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Comparison Grocery Shopping in LA

Picking up on Das Ubergeek's post on his trip to the Calabasas Gelson's, I thought I would throw this out there... Has anybody recently done comparison shopping at the various grocery stores in LA? I talking about pricing the same items at Whole Foods, Gelsons, Bristol Farms, Ralphs, Albertsons, Trader Joes, etc.

Earlier this week, I was at Whole Foods, where lemons were being sold for 99 cents each. I decided to pass on them, knowing I was heading over the Ralphs a few blocks away. I expected them to be cheaper. The Ralphs' price for lemons — $1.29 each. I ended up buying the lemons at Trader Joe's, where I purchased a bag of 7 lemons for $1.69.

Similarly, I was at Albertson's a few weeks ago. I wanted to make a buffalo chicken salad from scratch and I needed blue cheese. The pre-packed Treasure Cave crumbled blue cheese, which I don't typically buy because it is industrially made, was priced over $15.00 per pound. That is more than some top notch artisinal blue cheese at places like the Cheese Store of Silverlake or Surfas in Culver City. But, unless you did the math, you might never have realized that the 4 or 5 oz. package of blue cheese was so expensive.

I posted about it here: http://nochoiceatall.blogspot.com/200...

I am curious what you all have found. Perhaps we can put together a working list of deals around town?

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  1. Here is a bit of what I've observed. No one can touch Jon's Marketplace for prices on vegetables. Examples vary from week to week but this is typical of what I see: celery, 89 cts; iceberg lettuce 89 cts; bunch radishes, parsley, cilantro between three and five for a dollar; onions 3-5 lbs for a dollar. Earthbrook organic carrots, 99 cts. English cucumbers 99 cts. Herbs are a super bargain in bunches at 59 to 79 cts per. They're also a great choice for all manner of chile peppers, bulk dried beans and rice, etc.

    ONTOH, you can't beat Von's/Pavilions for their sales on paper goods.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Bob Brooks

      I actually think the prices for produce at that Mexican market on Sunset and Western are consistently better than Jons though the quality of the produce isn't as good as the Korean markets in OC that I usually go to.

      Also, I like the produce and prices at the new Gaju (California) Market on Beverly and Kingsley.

      I still haven't tried Super King though I heard they're really cheap and good.

      1. re: choctastic

        Super King is great and the prices are insanely low. I had to feed 50 people the other day and Super King fit the bill perfectly because I needed tons of onions, lemons, peppers, and other basics. The quality is fine, perhaps a bit better than the average grocery store quality but not farmers market quality, and the prices are rock bottom.

          1. re: Diana

            They've got two locations. The one I visited was on the Glendale/LA border, not too far from Mount Washington. They've got a website that lists the address.

            In addition to the bountiful, cheap produce, they are also a fine option for lots of the things you'd find at a Jon's Supermarket.

            1. re: Diana

              San Fernando Road, just below the 2 Freeway in Glassell Park, for one. Nice store, yet not neighborhood friendly for those of us in Sherman Oaks.

      2. If you have a Superior Super Warehouse in your area, their produce is also priced very reasonably, and they use the same distributor as Bristol Farms and Albertsons.

        The main difference is that at Bristol Farms they make nice little pyramids out of the produce, and they're headed that way at Albertsons.

        The supermarket majors are really ridiculous. They have a few advertised specials and everything else is jacked way up to Whole Foods territory. I pretty much avoid all of them.

        1. Try Grand Central Market downtown on Hill between 4th and 3rd. Unbelievably cheap produce. I went there this weekend and got two bag full of groceries for less then 5 dollars. How? Examples.. large white onions...7lbs for $1. Ripe Roma tomatoes 3lbs for $1. Red Bell peppers 99c/lb. Banana's 25c/lb. Nectarines 4lbs $1. These are not second rate produce folks--In fact, I was comparing the Roma tomatoes I got there to the ones in OC and Hollywood that I saw today and the Grand Central Market's quality just on appearance alone was far superior.

          6 Replies
          1. re: hppzz

            no refridgeration = lose @GCM

            At least, that's my experience.

            1. re: ns1

              Granted it was my first time there and I went around noon time so maybe the morning produce are the freshest. I'll have to check it out again to see how consistent it is. Oh, so i spent a month here in LA and have resigned to get my vietnamese food fix in SGV...nem nuong khanh hoa was excellent.

