By Frugal Frannie
Would you rather spend $54 or $104 for a basket of 20 staple items at an Upper West Side supermarket?
With grocery prices rising at an annual rate of 11.9% according to the May Consumer Price Index report, budget-conscious shoppers are struggling to stay anywhere near their previous spending.
Knowledge is power, my fellow frugalistas. Especially when it comes to local food costs.
On July 6th, I toured eight UWS supermarkets and two online grocers to compare prices, having made similar expeditions back in January and October. My destinations this time:
- Brooklyn Fare, 62nd & West End Avenue
- Trader Joe’s, 72nd & Broadway
- Fairway, 74th & Broadway
- Gristedes, 84th & Columbus
- D’Agostino, 91st & Columbus
- Key Food, 96th & Amsterdam
- Whole Foods, 97th & Columbus
- Columbus Foodmarket, 104th & Columbus
- Fresh Direct, online
- Stop & Shop, online
[Yes, there are many other fine local markets, but I am only one woman. A woman who insists on doing these investigations in a single day. So, if you’re a devotee of Jubilee, Mani Market, Health Nuts, Morton Williams, Pioneer, Associated, H Mart, Westside, etc., please use my data to compare with your favorite.]
My methodology: Use unit pricing to calculate a standard cost for 20 basic items. For example, if frozen blueberries at one market had the lowest price-per-ounce in a 3-pound bag versus a 12-ounce bag, I used that lower price-per-ounce to calculate what a standardized 1-pound bag would cost. It’s not a perfect formula, but it’s the best I’ve discovered. Also, if an item was on sale, I quoted the discounted price available to everyone – not just “club members.”
Giant disclaimer: The following prices are what I found, based on what was indicated on the shelf. Could there have been a lower-priced pack of meat hidden at the bottom of the pile? Might I have transposed a number? Could the price charged at checkout be different from the aisle sign? All possible. Please consider this report as a guide, not gospel, OK?
Here are my findings, with the lowest price in pink:
Because Key Food and Columbus Foodmarket didn’t offer all 20 items, they are not included in this total market basket comparison:
Given the disparity in pricing, I was curious about the ownership of the lowest and highest-cost stores I surveyed. Turns out, billionaire families own both. The Albrechts of Germany control Trader Joe’s [and Aldi]. New Yorker John Catsimatidis owns Red Apple Group, which includes D’Agostino [and Gristedes]. Interestingly, the market basket totals for Trader Joe’s and D’Agostino haven’t really budged since January; both visits clocked in at approximately $54 and $104, respectively.
Inflation IS happening, but it seems to be a sneaky beast – hitting some items with a wallop, while others appear unscathed. I’ve seen my preferred peanut butter recently jump by 15%. Same thing with oat milk.
How about you? Share your latest grocery gasp and top tips for saving money in the comments.
Awesome. thank you.
What a great service to the community! Thank you so much.
It’s not even a close call. Trader Joe’s has the lowest prices and also the best quality, always. It’s the only place to shop. Lately, the prices as Westside Market are completely out of control. They have eggs for $7.99! I can’t shop there anymore.
Westside is out of control. I had to stop going there 3-4 months ago, the price of eggs and beer were the first signs I saw that they had gone crazy. It’s a shame too, right at the end of the block and some really nice people working there.
Yes, you are correct. Just incrediable increases. Time for TJs Great work Fannie
Thanks! This is really great and helpful. Fascinating that despite its reputation as “Whole Paycheck”, Whole Foods was far from the most expensive.
Just curious – how are the Fresh Direct and Stop & Shop fees calculated?
Thanks again for your efforts!
Whole Foods got cheaper when Amazon bought it out. Jeff Bezos eliminated health insurance for all part time employees, which he could pay out of his own pocket if he wanted to. That’s the kind of “cost cutting” they claim leads to lower prices, so that we can feel like it’s necessary and justified.
Stop and Shop is good. They have a flat delivery fee and then you’re also supposed to tip. If you have Amazon Prime you can still get Fresh deliveries for free in this area, plus tip of course.
I find that Amazon Fresh delivery people never stick around for tips. If I don’t request that they ring my doorbell, they’ll just leave my items without my knowledge until my neighbor tells me.
For online grocers, I put one of each item in my “cart” and went to the “checkout” page to see what fees were added to the total before tip. Thanks for reading.
What fees were added? I get mid week delivery pass and with deliveries twice a week I pay around $.80 a delivery
If you don’t have a subscription, membership or pass, a delivery fee (and sometimes fuel surcharges) is put on every order, usually $9 or so before tip. See Total Market Basket chart in the story for the exact figures.
