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Good buys at Smart & Final

  • t

....was asked to move this from the Calif board, as S&F has locations in several western states and Mexico.(CA<AZ<NV<WA<OR<ID<MEXICO)

They started as restaurant supply stores, and have sucessfully reached out to the regular retail grocery market as well. Smaller than most warehouse stores, but set up that way, they offer a hybrid experience. They offer case and restaurant-sized packaging along with dairy, meats, breads, wines, and limited produce, plus staple foodstuffs. Restaurant tools and cleaning supplies, and a line of party paper goods and packaging round out their offerings.

Before Costco and TJ's 'came to town', S&F was the place to get a price break if you bought in quantity.

I've not visited them much lately, because of the above mentioned stores coming to my area, but now that the glow is staring to wear off TJ's, I've been pleasantly surprised at the great meat prices and with the breadth of the dairy offerings.

Do you shop at S&F? What are your favorite 'finds'?

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  1. I shop at Smart & Final regularly, because it's only a mile or so from my house (while Costco and Target are much further). If you shop there be sure to get a "SmartAdvantage" card--it's free and provides frequent discounts.

    But I tend to stick to those branded goods that we use in large quantities: Heinz ketchup, cereals in large boxes (in our house that means Total, Cheerios, and vanilla-almond Special K), bottled plain and flavored water (plus a large selection of sports drinks). Their choices can be limited, so if you don't happen to like what they have you may have to look elsewhere even if it's something you'd be willing to buy in volume (for example, my son eats a Pop-Tart every morning for breakfast but unfortunately he doesn't like the particular ones they sell here).

    They have the cheapest regular price for Alta Dena milk that I've found anywhere on the westside. I don't make a special trip just for the milk but if I'm there I'll pick some up.) We also buy a lot of convenience packaging items for our son's school lunches--little containers for ketchup, salt packs, bendy straws, etc. If you are having a party, this is definitely a place to check out.

    Good for home cleaning materials--hardwood floor cleaner, dish soap, laundry soap (except that they don't carry any HE-machine-compatible scent-free detergent, so I have to go elsewhere for that), Cascade dishwasher soap and Jet-Dry; big boxes of trashcan bags; paper towels. And toilet paper--reams of it.

    Oh, and there's a great little truck outside our local S&F that makes tasty Cemitas Poblanas. (It used to be a BBQ stand; your location may have something else.)

    Link: http://www.smartandfinal.com/

    1. now that's bizarre--the link worked when I previewed it....? h-m-m-m-m
      well, thanks for the link below!

      1. S&F sells Michaelangelo's frozen eggplant parmegian. It is much better than I can make from scratch and very economical. I stock up everytime I'm at S&F. Costco used to sell it, but had a falling out with the manufacturer.

        It's interesting that S&F, per the other hound, sells Alta Dena milk. A friend of mine was in the dairy business and regards Alta Dena quality as very high. I'll start buying my milk from S&F!

        4 Replies
        1. re: elise h

          My favorite buys at S & F are:
          The 'Alta Dena' milk. I put it in quotes, b/c while they DO have Alta Dena, they also carry their own brand, 'First Stree' of hormone free milk, at a low price. Much lower than Alta Dena (and I get Alta Dena delivered, but offset the cost with purchases of gallons at S & F).

          The food containers:
          Nobody else seems to have the type of 'take out' food containers like S & F. I love the little plastic lidded containers (3 oz?) that are perfect for condiments and pre-measured salad dressing. And for the salad? I purchase a pack of 10 alumimum containers and lids for about $10. I pack my DH a salad everyday, along with those little containers for dressing that I make. He rinses the containers clean, and brings them home for reuse. The aluminum is quite sturdy, and lasts for several salads. I also put them through the dishwasher, and they come out perfectly.

          I also love their salad dressings. Unusual flavors like Sweet Maui Onion and a sweet French. Very inexpensive too!

          Their store brand bagged cereals are a real bargain too. My kids only eat Honey Nut Cheerios, and I can get a 32 bag there for about $2.99.

          And don't pass up their breads that come two to a package. A bag of 2 loaves runs about $3 and change. Not as cheap as Costco, but the savings in gas makes it a good buy for me.

          1. re: elise h

            My favorite buys at S & F are:
            The 'Alta Dena' milk. I put it in quotes, b/c while they DO have Alta Dena, they also carry their own brand, 'First Stree' of hormone free milk, at a low price. Much lower than Alta Dena (and I get Alta Dena delivered, but offset the cost with purchases of gallons at S & F).

