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Favorite Grocery Store? (South Tempe)

I just moved to Phoenix (South Tempe) and haven't shopped around yet to pick a regular grocery store. Publix was my go-to store in South Carolina. Any recommendations for grocery shopping here? (I AM ecstatic that I finally get to shop at Trader Joe's once again. Can't do all my shopping there though.)

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  1. AJ's for sure. There's one on Ray Road in Chandler which is just down I-10 from South Tempe. You can kill two birds with one trip by hitting the TJ's on Chandler Blvd. on the same trip. Minutes from AJ's. The Chandler AJ's is smaller than some others. Check out the AJ's on east Camelback and the one on Lincoln Road. They're bigger.

    1. What do you mean you can't do all of your shopping at Trader Joe's? I sure do try sometimes...

      AJ's is an absolutely wonderful store, but gives Whole Foods a run for their money for bleeding your wallet dry. Staple items are horribly expensive at AJ's, but if you need ANY kind of weird specialty item, they have it. They are more fairly priced on specialty items, which is to say it's going to be expensive no matter where you find it.

      Oh, speaking of Whole Foods, there's a positively gigantic one on Ray Road and the 101. It's like organic Disneyland in there.

      I do most of my grocery shopping at Fresh & Easy, a fairly new chain created by the people who run Tesco in Britain. The store size is small, about the size of a Trader Joe's or a Walgreens. Selections there are limited but well thought out. It's made so you can get in, get what you need, and get right back out, all with a minimum of fuss. They're the best I've seen at patrolling expiration dates on food. When something gets within a day or two, it gets marked down and shuffled over to a back section of the refrigerated case. Often if you can get there in the early afternoon you can pick up some very nice dinner makings for half off.

      I am also a huge fan of Super Target for their good prices without needing one of those stupid loyalty cards, and for their excellent Archer Farms house brand goods. The closest one to you is a bit of a hike to Gilbert and Germann (just off the 202), but you might find it worth it.

      If you need anything Asian, you're just up the road from Lee Lee on Dobson and Warner. Lee Lee is definitely worth checking out some time, just to wander the aisles and gawk, especially when you hit the Japanese candies. Also in the same shopping center are two terrific restaurants, China Magic Noodle House, and the best dim sum in town at Phoenix Palace. Right across the street is Lee's Sandwiches, a banh mi joint that might not be the best in town but is a solid bet and very reasonably priced.

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      Trader Joe's
      4821 N 20th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

      5 Replies
      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

        TESCO is actually owned by WalMart in the UK. After you know that WM CEO gets 35 million a year when workers get about 35K or less it doesn't make you want to shop there.
        I visited F&E in February and it sure is not my choice but I love SPROUTS!
        I'm looking for a grocery store that does not have a loyalty care (nocards.org), moving to Avondale in about 2 months.

        1. re: yoda1

          Tesco is not owned by Walmart.

          1. re: yoda1

            TESCO and Walmart are probably the two most significant international competitors. In response to TESCO's F&E rollout, Walmart has opened a few similar format stores. I like the Walmart product much better than F&E but it doesn't seem to be doing any better than F&E. As noted elsewhere, TESCO is losing a ton of money on this experiment and personally I don't think they're getting any closer to figuring out the US market.

            1. re: Phoenix99

              Is that the Walmart Marketplace? I haven't been in one yet, but I was curious what it was all about.

              1. re: buckeye.mary

                It's called Marketside. They don't advertise themselves much as being a Walmart store. About the only thing that gives it away while you're in the store is that the price tags at Walmart and Marketside are identical.

        2. It's a good question. I don't have a favorite, but, I probably go to Safeway more than anything else. Among the big chains, I find their quality and selection just a bit better, without costing much more. These chains can vary greatly by neighborhood, however. You can find a pretty decent Basha's or Albertson's in an affluent suburb, where one of their locations in Phoenix might be a total dump.

          If I have a need for an organic item. I just head to Whole Foods for the best chance of getting it. I'm kind of bummed that I haven't been able to find organic red bell peppers, the past few weeks. I like Sprouts over Sunflower Market for the smaller natural food markets, but, I go to both, occasionally.

          For a special piece of meat or fish, it's AJs or Whole Foods. I get frozen fish at Trader Joes, rather than buy thawed frozen fish at various meat counters. Most of my beef comes from local ranchers. Most recently, I bought a share from Doublecheck Ranch, and I've been happy with that purchase.

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          Trader Joe's
          4821 N 20th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

          3 Replies
          1. re: johnseberg

            I'm definitely interested in buying local meat. Thanks for the tip on Doublecheck Ranch. Do you buy local chicken too?

            1. re: buckeye.mary

              I have a sensitivity to poultry, so, no. You can get them from A bar H, which also has beef and lamb. I haven't tried them, yet. But, I've heard good things.
              http://www.abarhfarm.com

              1. re: buckeye.mary

                Double Check has been selling their own chickens for a few months now; before they were selling Josh Koehn's chickens, which is what Anya from A Bar H sells.

                While at the Downtown Phoenix Public Market yesterday, I found Troyer Poultry, another producer of pasture-raised chickens. They're out of southwestern Colorado.