I always quote pricing that’s available to everyone w/o additional clubs, pass requirements, etc.
Helpful but why do you omit West Side Market? Please include next time
You may be only one woman, but you got it done masterfully! Many thanks!
These articles are great, keep them coming! Gristedes and D’Agostino have always been outrageously expensive, I have no idea how they remain in business…
Great article. CVS is now selling Dunkin coffee, for $14.95 for a 12 Oz. Bag!
I was shocked. When did it go from $4.95 to $9.95 to $14.95?
Key Foods was alas eliminated as they didn’t have frozen blueberries and a particular 7 grain bread. Averaging across all prices shown it looks like it was one of the cheapest even though it didn’t win any categories.
Can you provide addresses for these stores?
The addresses are in the article.
100% Trader Joe’s. I’m a 20 year UWS’r and shopped at Fairway for years. I switched to TJ’s about 4 years ago and noticed, right away, that a ‘similar’ cart (90% of us buy 90% of the same stuff weekly) cart was significantly less at TJ’s. A full 1/3 less, I’d say. And the quality is good and the experience kinda cool. The line moves, the signage is fun, the staff is steady (not hostile at all), and the scale is handleable. I’m sold.
TraderJoe’s — the best quality?? I have shopped there a lot, and I would never say that. I have had several bad experiences with their foods. Plus they have suddenly stopped selling several items that I liked a lot. And they clearly have major problems with suppliers of several products, such as kiwis.
One unique feature at TJs is they will take back items you’re not happy with…even if it’s opened. They also stop selling some items if the suppliers are out or if the quality has slipped.
Items get discontinued to allow for new products. Things rotate throughout the year. As for produce well that’s a farming issue not the stores.
I’ve shopped at several Traders Joes in a variety of states and while their prices are pretty good – their quality is average. Their frozen stuff (pastry, breads, etc) are fairly consistent but their produce varies widely from week to week. Some weeks their bell peppers are huge and beautiful some weeks they’re puny or soft. The store branded foods are generic foods that many stores also use and put their own label on. You can read more about them and the way they select their foods online. I find their fresh foods, chicken, beef, etc. inconsistent. But they have the best prices on flowers.
Very helpful and shows that there’s really no ONE place with the lowest prices for everything. And some stores have good sale prices, including Whole Foods and Associated. And Target tends to have excellent (low) prices for groceries. This subject deserves its own blog/website/FB page!
Associated ?!?! Someone missed the memo…
Oh Frannie, we’ve missed you!
Thank you for this great analysis!
Thank you for posting these comparative prices. I shop with FreshDirect and I am seriously thinking of switching to Trader Joe’s at 93rd and Columbus.
I used to really enjoy shopping in person at the Food Emporium at 135th Street in Harlem but when the pandemic hit I switched to FreshDirect. It’s expensive, no doubt. But taking a short stroll over to Trader Joe’s seems well worth my time.
Please check out the W.S. markets at 98 th and 110th Sts. Big difference in prices between them., esp. vegetables and dairy products. Outrageous.
The one on 98th is open 24/7/365, so you can avoid lines at least. but darn do you pay for it.
I’ve also noticed that Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods consistently have the lowest prices on the things that I buy regularly. Sale prices at other places may be lower on some items but it’s more efficient for me to just alternate between the two .
The Whole Foods store brand 365 is very fairly priced across the board, canned beans , pastas, ice cream etc. Produce prices range from surprisingly reasonable to “whoa!” so that’s where I supplement with many of the outside vendors or farmers markets
Why complain about inflation? You get what you vote for.
Inflation is a global issue today, and the rate here in the USA is around the global median. Who, specifically, did the entire world vote for that you believe is responsible for our current inflation rate?
Low price hunters on the northern end of the neighborhood may want to check out Lidl on 118th and Frederick Douglass in Harlem. Mostly great prices and good quality.
Love these comparisons. They’re a lot of work too.
Walking to Trader Joe’s instead of driving to a supermarket really helps you not feel the effects of inflation. They raised the price of 12 ounces of bacon from $6 to $6.50 — oh my.
Excellent information! THANK YOU!
Thank you for such a detailed review, it is very helpful.
I just wanted to add that I started using Freshdirect during the first year of pandemic and continue to do so because they have good sale. I buy certain items original price there such as organic eggs and milk which are same price as Trader Joe’s and also lots of items on sale. This way it is absolutely worth it.
Trader Joe is wonderful, no doubt, but it is nice to supplement shopping there with items from Freshdirect or Fairway for the items that are not available at TJ.