            The food containers:
            Nobody else seems to have the type of 'take out' food containers like S & F. I love the little plastic lidded containers (3 oz?) that are perfect for condiments and pre-measured salad dressing. And for the salad? I purchase a pack of 10 alumimum containers and lids for about $10. I pack my DH a salad everyday, along with those little containers for dressing that I make. He rinses the containers clean, and brings them home for reuse. The aluminum is quite sturdy, and lasts for several salads. I also put them through the dishwasher, and they come out perfectly.

            I also love their salad dressings. Unusual flavors like Sweet Maui Onion and a sweet French. Very inexpensive too!

            Their store brand bagged cereals are a real bargain too. My kids only eat Honey Nut Cheerios, and I can get a 32 bag there for about $2.99.

            And don't pass up their breads that come two to a package. A bag of 2 loaves runs about $3 and change. Not as cheap as Costco, but the savings in gas makes it a good buy for me.

            1. re: cindy

              I LOVE their plastic take-out containers!

              I use them to store leftovers. My mom lived with me for a while, and as a child of the depression, loved to make the original "small plate" meals. She'd save any small portion of a dinner, and the next lunch or two would graze on 7-course lunches! (She is what I'd consider one of the original all-time great CHOWHOUNDS!) These plastic pint and half pint rounds were perfect for her to use. Rubbermaid, etc, were too hard for her to open!

              To this day I use these containers to store everything! Grains, drygoods, spices, coffee, etc. They stack beautifully and that's a plus in my fridge.

              I store chicken and beef broth in them in the freezer door and they're so easy to find.

              I'm a fan of the heavy foil boxes and lids, too. Great for freezing leftover or extra servings of casserole items: twice bakes, enchiladas, scalloped potatoes, etc. Perfect meal additions when I don't have the energy to cook.

              I'm going to have to try their milk--sounds good!

            2. re: elise h

              Michaelangelos Eggplant Parm..is the only frozen food I buy (I lied, I also buy spinnach souffle! [Pep. Farm])...it is quite good...piquant tomato sauce...and I do like S&F's large size 'cause when I make it...I eat a lot of it!

            3. We are lucky as we have both two Smart and Final's and one Cash&Carry which is now owned by the same company as S&F: the French Groupe Casino. Often Cash&Carry is better priced. I buy CryoVac packaged baby back ribs and tri tips, kosher salt, other bulk items and Bar Keepers Friend among others. Good stores.

              3 Replies
              1. re: Tom Hall

                There is a Cash n Carry right by my work, do you need to have a business license or wholesale license to purchase there?

                1. re: Davina

                  No. Just buy what you want. They accept credit cards, too.

                  1. re: Davina

                    The Cash & Carry in my neighborhood (Torrance, CA) absolutely requires some type of business documentation to shop there. I got my membership when I gave them my FEIN...

                    Do check with your local Cash & Carry to see if you can join or just shop there -- it's definitely worth your time.

                    http://www.smartandfinal.com/facts.html
                    ===========
                    SMART FOODSERVICE CASH & CARRY STORES

                    Located in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California, the company's Smart Foodservice Cash & Carry stores serve the foodservice business market exclusively, including restaurants, caterers and small businesses. The warehouse-format stores average approximately 20,000 square feet.

                    Store designs and merchandising strategies emphasize product categories that are most important to core restaurant and other foodservice customers. Many Smart Foodservice Cash & Carry stores recently have expanded freezer and deli sections to offer a greater assortment of frozen foods, deli and dairy products. These stores do a significant volume in the perishable categories, particularly meat and produce. Since the Smart Foodservice Cash & Carry format focuses exclusively on institutional size products, the stores typically carry more national brands than Smart & Final stores, although they are integrating an increasing number of private labels into this format.
                    ===========

                2. the S&F near my house in San Pablo (East Bay/SF) has unsalted butter and manufacturing cream - both not available in Costco, as far as I know. Prices are good on both of these items ..... I wish they carried chips without transfats in them.

                  1. I use a lot of Coleman's (dry powdered) mustard. In sald dressings, stews, etc. They sell the large (1lb, yellow can) for very little. Less than $6--less than 2X the price of a small can in the supermarket. If you don't see it at Smart and Final, ask and they will order it for you. I've done it.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Curmudgeon

                      thanks! My English mom loves this stuff. We always joke about not forgetting about it when we come down with a cold and get congested! phewee!

                    2. p
                      Professor Salt

                      Manufacturing cream. Higher fat content than heavy cream & stabilized w/ carageenan, which keeps it from weeping in its whipped form.

