where do you generally purchase your fruit and vegetables? i am having a difficult time finding good quality, not crazy expensive produce. today at whole foods everything I was trying to buy looked horrible. i went to the farmer's market the other day and while it is plentiful it's not always convenient and certainly not inexpensive. ralph's, trader joe's and gelson's are convenient but pretty sad as far as quality/prices. it seems like a very long time since I have had a strawberry, peach, avocado etc. that I could rave about. where have you found the best fruits and vegetables???
Marina Farms has had pretty good produce, if you're over on the Westside. I've found certain Ralph's to have a nice selection, in particular thinking of the one on Sepulveda just south into El Segundo. There seems to be a lot of variation in what is carried maybe dependent on what people in that area like to eat - I think you could do well in an area with a large Asian or Mexican population.
For cheap, I've gotten nice buys at El Rancho, a little produce store on Culver Blvd., but it is not going to have everything. And there's something that is leaving me flabbergasted... I venture to 99 Cents Only for paper goods mainly, but their fresh produce section has been growing and I've said what the heck and tried a few things. I recently got a small watermelon there that looks like a Dulcinea, the type Gelson's carries - delicious, $1, the size of a cantaloupe. I also got a huge (2 pint?) box of strawberries that were terrific for $1 - not anemic, not off-tasting, but red, juicy beauties with a lot of flavor. I've now picked up some chilies, limes, etc., there. So far, so good. I'm just amazed.
The watermelon had a label from Farmer's Best in Mexico - http://www.fb.com.mx
Super King. I'm convinced that, unless you insist on organically grown, this is the best place for produce both for freshness and for value. But be warned. It is a very busy market and gets extremely crowded at times. Navigating the parking lot or the aisles inside can be challenging. On the plus side, they usually have 10-12 checkstands operating so there is rarely much delay in the cashier line.
I alternate between farmers markets (Hollywood or Larchmont), Korean supermarkets, Jons and some small Latino markets in my neighborhood. I buy only when things are in season (it's too early for peaches right now), and for pricey items such as cherries, only in small quantities. I also lucked out a few times at Grand Central Market with some promotions.
It's not organic, but I ended up with surprisingly good asparagus (3 bunches for $1) and some even more surprisingly good packaged strawberries (.85 cents) last month.
Superior Super Warehouse. HIgh turnover so quality is usually excellent and prices are low. Same stuff they carry at Bristol Farms. Eg this week 3/$1 for Filipino mangoes, a week are two ago it was 4/$1 on the regular mangoes (big ones, too). Cherries were $1.99/lb. Probably dont have one near anyone who shops at Gelson's, though.
Sometimes Henry's and sometimes Fresh & Easy (the Mother's day special strawberries were excellent)
However if you're buying out of season or early in the season then chances of getting anything good is reduced, no matter how much you spend.
Thanks everybody! I'm going to check out all the places mentioned. When I said it has been a long time since I had a great peach or strawberry (or even apple and grapefruit) I meant YEARS- when I was a kid they were sweet and juicy (or crisp) and as the years have passed there has definitely been a decline in quality. And It's not just my palate improving. Is it the soil? Is it genetic engineering? Most fruits, even from the farmer's market, are mealy or otherwise lacking in taste and texture. I miss the fruit of my youth (literally)!
Here in LA, like when we lived in OC, I've found that ethnic markets have great deals if you're willing to pick and choose and be flexible when you go shopping. For example, I might go to the store with bean sprouts in mind but find the bok choy is much fresher because it's on sale and turning over quickly. A Grocery Warehouse on Sunset has been great and is my go-to for a variety of items. Jons is always good too, with the same caveat, and equally great prices for staple herbs and veggies rotating every week.
Of course, we're not talking about organic ... for that, I think there is no option but pay out or subscribe to a weekly box delivery.
Went on my first visit to 99 Ranch and have to say that would be my go-to place for veggies overall on budget, partly because I can get so many things that aren't at other places, like fresh water chestnuts (worth it), green papaya, etc. One of the supermarkets in Koreatown also had a great veggies section, was a little higher priced but is a much nicer store to shop in, far far fewer offbeat veggies than 99 Ranch though.
And what mangetoutoc describes about what's interesting and fresh, and picking that up instead of what you came for is why I'm now looking up recipes for Thai eggplant and just deep-fried comedy-large oyster mushrooms.
I am a little farther than I'd like from places like Vallarta, Jons, Superior, but we now have a Super King in Altadena, and I finally got off my duff and am pleasantly surprised at the trip.
First off, great sales, $1.69 15% fat ground beef, $1.49 boneless chicken breasts, and a huge bag of spring mix for $1.50. Next I was impressed by the quality, as a prior poster said, it's not for organic only people, but I thought the produce section was quite fresh and a good selection.
The deli counter had at least 7 or 8 different fetas, I got a French feta myself, and they also had cheeses in a "packaged" area, along with a variety of smoked meats and sausages. I noticed Kasseri and some other European cheeses, like Ementhal, etc. The butcher counter area seemed to have very high turnover of product, they were the busiest area in the store, and the store and parking lot were a zoo!
They also had some items I usually go to specialty stores for, saving me a trip, for instance the olives selections, peruvian yellow ahi (pepper) sauce, fair priced ghee choices (priced like you would see at your average Indian grocer). Loads of grains, rices, beans.
I liked all the Mexican and Armenian treats at the bakery area too, and I ended up buying a small package of 4 baklava, and a slice of Tres Leches.
Definitely need to read labels, there are plenty of unhealthy options, sugary cereals and cookies with margarine, etc.
Where are you located? In Sherman Oaks, at Hazeltine and Riverside, there's FarmBoy, a fairly comprehensive Korean Grocery. Everything (fruits, veggies, even flowers) is seasonal, inexpensive, and they even have some Korean specialties like Bi Bim Bap, Chap Chae, and Bulgogi.