I also use Fresh Direct. I used them a few times before the pandemic if I was just too busy to go shopping or the weather was awful. But since the pandemic I used them more often for their zero-touch. The giant bags used to be returnable/recyclable now they tell you to keep them. They’re great for storing winter clothes, bulky sweaters or extra blankets. Or carrying stuff to a picnic or the beach. The food prices are a little higher on some things but about average on most things. And they offer coupons, sales, and good deal items. It is possible to save a few cents on an order. And it comes to your door. I pay the yearly delivery charge and it evens out after the first few deliveries. Also, I’m not as generous a tipper as Frannie. I tip based on the order amount plus tax.
Interesting, buy it assumes a shopper will buy only the specific items on the list. Many stores offer specials and loss leaders – often featuring virtual equivalents of the listed items — which allow a flexible shopper to save quite a bit.
Wow, thanks Frannie! At Whole Foods, the house brand, 365, is always reasonable and often below same items at other stores. As for your peanut butter, keep an eye on Pioneer’s weekly ad; it’s frequently offered at a good price.
The sad part is Trader Joe’s on 72 is an absolute nightmare with 2 lines wrapping all the way around the store with indignant people in those lines who resent letting people reach the shelves where most of the items are, which are blocked by the lines. It takes about 15-20 min just to wait in line to check out
The best way to shop is to get inline and then pick up items along the way as you wait in line!
No it isn’t. It’s incredibly rude to the polite folks who do their shopping first and then get in line so they’re not holding up the line by jumping away from their cart every 30 seconds. Why would you want to be that a-hole?
I worked at that Trader Joe’s for 2 years, and we were taught to encourage people to get in line and shop, especially if it was super crowded. 🙂
Tips to fix your nightmare experience:
1) Load up what you need from the bottom floor (-2) which is rarely crowded;
2) Load up what you need from the center isles of the main floor (-1), at leisurely pace .
3) Get in the inner checkout line. Most of the remaining/refrigerated items will be within an arm’s reach on your right as you move along. if you know what you’re getting and not looking at every label for 2 minutes, you can execute on this while moving with the line. Practice makes perfect.
There, 20 minutes of well utilized wait time. (In reality, it’s hardly ever more than 10 minutes).
If you ever need to cut through across the line, smile, look friendly, and time your movements. There are inevitably plenty of gaps opening up as people execute on step 3), without it actually slowing the line.
Yes, and they are only open 8am to 9pm, so there aren’t really ‘off hours’ to avoid the lines.
I shop at TJ’s on 72nd street weekly and have done so for since they opened at that location. I have never waited more than 10 minutes in the check-out line, which moves rather quickly and people are always willing to move aside to let others reach the shelves. Not a nightmare. Crowded and busy at times, but the staff is pleasant and helpful. The only downside is sometimes they discontinue items.
Thanks for doing this, very informative! Westside Market, where I usually shop due to convenience, is out of control on their prices – practically usurious lately. One example, cream cheese is $6.99 for 8oz and it was even more last spring during “The Great Cream Cheese Shortage.”. You can buy Philadelphia, and other regular dairy brands, at Whole Foods for less than Westside. Also their milk is very expensive. What happened with NY regulation of milk prices? Trader Joe’s is great for saving money, but the location is far from my apt. and I dislike the checkout line that winds around the store, as you never know how long it will take to check out.
Another consideration: If you use Fresh Direct or Stop & Shop, you are also adding the environmental cost of delivery. And by shifting funds away from local stores, we risk losing the convenience of having food markets in our neighborhood.
Trader Joe’s isn’t exactly a fair comparison because almost all their products are white-label (and, truth be told, their perishables often aren’t as flavorful). But their prices are set nationally, unlike most grocers, which provides a huge benefit in Manhattan. My own freezer is full of TJ boxes.
what does white label mean?
I think they mean store brand, not recognizable national brands.
But the price comparisons at Whole Foods and other stores probably are for some store brands too so it’s a fair comparison.
Traders is also extremely flexible on returns and refunds. You can return anything for any reason so if you buy something and just don’t like it there’s no risk.
There was never any question when I saw this list that Dag’s was going to be big ripoff store in the results. Shame on them as they have mostly older customers too. I’m sure they will blame it all on their rent etc. They need to just go out of business now! No excuse.
Wow! Thank you for doing so much work and sharing it with everyone. I hope you will include the new Morton Williams just announced on Broadway and 68th when it opens next year. Imagining it will blow way past D’ag’s expensive prices.
I love Fresh Direct, they bring everything right to my door. I would not buy meat at any of the other stores except Fairway.