              1. re: hppzz

                NMKH is indeed excellent.

                I went to GCM around 2pm last summer and produce was less than spectacular. Definitely get there early or...

                1. re: ns1

                  Yeah, my long term experience with GCM when working downtown was generally yuk, unless you got there shortly after they stocked.

              2. re: ns1

                Onions and tomatoes don't need refrigeration. Lot's of produce doesn't.

                1. re: Jennalynn

                  it actually goes beyond that, jennalynn.
                  if tomatos are refrigerated, they will lose their flavor forevermore.
                  imho, it's critical, when buying tomatoes that you find some that have NEVER seen the inside of a refrigerator.

            2. I want to save money, but quality is also important. For the "big shops", I usually go to Ralphs. I can fill my cart for about $150, which is what I expect to spend for the bi-monthly grocery bill. For convienience, I go to Gelsons. I try to avoid it, but it's right next to me, they have great sandwiches, cheese (like the fig and raison Boursin) that I can't seem to find at other chains, good olives, and their cornichons are the best. I know if I'm going there, I'm spending $50-$80 on a small basket of stuff. I love Whole Foods, I usually decide to do a quick trip there if I'm cooking, unfortunitely staying home and cooking really doesn't save any $$, as it will be $50-$60 for all the fresh produce/fish/meat/cheese/wine I've walked out with. Trader Joes, for the quality and price, is IMO, the best bang for your buck. You can get A LOT of stuff, most bordering on the exotic, great cheese, wine, snacks, crackers, all borderline healthy (except the peanut-butter cups that I can't live without!) for a fraction of the price that you would pay at Gelsons, Whole Foods, or even Ralphs or Vons. The only problems with Trader Joe's is 1) You can't get everything on your list, since TJ's produce is so seasonal., they don't carry a lot of fresh herbs, they discontinue things pretty regularly, and there is no butcher/fishmonger, and 2) Their isn't one near me!! I would have to drive fifteen-twenty minutes to West Hollywood, or fifteen to twenty minutes to Silverlake. C'mon Trader Joe's, don't forget about your friends in the Beachwood/Bronson area!!

              1. 99 cent stores for lemons. Currently have bags of 8 for 99 cents. Just bought three bags on Friday from the one on Sunset in Silver Lake. The Sunset Blvd in Hollywood carries them too, but so many shoppers know about them, sometimes they quickly disappear.

                Super King is great for veggies. It's on San Fernando Road just of the 2, going towards downtown.

                They have great flap meat as well. And, their herbs are inexpensive - nothing like the super's prices.

                2 Replies
                1. re: toitoi

                  If you make regular stops at 99 cents stores you can do insanely well.

                  I just bought a BIG box of organic arugula with a use by day of August 12th... for 99 cents. It's over 7 dollars at Costco!

                  They always have those small round watermelons... and big bags of juicy limes... and beautiful cauliflower.

                  I'm hesitant to even recommend it, as I want to keep my secret place ; )

                  1. re: Jennalynn

                    Oh, it's been talked about here before. It's a bit of a gamble. Sometimes you do really well and sometimes you get nothing much.

                    But now I need to head over to see if my store has the arugula. Once I got one of those big boxes of Earthbound mixed greens, it was great.

                2. For everyday produce Superior is hard to beat. A few years back the quality was lower-tier, but has improved a lot. Definitely a working-class vibe and less service than a fancy place. Meat's very fresh due to high volume and there are occasional super deals on shrimp. Package goods are slightly downscale.

                  1. Fresh seafood and meat---How's market will have the quality of Bristol Farm/Gelson's/Whole Food but cheaper, as well has great sales. Produce: find a good 99c store, Food for Less, and/or Trader Joes (for these stores location is determinative). Traders Joes has best prices for dairy products; if shopping for large family or groups consider big box stores like Costco or Sam's. For everyday shopping it's a tossup between Vons (still has double coupons) and Ralphs (recently discontinued)

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: foufou

                      What about the westside? We have the big markets (pavillions, ralphs, wfm, etc.) Where are the Jons and the Superking? A better question is where else can I go (aside from the farmer's markets, which are great when I can get to them.)