                      Near me (So. Cal) it's the Alta Dena brand in half gallon cartons. I have to go to a restaurant supply place to get it otherwise.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Professor Salt
                        p
                        Professor Salt

                        Forgot: SAF instant yeast, in the 1 lb vacuum pack. I prefer this to the more readily found active dry yeast. S&F stocks it (at least in my local shops), and again, saves me a longer trip to a wholesale restaurant supply place.

                        1. re: Professor Salt

                          ProfessorSalt? What do you use the manufacturing cream for? I have a quart of this in my fridge hoping that it can be substituted for whipped cream. I'd love to know what you use this product for and if you have any great recipes that you'd be willing to share that contains this product. When you have time, please let me know? Thanks! Annieamie

                          1. re: AnnieAmie

                            Manufacturing cream is just cream. It's typically just over 40% fat, which is just a little more than heavy cream, which is 36-40%. Substitute it directly for heavy whipping cream; It whips up beautifully, or you can put it in coffee, cream-based sauces, or (my favorite) homemade ice cream.

                            Speaking of ice cream, S&F has cartons of Breyers for a little more than half what my local grocery charges.

                            One other thing S&F has that isn't widely available elsewhere is Cambro storage containers. There's a reason they're the standard in commercial kitchens; they're incredibly durable and reasonably priced.

                        2. Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter
                          Smucker's Strawberry Jam
                          Pico Pica Hot Sauce
                          Crystal Geyser waters
                          Basmati rice and multiple pastas in bulk packages
                          sliced jalapenos in a gallon glass jar (not ONE of my local grocery stores sells this product!)
                          Flour and yeast
                          Walnuts (yik!); chopped and whole
                          Pecans (double YIK!); whole
                          Chicken breasts and thighs; skin-on, bone-in
                          Michaelangelo Lasangne and Eggplant Parmessan
                          Milk and yogurt
                          All-beef hotdogs; not Nathan's or Neiman Ranch but excellent tasting.

                          Assorted cleaning products

                          Every product beats out Safeway and Costco prices so I've virtually stopped shopping at both other chains. With TJ right next door, and Gene's Fine Foods down the street, I don't have much more need to shop at places that don't want my patronage (Safeway - We change Our Aisles Weekly).

                          1. Smart & Final carries the Ghirardelli Brownie Mix that Costco's in the SF Bay Area dropped in favor of the inferior Hershey's.

                            They also carry inexpensive Dexter knives that are good quality (especially their serrated edge utility knives) and dishwasher-safe.

                            1. I like S & F for disposable party supplies when I want nicer stuff than Costco carries (and not as much of it) which is pretty much always. Nice clear plastic plates, cups, utensils, paper cups, paper tablecloths, napkins. Also good for those big hard plastic bottles of sodas. Maybe a case of beer if I like what they have at the time. For some reason I have ended up shopping at S & F when preparing for post-funeral gatherings, which, sadly, I've had to do a few of in the last few years. Individual packets of sugar, sweeteners, styrofoam coffee cups, etc. I've also bought the occasional cooking supply-type gadget there, but I don't remember exactly what they were. I know they carry manufacturing cream but it's in 1/2 gallon amounts which is just too much. I haven't really bought any fresh or frozen food items there. They also have decent serving supplies like platters, bowls, etc. The store in Irvine close to my mom (off of Culver? next to TJ's?) is way bigger and nicer than the Encino store which is my local S & F.

                              1. Ditto on loving the variety of food container sizes.

                                Recently, a 10 lb. sirloin tip roast cost me $20. A real money saver for a party, and incredibly flavorful for the price. In the past I've gotten good rib eye roasts, but for $6/lb.

                                1. I buy my beef brisket there. I can get a 17lb brisket for like $13. They also have this Vidalia Onion sort of French style dressing that is out of this world. Huge jug for like $2.99. Good prices on capers too in the ethnic food aisle.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Davina

                                    Brisket is exactly what I get there. I also like the large containers of whole cumin. I've purchased some pans there and the aluminum disposable pans and plastic containers are good. Once when I made hummus for a party I bought the large can of chickpeas. Much cheaper than buying the small ones at the grocery store.

                                  2. Great place if you are into tailgaters and bbq.

                                    I get brisket there, cases of pork butts, all aluminum pans including throwaway chaffers, some bbq sauce, food service gloves.

                                    Ribs I get at Costco, better ribs, and I get 25% discount by the case.