Ferry Plaza vs. Albertson's (or any supermarket) prices
For people who say Ferry Plaza is over-priced ... here's a comparison of a few items I bought this week at FP and those same, so to speak, items at Albertsons ... only the herbs at Albertson were organic.
Also, I don't mean to pick on Albertsons ... the prices are pretty much the same at all supermarkets. I just happened to be at Albertsons today.
FP - organic corn ... 3 for $1
A - corn on sale ..... 4 for $1
FP - organic plucots ...... $3 00 lb
A - plucots regular price $2.99 lb on sale this week $1.99
FP - organic melons ... $1.00 lb
A - melons ................... $0.69 - $1.29
FP - tomatoes (regular & organic) ... $2.25 - $3.00 lb
A - Vine-ripened regular tomatoes ... $2. 99 lb
FP - organic summer squash ... $1.00 - $1.99 lb
A - summer squash ................... $1.69 - $1.99 lb
FP - organic heirloom potatoes ... $2.00 lb
A - red and white potatoes ........... .$0.99 lb
FP - regular strawberries ...... $2.50
A - strawberries regular price $3.99 on sale this week 2 for $3
FP - regular raspberries ... $2.00
A - regular raspberries .......$2.99
FP - organic cucumbers ... $1.99 lb
A - cucumbers .................... $1.29 each . I weighed one ... 1/2 lb or $2.58 lb
FP - regular romaine lettuce .... $1.00
A - romaine lettuce .....................$1.49
FP - brown button mushrooms ... $3.00 lb
A - brown button mushromms .... $.399 lb
FP - regular grapes ... $2.50 lb
A - regular grapes ......$2.49 lb
FP - organic apples ... $1.00 - $3.00 lb
A - apples .................... $1.49 - $1.89 lb
FP - dried organic Bing cherries ... $9.00 lb
A - dried cherries ..............................$15.86 lb (99 cents oz)
OK ... here's the REAL shocker. I was complaining about fresh organic herbs being sold for $10 lb at Ferry Plaza. Albertson's sells SF Organics brand fresh herbs ... $1.99 for .75 ounces ... that's $31. 84 lb.
One other thing ... Ella Bella was selling organic duck's tongue lettuce for $4.50 a pound. Albertson's sells organic bagged lettuce mixes for $3.99 for 5 oz ... you do the math.
Cherry season is over, but Albertson's had them ... Bing's $2.99 lb Rainier $5.49 lb.
Nothing you get at the supermarkets was picked that day or the day before. The quality isn't anywhere near Ferry Plaza. Well, Albertson's does have better parking.
That's the point. People see the pricy stuff and get blinded by it. In the glare they overlook the great little vendors like McGinnis who are the soul of the market. The pricy stuff is just the gift wrapping.
Sure the are $7 a dozen eggs at Marin Sun and Eatwell. People forget about the eggs-cellent Petaluma Farms eggs that Stan sells at eggs-actly the right price ... about $2 - $3 a dozen.
Although ... I was looking at olive oil at Albertsons and Barini was less expensive than some of those.
Oh yeah, the dozen preservative-laden Mission Tortillas at Albertson's was $2.49. Rancho Gordo was selling a dozen corn tortillas for $2.
FP ... G.L. Alfieri slivered almonds – 4 oz $2.50
A ......Diamond slivered almonds – 2.25 oz - $2.79
Yes, I agree that Albertson's is the place for bargains on high carb processed foods and they are probably my least favorite for produce. They do have the significantly lower price for powdered milk.
For the mainstream supermarkets, Raley's has the best produce and the most organic. They even have organic bananas.
I was at Berkeley Bowl last week but didn't note any prices because I wasn't sure what I'd buy at Ferry Plaza. However, in the same category, it pretty much equals FP. Sure you can get bin oranges for 49 cents lb. However, matching quality, they are in the same ballpark ... and while fresher than the supermarkets, not as just-picked as FP.
Berkeley Bowl's corn was 3 for $1, rasperries about $2, organic heirloom potatoes $2.49.
Probably the best comparison is to local farmers markets. I'm a big fan of the El Cerrito Farmers Market. The produce while not mostly organic, is less expensive and good quality. The one organic vendor is way ... way ... more expensive than FP and the variety and quality isn't as good.
