Like everything else in Manhattan, groceries are so expensive. There are too many different places to choose from, with prices that are all over the place. Finding the cheapest produce or a store that sells your favorite shampoo at a Walmart price can be a hefty task indeed (hint – it’s definitely NOT Duane Reade). What some people don’t realize though, is that places like Trader Joe’s aren’t always the best or cheapest. And believe it or not, “whole paycheck” doesn’t necessarily mean Whole Foods, either. After shopping in many different grocery stores and markets around the city, I’ve compiled a list of where the best places are to get my favorite items (and where the worst are, too).
And although this is entitled “groceries”, i’ve also included places for things like household items and cosmetics, as well as holiday decor and craft supplies; because food isn’t the only thing that’s pricey around here. Even tampons can be outrageous some places (eh em Food Emporium – they also managed to charge around $8 for a regular sized box of Life cereal. I mean come on y’all, really? AND not all Food Emporiums have the same prices, either! what is that about? Like the one by Union Square is definitely more expensive than the one in Hell’s Kitchen…)
I also want to clarify that these aren’t the only places I shop. I do shop at the regular grocery stores like Food Emporium and D’Agostino – but only for regular grocery items I can’t find anywhere else (like low sodium honey roasted turkey and low fat ice cream).
If you don’t feel like reading my novel explanations for each store, feel free to scroll down to the bottom of the page for quick table referencing my suggested purchases from each store.
1. Stiles Farmers Market
Hands down, my favorite place to shop in the city. My roommate, Mani, discovered it a block from our house, and it is hands down the best place to fresh and affordable produce in the city. I never would have gone in there if he didn’t tell me about it, but it’s a permanent farmers market on 52nd street between 8 and 9th (closer to 9th). I walked passed it so many times and didn’t even give it a second look. It’s right next to a parking lot, and super easy to pass up – but DON’T! The prices are unbeatable and fresh produce is delivered daily (or almost daily). And they don’t just sell produce! They also sell things like coffee beans, fresh honey, eggs, different types of pasta, italian cookies and pita chips, and fresh or sliced bread. And they have big bushels of your favorite herbs for only a dollar. Do you know how many times I just didn’t use herbs in a recipe that I found because they were too expensive? Never again. I mean come on it’s a DOLLAR!
Who doesn’t love Trader Joe’s? I was so excited when I moved to the city because I would finally have one in my area. There is nothing like it in Louisiana and the one near my college was way to far to be worth it. But not everything you buy here is a deal. In fact, some things at Whole Foods are actually cheaper than at Trader Joe’s.
Things I wouldn’t buy: eggs, milk, frozen pizza (tried most of them. not worth it if you ask me) or frozen fish (my sisters swear by it but I was very unimpressed), string cheese (just trust me on this), or cold cuts. Yuck. The turkey I got was so thickly cut and there was a lot of chewy fat on it, too.
Things you should buy: nuts, cereal, cheese (not shredded, the good stuff), pasta, chocolate chips, pizza dough, (fruit and vegetables only if you don’t feel like going all the way to Stiles or some other farmers market) protein powder, and flowers.
3. Big Apple Meat Market
I Like Stile’s farmers market, this another one of those out-of-your-way finds. But it’s worth it. (yes. it is true I live in Hell’s Kitchen. so when I say it’s worth it, can you trust me? maybe. maybe not. especially since I only have to walk blocks to get to both Stile’s and Big Apple Meat) There meat is so cheap but still great quality – and there bacon is a lot cheaper here as well (bc I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the price of bacon is outrageous. It costs like $10 for one package)529 9th Ave New York, NY 10018 b/t 39th St & 40th St in Hell’s Kitchen, Midtown West
4. Deals/ Dollar Tree
It’s no secret that I love the Dollar Tree. From decorating parties on a budget to sneaking in candy at the movie theater, the Dollar Tree is my absolute jam. So when I found out there was actually one in Manhattan, I kinda freaked. It’s not actually called “Dollar Tree” though – which is confusing. It’s called Deals. (also, do not be confused with Family Dollar. They are not the same. Not even close.)For me it’s quite the hike – all the way in the Upper upper east side (50 minutes, and 2 trains to get there – plus some solid walkage if you’ve got a heavy load) but it’s so worth it (I think there is one all the way on 116th also, but I haven’t been to that one yet). It’s also a little different from the Dollar Tree because not everything is a dollar. But most of the stuff is; and if it isn’t, it’s probably at the most like $3. Here you can get a plethora of candy (obviously), things like flour and sugar (if you’re strong enough to carry it – or smart enough to have a granny cart), and canned goods like beans and organic pumpkin puree. They also have a lot of fun stuff like groovy shaped glassware, plates, and holiday decorations that are all ideal for blogging (or for fun!).
5. Whole Foods
I know it doesn’t sound possible, but I’m telling the truth. Whole Foods can be cheaper than Trader Joe’s (for certain items). What I like most about WF is the scoopable section. (I’m sure there is a legitimate term for this, but that’s what I got.) Sure you can get a bag of crasins or raisins or sliced almonds for a great price at Trader J, but what if you don’t need the entire bag? I just made homemade granola with pumpkin seeds and sliced almonds. I got a 1/2 of sliced almonds for 27 cents and a 1/3 cup of pumpkin seeds for 23 cents. That’s nothing! (ok those might not be the exact prices – but I remember both being in the 20s) You also can deny that Whole Foods has all the hard to find items that you won’t find at Trader Joe’s, those regular grocery stores or even the farmers markets. Like those super rare fruits that weirdly shaped and beautiful on the inside. It was also the only place I could find bran. I I got a really big bag for $2.50 (and I was expecting to pay a fortune). Their cooking oils are also cheaper believe it or not. Like canola oil. Before I went to culinary school I never used a lot of oil. I would have vegetable oil around for the occasion cake or something, but that’s it. At school we use oil aaallll the time. More so than olive oil. The reason we use regular oil is can stand up to really high heats without smoking or burning. The smoking point of butter is 350, extra virgin is around 375 and Canola oil is 400 (this can all vary, but general speaking).
6. Jack’s 99 Cent Store
I have mixed feelings about this place. Mostly because I was really overwhelmed when I went in there. I also don’t know how consistent they are with what they carry, but I know you can find some really amazing deals on a couple of groovy items. Here are some things I have found there: Ghiradelli milk, semisweet and white chocolate chips – stock up because I don’t even think Walmart sells them at that good of a price; Barilla pasta, holiday candy (sure it’s a little old, but who’s gonna know the difference when those snickers bites are chopped up in a delicious chocolate chip cookie?) , several different kinds of Bob’s Red Mill products, healthier kinds of chips like Pop Chips and snap pea crisps (which I am obsessed with). You can also get a ton of cleaning supplies here as well as some other random stuff. Like they have cake decorating stuff you can find at Michael’s too – but I can’t remember what they have specifically…110 W 32nd St, New York, NY 10001 (212) 268-9962