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Price Check: Comparing Lower East Side Grocery Stores

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 Lo-Down NYC Grocery Graphic

Editor’s Note: the following article first appeared in the April 2013 edition of The Lo-Down’s print magazine.

The supermarket scene on the Lower East Side has seen major shifts in recent months, with the arrival of Union Market, an upscale Brooklyn-based grocer that opened on East Houston street in November, and the closure the following month of the giant Pathmark on Cherry Street. Fine Fare, which has two stores in the neighborhood, recently reorganized and renovated sections of its Clinton Street store to beef up the produce department and expand its organic and higher-end offerings. We decided it would be a good time to take a look at prices in our local supermarkets and make some comparisons of basic kitchen staples among Fine Fare, Union Market, Whole Foods on East Houston Street and FreshDirect, the home-delivery grocer used by many urban households.

Before we get to the numbers, here are a few notes about our completely unscientific survey, which was conducted during the second week of March. We did not include the second Fine Fare on Grand Street (which shares ownership with the Clinton Street store), the Key Foods on Columbia Street or the vendors in Essex Street Market, all of which provide additional shopping options. We chose items that all four of the merchants carried in exactly the same weight or volume, in order to ensure fairness. In most cases, we priced the same brand. If an item happened to be on temporary special at the time of our survey, the sale price was not included; the regular price appears in the chart. If several varieties of the same item were available at different price points, the lowest-priced option is recorded. For example, Whole Foods carries several brands of organic chickens that run as high as $5.99/pound; we listed only the cheapest.

Upon close inspection, the variances among our local supermarkets were striking. In some cases there was very little overlap of comparable items from store to store. For example, neither Union Market nor Whole Foods sells Café Bustelo coffee, a very popular brand at Fine Fare. Illy, an Italian import, was the only coffee brand available from all four merchants. However, Union Market features a large selection of its house brand of coffee, while Whole Foods carries a wider selection of organic and fair-trade beans.

Each of the three stores offers a different shopping experience and amenities. The Fine Fare deli counter’s hot-lunch specials are worth waiting in line, while Whole Foods caters especially to the grab-and-go crowd with options like prepared sandwiches and a gourmet cookie bar. Union Market specializes in supporting local artisan brands like Manhattan-made pickles and Brooklyn-made ice cream. FreshDirect, meanwhile, allows you to grocery shop without leaving your desk, and charges just $5.99 to bring your order to your door.

 

Item

Union Market

Whole Foods

Fine Fare

Fresh Direct

Cheapest

Bananas (per pound)

0.99

0.89

0.89

0.88

FreshDirect

Limes (each)

0.5

0.4

0.25

0.59

Fine Fare

Avocados (each)

1.5

2

1.29

2.49

Fine Fare

Cheerios (14-ounce box)

5.49

5.99

5.39

4.79

FreshDirect

Seltzer (per liter; cheapest brand-name)

0.99

0.99

0.79

1.09

Fine Fare

Brooklyn Lager (6-pack)

10.99

10.99

10.99

10.99

4-way tie

Philadelphia Cream Cheese (8-ounce package)

3.69

3.39

3.29

3.29

FF/FD tie

Whole chicken (non-organic, per pound)

3.29

2.99

2.39

1.99

FreshDirect

Whole chicken (organic, per pound)

4.99

2.69

Not available

3.99

Whole Foods

Eggs (non-organic, per dozen, extra-large)

2.99

3.29

2.59

2.79

Fine Fare

Eggs (organic, per dozen, extra-large)

4.99

5.69

4.99

6.38

UM/FF tie

Whole Milk (non-organic, half-gallon carton)

1.99

1.99

2.29

2.49

UM/WF tie

Whole Milk (organic, half-gallon carton)

4.79

5.19

5.69

3.99

FreshDirect

Stacy’s Pita Chips (8-ounce bag)

2.99

3.19

3.99

3.29

Union Market

Goya Black Beans (15.5-ounce can)

1.29

1.69

1.19

1.29

Fine Fare

Illy Ground Coffee (8.8-ounce can)

14.99

12.49

15.99

14.99

Whole Foods

Tropicana Orange Juice (59-ounce bottle)

4.49

4.49

5.29

3.99

Fine Fare

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Essex Street Retail Market is almost across the board cheaper than all 4 options (except lack of beer selection). I wish it had been included.

  2. On market between henry and east broadway there is a chinese supermarket that beats all these price… and the fruit stands under the manhattan bridge has 11 oranges for $2 18 kiwi, 1 pund of straberrys for $1…. and so much more.. check it out

  3. A half gallon of organic whole milk at Whole Foods is definitely under $4 (I think $3.69 or $3.79). Where does the $5.19 figure come from?

  4. If an item was not available as a house brand at all four of the stores (as was the case with seltzer, as well), we priced the cheapest name brand in the interest of fairness. In the case of organic whole milk, we priced either Stonyfield Farms or Organic Valley; I’m sure you’re right that Whole Foods’ “365” house label is cheaper.

  5. 4th Street Food Co-op sells organic, fair trade bananas for just 1.03 a pound. Pennies more for fair trade!

Comments are closed.

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