There is one vendor that rises to the extrodinary at El Cerrito and that is the Peach Farm with their wonderful heirloom tomatoes and melons. Forgot to check them out at FP to see if the prices were different.
When I shop at El Cerrito, I really enjoy what I bought.
However, shopping at Ferry Plaza is a whole different experience ... a meal is a celabration of taste, texture, color, smell and touch. I have been blown away this week by what I'm making from the Ferry Plaza produce.
The colorful pink jalapeno salsa fresca with green zebra and Early Girl tomatoes was like a fiesta on the chicken taco ... pair that with Rancho Gordo's pretty and tasty pebble beans with a strawberry rhubarb aqua fresca garnished with fuzzy pineapple mint ... it was mind-blowing amazing . The chicken was sauteed in some reserved juices from sauteed pink and shitake mushrooms.
Digression: Those "white/pink" jalapenos from Happy Quail are AMAZING !!!. Crisp with a sweet pepper taste yet with a pleasant heat ... and soooo pretty. Highly recommended.
And that is just the point.
Ferry Plaza is in its own category and the price point is similar to mainstream markets.
Yes, you can shop less expensivly at the mercado's and Asian places and some other farmers markets. However you aren't going to be dining on duck's tongue lettuce or white strawberry peaches.
I can buy less expensive house-made cheese at my local mercados but it didn't even start to compare with the artisan Latino cheese at FP ... and that caramel sauce ... again ... wow.
In a comparison on the restaurant level ... no one would throw into competition a top of the line restaurant like Chez Panisse to a mid-scale restaurant like Towns End to a cheap eats place like Nation's. Yes, you can eat decently at all of them, but no one fault's Chez Panisse for not charging Nation's prices. There is a difference.
I've shopped Ferry Plaza for way over a decade ... in flush and not so flush times. I've always been able to afford it and eat exceptionally. I find the criticism of Ferry Plaza skewed and unfair often.
Even I was griping that the lovely organic summer squash this week at Ferry Plaza ... with over a dozen varieties was $1.99 lb. Then I walk into Alberson'ts and there is boring, non-organic, thick-skinned zuke's for $1.99.
An apple is not an apple is not an apple.
Sometimes an apple is an heirloom organic Pink and Tart with pretty blushes of pink ... not a tasty enough generic bin apple from the small market ... and not a dry and NOT Delicious supermarket apple
It's like comparing apples and apples.
"However, shopping at Ferry Plaza is a whole different experience ... a meal is a celabration of taste, texture, color, smell and touch. I have been blown away this week by what I'm making from the Ferry Plaza produce."
"Even I was griping that the lovely organic summer squash this week at Ferry Plaza ... with over a dozen varieties was $1.99 lb. Then I walk into Alberson'ts and there is boring, non-organic, thick-skinned zuke's for $1.99."
There's no need to defend what you like, esp. with a comparo with Albertson's because that just skews things more. I don't think anyone is going to disagree that Albertson's is crappy. Why not just write about what you like?
One of the most profound things I've ever heard about like/dislike was in grad school in a heavy-duty art/criticism/theory class (required, not taken for fun) taught by a morose MacArthur Fellow genius prof.
After about an hour of rambling and eyeballs rolling back into people's head, a fellow student and friend to this day turned to me and said, "All this crazy making theory is simply a way to defend what you like/dislike...so you like something, no need to rip my head a part".
I'm not saying you're ripping our heads a part because more often then not I like and apprecate what you write...what am I saying is why get into a critical comparo about Albertson's to defend the FPFM?
Well, I do think that it's relevant to compare Albertsons prices to those at the Ferry Plaza in order to defend it, because the biggest complaint about the Ferry Plaza is that everything there is so expensive. Comparing the prices there to an average national chain grocery store prices show that it isn't actually that expensive; it was really eye opening for me to read this and see that the prices are the same, and sometimes cheaper, at Ferry Plaza than at a regular grocery store, and the quality is so much better. I never shop for produce at Albertsons or Safeway, so I really did think that the price differential was a lot more than it actually is.
Ok, so I am going to chime in after all with my very small, humble opinion.
I own a teeny, tiny market, and we've only been up and running for 9 months, but it has opened my eyes to much of what is being discussed here. These are just my little inputs, but perhaps they will be helpful.