“On July 6th, I toured eight UWS supermarkets and two online grocers to compare prices…
Brooklyn Fare, 62nd & West End Avenue
Trader Joe’s, 72nd & Broadway
Fairway, 74th & Broadway
Gristedes, 84th & Columbus
D’Agostino, 91st & Columbus
Key Food, 96th & Amsterdam
Whole Foods, 97th & Columbus
Columbus Foodmarket, 104th & Columbus
Fresh Direct, online
Stop & Shop, online
[Yes, there are many other fine local markets, but I am only one woman. A woman who insists on doing these investigations in a single day…””
YOU DID THIS IN A SINGLE DAY!!!!
You’re an amazing woman; peerless and & no doubt underappreciated. If New York has a suitable medal given for service to the community at large, you certainly deserve to be awarded it, along with the declaration of a specific Fanne holiday during a speech given by the mayor on a colorful wooden platform festooned with red white and blue bunting.
PS- Trader Joe’s… now THAT is a supermarket without peer. Their eggs and bread leave others in the dust.
I only hope the management of the newly announced Morton Williams is watching, listening, and learning.
This is useful. Please keep doing it.
For meat, dairy and pantry, Pioneer on 74th & Columbus (which was conspicuously missing from this list). They also have a beer selection that is amazing. Excellent weekly sales featured in their circular, too.
For frozen, TJ’s.
For fruits/vegetables, the stand by the post office on 68th & Columbus.
Super useful, thanks. I rarely like TJ’s produce but they are undefeated for processed foods.
Thank you! this is so helpful!
Do you have a Prime membership? Next time swipe your membership at WF. You get an extra 10% off sale items.. should bring the prices close to TJ if you bought any sale items.
Love TJ’s but their produce isn’t so great and expiration dates on eg. milk and eggs are often sooner than the traditional stores.
Although Fairway is now a glorified A&P, it’s still well stocked and moderately priced, which is an achievement for its real estate. Please stop complaining about “it isn’t the old Fairway” – that store has been dead for years – and shop there to keep them profitable. You’ll really miss them when they’re gone, especially since TJ’s isn’t close to a full supermarket.
shoprite, which also owns Fairway , is much less expensive on almost every item on that list than Fairway, including their bowl and bread brand
Fantastic job! Any chance at doing an organic foods version? Brands like Base Culture have definitely raised their prices, loaves of breads >$10 now.
Thanks for the report. Just a reminder John Catsimatidis is one of Trump’s biggest donors and fundraisers. A portion of that Gristedes and Dagastinos price gouging is going to inserructionists. Buyer beware
This confirms what I’ve always suspected but never did the math for to check — the “local” chains are outrageously expensive, “Whole Paycheck” has a (largely) undeserved reputation, and there’s a reason there are always such long lines outside TJ’s. I’m curious if you could check out the new Lidl on Frederick Douglas next time, I wonder how it’ll compare. Previous “Frugal Frannie” posts also confirm that I really should stop shopping at Westside Market — but it’s so close! Paid $7.30 for a four pack of Breakstone’s Butter the other day, ridiculous.
Also should note that, while the Albrecht family controls both Aldi and TJ’s, they are run by separate companies – Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud. Aldi Nord owns Trader Joe’s, while Aldi Sud is the one that owns Aldi stores in the US. The business was split when the two founding Albrecht brothers couldn’t agree on hpw to run it, and so they divided the company geographically (hence the names) and they’ve been independent companies ever since.
Thank you. This is fascinating. Not a lot different than what I would have guessed, but mostly confirmatory. I had heard that I would not be as shocked nowadays about the Whole Foods prices.as I used to be I think they present merchandise beautifully but price is what matters to me. I’m for TJ’s and Key Foods.
Wow. Thanks. I am a good shopper, and I find that Pioneer has the best meat prices by far…and they have specials every day on meat that is near it’s “buy by” date. Expensive on everything else.
Thank you so much!
If you are able to include West Side Market in your research that would be great.
Recently I went to Trader Jow’s to buy Junbo Eggs at $269 a dozen and they were out of them. So I went to Fairway and they had Jumbo eggs. However, the price was not marked on the bin. When I got home I looked at my sales slip and the price showed $4.99!! I was shocked!! Unbelievable!!! Fairway has raised their prices drastically! The sign on their outside awning says “Like no other market” That certainly is true when you see their prices!!!
Target charges 95 cents for a 16 oz. box of pasta. So we order in bulk—$35.00 total to avoid a shipping fee. Also, wow, $10.00 is a generous tip for stop and shop delivery. We usually do $4 or $5.
Great work, thank you. I am a devotee to Trader Joe’s. I do 90% of my marketing there and I’m very happy with most of their products.
Great. Very helpful. Thank you!