s one of the most expensive spots to shop in the city. I already knew this in my soul, but always nice to have numbers. Seriously, great article/ reporting thank you!

    47. Kitty says:

      Oh, to have a Trader Joe’s in Hell’s Kitchen!

    48. Bargain Betty says:

      FF, you are the bomb! My local gristedes on BWay and 104 is more expensive than just about all food stores everywhere and it is my experience that products suffer from spoilage before use by dates due to the excessive length of time that food, mostly dairy, sits on the sidewalk. Not to mention the hideous politics of owner, John Catsimatidis. Don’t get me started. But sincerely, fantastic reporting! Thank you.

    49. PJ says:

      How about Dagostino on Columbus in the low 90s? I shopped there a few times since the pandemic, but find them really overpriced with a small selection of items. Is this considered a supermarket?

    50. Two City Foodies says:

      I have always noticed that “raw ingredients” at NYC supermarkets are cheaper than out in the suburbs. Fruits, vegetables, and sometimes meats depending on the cuts. However, prepared foods like hot bars, canned goods, cereals, snacks, etc are more expensive in NYC by a long shot. Lesson….if you know how to cook, NYC is the place to be!

    51. For comparison here’s a survey I conducted in 2012.

      http://nycissues.org/GroceryShopping.aspx