By Frugal Frannie
“Inflation is a state of mind,” said my pal Spendthrift Sammy, claiming his weekly grocery tab has remained largely the same for years. “It’s fake news to scare people.”
Oh, I relished my rebuttal. “The April 2023 Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers shows a 7.1% year-over-year jump for the ‘food at home’ category. Global food companies have admitted jacking prices. My food bills are way up. All balderdash?”
He didn’t budge. My confidence wavered. Did I have the facts to back up my feelings?
Given it’s been nearly 11 months since I did an apples-to-apples comparison of UWS grocery prices for WSR, I headed out on Saturday, May 27, visiting eight stores and two online purveyors to shop for the same market basket of 20 items:
- Brooklyn Fare, 62nd & West End Avenue
- Jubilee Marketplace, 69th & Riverside Boulevard
- Trader Joe’s, 72nd & Broadway
- Fairway, 74th & Broadway
- Gristedes, 84th & Columbus
- D’Agostino, 91st & Columbus
- Key Food, 96th & Amsterdam
- Whole Foods, 97th & Columbus
- Fresh Direct, online
- Stop & Shop, online
I purposely chose larger markets with multiple NYC locations to somewhat level the playing field. If you’re a devotee of other fine UWS shops, please use my data to compare with your favorite. One woman can only visit so many places in a day!
My methodology: Use unit pricing to create a standardized cost for 20 basic foodstuffs. For example, if Granny Smith apples in a 3-pound bag had the lowest price-per-pound versus loose apples, I recorded that lower per-pound price in my spreadsheet. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best way I’ve found. If an item was on sale, I quoted the discounted price available to ALL shoppers – not just “club members” or “card holders.”
Disclaimer: The following information represents my best efforts to find the lowest-available price for a given item. I entered 200 prices on Saturday, so if I transposed a digit or missed a special discount on an end cap somewhere, forgive me. Please consider this as a guide, not congressional testimony.
Let’s first look at the giant current differences between stores before we dig into the 2022 comparison analysis. The lowest price for each item is in pink:
Because Jubilee did not have all 20 items, it’s not included in this total basket comparison:
Now, an UWS grocery-inflation-rate drumroll, please!
Comparing the surveyed stores that had all 20 items available on both July 6, 2022, and May 27, 2023, here’s how much total prices rose or (yes) fell:
If you’re gasping at the idea of any store having lower prices than last year, join my club. But indeed Brooklyn Fare and Fairway did. At least with the basics in my basket. Had I measured different items, especially processed stuff like crackers or canned soups, who knows?
Also interesting that the two stores at the least and most expensive ends of the spectrum, Trader Joe’s and D’Agostino, saw the biggest price increases between July and May, over 9%.
“Turns out, we were both right about inflation,” I told Sammy, adding a caveat re: the utterly micro scale of this particular research project. “Your mileage may vary!”
What’s your impression of prices, UWS frugalistas? How are you ensuring you get the best value for your food dollar? Please share your tips in the comments.