The age-old question of where to buy groceries in a city overflowing with options cannot be answered easily. We weigh variables such as proximity to our apartment or public transit, abundance of good sales, bulk deals if we have the storage space, and quality of produce among other things.
Bushwick Daily undertook the task of trying to identify which grocery store, in Bushwick and the vicinity, would offer shoppers the best deals on some items we consider staples.
How we did it
We created a list of nine grocery stores to visit in Bushwick and in vicinity.
We divvied up the stores among the editorial staff and visited them whenever we had a chance over the last four weeks.
We created a shopping basket consisting of basic items, prices of which we followed. The list is obviously not exhaustive and may include things you do and don’t buy. It is not meant to be representative of the contents of every shopping basket in Bushwick. But the selections did allow us to make extensive price comparisons.
(Note: Some of the items were on sale at the time of our visit, so you may find that this exact shopping basket, if recreated, could be more or less expensive.)
ITEMS IN OUR SHOPPING BASKET
? Peanut Butter
☕ Coffee Beans
? Beer (Six Point Sweet Action)
? Half and Half Milk
? Greek Yogurt
? Chicken Breasts
In adding up totals for what each shopping basket would cost at each store, we tried to keep quantities similar. For instance, the largest container of half and half at some stores was only a pint. Even though it was cheaper than a quart, you would have to buy two in order to get the same amount. But, if the cheapest item was a bulk one, we did not adjust the quantity since a per unit price would not be reflective of what you would actually spend to get the bulk discount.
Items such as chicken and produce were calculated by the pound except for when the only option was a bagged item with a set weight.
Our limited resources made it impossible for us to visit every store in the neighborhood, and we are confident after seeing the range of prices in these nine stores alone that you could shear some more dollars off of these totals if you were willing to shop at multiple stores.
The results are in
Below are the stores we visited in the order from the cheapest to the most expensive.
Store TOTAL PRICE PER BASKET
Trader Joe’s (9030 Metropolitan Ave. in Rego Park) $48.05
Associated (333 Seneca Ave., Ridgewood) $53.04
City Fresh (229 Knickerbocker Ave., Bushwick) $55.11
Key Food (72-80 Wyckoff Ave., Bushwick) $56.66
Food Bazaar (1590 Gates Ave., Ridgewood) $58.27
Whole Foods (238 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg) $61.29
Food Story (40 Bogart St., East Williamsburg) $74.83
Hana Natural (24 Wyckoff Ave., Bushwick) $79.83
* Brooklyn’s Natural (49 Bogart St., East Williamsburg) $46.88
*We were unable to complete the basket at Brooklyn’s Natural due to lack of pricing on many items [see below for more information].
What to make of it all
Trader Joe’s in Rego Park—perhaps unsurprisingly—came out on top for the cheapest basket. The chain is famed for its relatively high quality and low prices. The most compelling deals are on dairy and pantry staples including peanut butter, which at $2.49 is almost a dollar cheaper than everywhere but Key Food ($2.79 for the same size).
Of course, Trader Joe’s is either a drive or a bike ride for most of us, which means that taking advantage of the deals offered there is for people with cars and people who do take the time to shop for the week and can spare the two hours it may take to complete a trip.
That being said, the parking lot is large and the lines are nowhere near as long as the lines at Manhattan Trader Joe’s outposts.
The best and the worst deals
If you insist on staying local, your next best bet is the Associated Supermarket on Seneca Avenue in Ridgewood where the prices for chicken, butter, and kale can’t be beat. Family packs of chicken, if you’re buying in bulk, are only $1.69 a pound, clocking in as the cheapest of the bunch. The most expensive chicken on the other hand was $10.99 a pound at Food Story on Bogart.
Other deals at Associated included butter at $2.99 for four quarters, which equals a pound of butter and kale for $1.49 a pound.
The prices at City Fresh on Knickerbocker Avenue, the Key Foods on Wyckoff Avenue, and the Food Bazaar on Gates Avenue are very similar. And even though it was not the cheapest, City Fresh had the greatest number of cheapest items including carrots at .69 cents a pound and $1.99 for a two pound bag of Arroz Rico.
Do stay away, though, from the tofu at City Fresh, which comes in as the most expensive of the bunch ($3.29) and the carrots at Food Bazaar ($2.99 for a 2-pound bag).
How much does convenience cost you per basket?
Some argue that the most important element of grocery shopping is convenience, and for some, the three most expensive stores we visited may very well be the most convenient options, but the same basket at Hana Natural is nearly double the price of Trader Joe’s.
Some of their most egregiously priced items included $6.69 for a pound of butter and $2.49 for a can of black beans. Not all of the expensive items at the store included organic or small-producer options either. Even their Fage yogurt comes it at $5.99 for a 17.5 ounce container, which is even a dollar more than Brooklyn’s Natural.
When the price labels are missing
Furthermore, Brooklyn’s Natural was the most poorly-stocked and poorly-labeled of the bunch, meaning that the best way to find out the price of items such as kale, tomatoes, and Six Point was to purchase them. It’s why the total for the store is so deceptively low. Taking into account average prices for these items pushes the total up to $62.07, not including canned beans or chicken breasts, which were nowhere to be found.
Shopping on a budget is possible in Bushwick still, even if you don’t have a car. If you were to store hop and buy the cheapest items at each of the stores we visited, you could bring your basket total to $40.45, but you would have to visit six stores in order to do it, some for just one item, and in the end you’d only be saving eight dollars.
The key, as any parent would teach you, is to shop seasonally and whenever possible, buy what’s on sale and plan menus around that.
Featured image by Katarina Hybenova.
Katarina Hybenova, Cristin Noonan, Jacque Medina, and Emilie Ruscoe all contributed reporting to this piece.