I will never again buy produce at a big chain Supermarket, unless it is an emergency. It is just not in the structure of these types of businesses to carry produce that will compare to the quality of farmer's markets, ethnic markets or places like FP. They really are big operations that have corporate policies forcing them to operate the same way no matter where they are. If you shop at a small, locally owned market, the owner can go to produce markets or local farmers and buy in season and hand pick what looks fresh. We have much more flexibility that way.
As far as the pricing game, when you buy from a smaller source, you are cutting out middlemen. When I buy my produce, I buy it straight from the farmer or the produce market. When Safeway or Albertsons buys produce, it comes from one or two distributors who truck it miles and miles from the produce market who get it from the farmers/laboratories/processing plants. So the pricing goes up at every level and the quality suffers.
Not that big chains are terrible. They are terribly convenient and nice for things like cereal, bread, foil, beer, etc.
I do think it is very important to compare and defend places like Ferry Plaza. Especially for those of us who participate and read Chowhounds, we care not only about what goes into our bodies, but our neighbors and local businesses. Anyway, I appreciate the care and effort RW took to show us your discoveries because I think, at least some of the time, we are all running through life with our eyes pointed straight ahead.
Thanks RW for a most illuminating post! And thanks to all for your opinions! This is why Chowhounds is on my bookmark bar.
For the five years I've been on Chowhound I've been reporting about what I love. Here's my old 2002 Ode to the market at the old Green St location.
However, there are usually snide comments time after time about how over-priced the market is and that you can get better elsewhere. I never had the numbers or facts to back that up and compare.
Then there was this recent to do with Carlo Petrini of Slow Food who said of Ferry Plaza. From Chow:
Among other things, [Petrini] called the prices ‘astronomical … boutique-y,’ the market ‘extremely exclusive,’ the farmers ‘all well-to-do college graduates’ and the customers ‘either wealthy or very wealthy … most of whom seemed to be actresses’ who showed off their vegetables ‘like jewels, status symbols.’
Followed by this Chowhound discussion ...
I just got worn down over the years having to constantly defend Ferry Plaza. Now I can just link to this thread. The fact that Ferry Plaza offers prices that compare with a mainstream market hardly makes them astronomical. When you compare the apple from FP to the apple from Albertson's ... it IS a jewel ... in a good way. The fact that I can eat deliciously for $3 a day by shopping at Ferry Plaza hardly makes it exclusive or soley the stomping ground of the wealthy.
Does Albertsons get their produce from local farms? I try to support local rather than produce coming from across the country or from other countries. Supporting local to me keeps our farmers going and assured that is was picked later rather than earlier and helps global warming.
re: Gary Soup
OK ... by Friday the produce I bought the previous Saturday at FP will be the same age and the prouce I buy on Friday at the supermarkets.
Seriously though, that is another consideration .. freshness. I'm not singling out FP on that though. Any farmers market produce will be fresher and last a lot longer than supermarket produce.
There isn't super care going on with the supermarket produce. It goes to refridgerated trucks and warehouses where it sits for who knows how long. Then the greens, carrots, celery etc get those periodic water sprays that rot them.
I'm always surprised how soon supermarket produce goes bad ... and how long farmers market produce lasts.
Anyway, I pretty much shop once a week. So better to buy fresher produce on that trip rather than something that's been sitting around for a while.
I rarely go into regular supermarkets, but when I do I'm amazed by how expensive they are. I usually go to smaller markets such as the Monterey Market or Latino, Middle Eastern or Asian places. Not to say that famers markets aren't great, I just wanted to point out that there's a third option that I would place somewhere between supermarkets and farmers markets.
Nice comparo...yet it's a semi-tilted study. Produce from a truck farmer is going to ytaste better 8 out of 10 times. Yes, Albertson's cost almost as much but who shops Albertson's and FPFM for produce, esp given the quality and taste. (I buy onions, potatoes and banana from mainstream grocery stores and that's it) A better comparo would be between Alemany FM, Berkeley Bowl or a local produce shop and FPFM.
Yeah, but don't the producers of the stuff sold by Albertson's go to great expense to genetically engineer their produce for longer shelf life?
Just playing the devil's advocate here. I've never been to an Albertsons (I don't know if we even have them in SF) and all of the veggies we eat in my household come from Chinatown (where the trucks seem to roll in at daybreak most every day).