                      1. re: paigeharrison

                        Here is the website for Jon's markets. Closest is probably the one on LaBrea at Fountain, in Weho.
                        Here is a sample page from their weekly ad for reference:

                        1. re: paigeharrison

                          Sorry. Your main alternative would be Trader Joes, I think.

                          I don't like the fresh foods at TJs. I think Fresh & Easy does a better job with produce and meats, mostly in small package sizes.

                          Boo hoo hoo for the Westside again, though. Closest would be Hollywood or the east Manhattan Beach/Hawthorne Boundary.


                          1. re: paigeharrison

                            In Marina del Rey, you could go to Marina Farms for the fruits and vegetables. Their stuff is not farmers market quality, but it's a slice above the grocery stores and the prices are definitely lower. They also carry lots of stuff you cannot find at the grocery stores.

                            For very good meat at grocery store prices, check out Bob's Market in Santa Monica on Ocean Park Blvd. it's an old-fashioned butcher operation and the quality is excellent.

                            1. re: paigeharrison

                              The Westside is not downmarket and the rents are terrible, so no cheap markets. You do, however, have a Mitsuwa (and Nijiya and Safe-and-Save) which gives you access to decent produce and unbelievably fresh fish.

                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                thanks, guys! i will definitely check out bob's and das ubergeek's suggestions. i think i've seen the mitsuwa, but i don't know where the nijya or safe and save is.

                                1. re: paigeharrison

                                  Nijiya is just north of Olympic on Sawtelle, on the east side of the road (same plaza as Place Yuu); Safe and Save is on Sawtelle between La Grange and Santa Monica.

                                  Nijiya has more stuff; Safe and Save has better fish.

                              2. re: paigeharrison

                                Marina Farms on Centinela near the '90 is Great! Also, there is a Top Value on Inglewood between Culver and Jefferson which is has good prices at meat.

                                1. re: paigeharrison

                                  elat market (on pico around robertson) and pico market (on pico around beverly drive) are both good for produce.

                              3. A big plus and a couple of major complaints about the Ralph's markets near me on the westside. To their credit, you can't beat them for the one or two highlighted meat specials in the weekly ad. This week it was whole untrimmed tritips for $2.49/lb. for choice (some areas offered select for $1.99). I slice the roast into four or five very thick steaks, season heavily, and grill over high heat so they get crusty on the outside and remain pretty rare within -- delicious. Next week's special is whole chickens for 69 cents a pound -- at that price I can roast them, eat the good parts, and freeze the carcasses for stock later. On the other hand, some of their prices have gone insane, despite their recent ad campaign about savings on everyday items. Last week russet baking potatoes were $1.29/lb. -- I'd never seen them for over a buck -- and then today they were $1.49! They also recently revised their double-coupon policy, taking away the big potential savings for clippers like me. Finally, I am insulted by their yellow price posts in the aisles advertising "everyday" prices that have the same look as the sale posts -- distracting and insulting.

                                1. For reference, I'm in the Silverlake area. My normal basket of stuff (yogurt, milk, fruit/veggies, granola bars, something for dinner, a bottle of wine, sometimes coffee or cheese or catfood, other small miscellaneous items) averages $50 at Gelson's and $40 at Ralphs or Vons, so while I used to always go to Gelson's because it was closer/convenient, I now try to go to Ralphs or Vons, unless I'm buying meat, which I generally prefer to get at Gelson's or Whole Foods. Wine prices are MUCH better at Ralphs and Vons -- since Gelson's took over Mayfair several years ago, their wine and liquor pricing has sucked -- pretty much everything they carry is cheaper everywhere else, even when it's on sale. Gelson's also just discontinued my favorite coffee, which used to be one of the reasons I would go there. They re-did the Vons on Sunset/Virgil, and are carrying more organic dairy/produce items, and for the most part, carry the same brands of stuff that Gelson's does, so it's becoming more of a default stop, the way Gelson's used to be for me. When I'm shopping just for myself, I don't tend to go out of my way for bargains and like the convenience of a store where I can get everything I want in one stop, which is one reason I rarely go to Trader Joe's.

                                  1. It's not cheap, but I really love the Pavilions in Culver City. It's the best produce department I've ever seen. The sheer volume and variety is fantastic. Also a good selection of organic stuff. They also have a Starbuck's, Panda Express and a decent deli and bakery. Everything solid under one roof.