                Also, via twitter, I discovered Silver Creek Poultry, which appears to be a very small-scale producer out of Gilbert. More info here:

                http://www.localharvest.org/farms/M30829

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                Downtown Phoenix Public Market
                721 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85004

            2. I live in SE Tempe. I shop at a lot of places. I buy certain things at certain stores.

              I almost never shop at Whole Foods or AJ's anymore. My budget just doesn't allow. That being said, I prefer the small Whole Foods store on Baseline/Rural over the gigantic big new one on Ray/101.

              As for American-style supermarket, my favorite is Fry's. I find they consistently have the best prices on the things I buy. They also recently remodeled both the Marketplace (Baseline/McClintock) and the regular store (Guadalupe/McClintock) near me. I do quite well there on non-food items with coupons, and then use the 10 cent gas discount at their store on Country Club/Baseline. Safeway is second. It's a very nice store (Elliott/McClintock) and they do have some good sales. Used to have a little old Basha's right down the street, but they closed it so I don't go there much anymore even though there's one right across the street from Sunflower. I think Sunflower (Southern/McClintock) is my all around favorite store. It's very similar to Sprouts, though I think I find the quality to be a bit better. Plus, it's more conveniently located to me. It's a sort of all-natural market with some organic stuff. They also have a small bulk section. I buy coffee there also. Love the Vanilla Latte flavor.

              I love Lee Lee Asian market for meats, some produce, and anything Asian. My Eastern-European Mother-in-law loves it too, oddly enough. They really have a great selection of meat cuts there. She made a cabbage/pork dish the other day from a cabbage and a chunk of pork leg we bought there. Served it with a plate of mamaliga (aka polenta) made from the bulk cornmeal I bought at Sunflower for $1 and we were all very happy.

              Mekong (on Dobson/Broadway) is ok, too, but again, a bit out of the way for me (though I sometimes have to make a trip when I am craving squid salad, which they sell by the seafood counter). Best French baguette can be found at Lee's Vietnamese sandwich shop across the street from Lee Lee. For $1, you'll get a hot, crispy, chewy, heavenly baguette. Pick up some Deli Manjoo cakes while you're at it. Those things are addictive. Head back to the Lee Lee side and you can try chocolate-chili gelato at Gelato 64. My favorite flavor though is pink grapefruit when they have it.

              Then you have the Pros Ranch Markets which sell all things Mexican. They also have great produce selections. They have a wonderful food court where you can find all sorts of tacos and traditional foods. They have a great bakery with all sorts of pastries. You can find Mexican Coke bottles for $1 each.

              My favorite place to buy produce is Superstition Ranch Market. It's a bit of a drive, and you have to be flexible about what you are buying because sometimes they don't have everything or what they have may not be very good. It's a rather seasonal place. My husband bought 3 watermelons for 10cents/lb, a couple pounds of apricots for about $1, eggplants for 69 cents each, red bell peppers for 25 cents each, button mushrooms for $1.49/lb, and mini-avocados were 8/$1 last time I was there.

              Welcome to Tempe!

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              Superstition Ranch Market
              4755 E Main St, Mesa, AZ

              Gelato 64
              2095 N Dobson Rd Ste 5, Chandler, AZ 85224

              1. You have some very good suggestions here and I'm glad Phoenix Ranch Market got added.

                Phoenix is one of the most competitive grocery markets in the US and we benefit from it greatly both in variety and price. I spent a year in the Norwalk, Ct. area which probably has about 200,000 people when you factor in the surrounding towns. Very upscale except for Norwalk. The area had one very good gourmet store, a great specialty market (Stew Leonards) and two really crappy large super markets with surly, poorly trained employees, high prices and not much variety. Compare that to Ahwatukee which has about 100,000 people and three Safeway's, three Fry's, one Bashas, TJ's and AJ's just across the freeway. Wow. Here's some thoughts:

                AJ's is expensive on some items. No question. But their quality is very high. In addition to meat and seafood I would add outstanding produce and good deli products that go way beyond the basics. Also, they have sales from time to time. Two weeks ago several prime beef products were 50% off. I picked up two great 12 oz. New York steaks for $11.99 a pound. And that's for prime! They also have specials on other products including seafood from time to time. They will have the best Copper River Salmon, for example.

                Whole Foods has not done well in the Phoenix market. The two stores that I visit are in Chandler and near the 101 and Scottsdale Rd. They have removed a tremendous amount of product variety from those stores, mostly in the prepared food areas. You can see just by walking the stores although they have done a good job trying to fill up display cases. WF is very expensive.

                Fry's is Krogers. The only "local" grocer is Basha's. They've been family owned and very, very supportive of the community for decades. They've been driven into bankruptcy by the big guys. One result has been tremendous community support of their stores. All things being equal, try to support them. Basha's also owns AJ's and Food City so I do as much of my shopping at AJ's as I can. If you're careful, you can do ok. Every summer they have 10% off cards. I get mine in my subscription to a couple of food magazines but I believe you can ask the store manager. BTW that made those prime New Yorks only about $10.80 a pound.

                Fry's I think is a bit less expensive than Safeway. Check the Wednesday Arizona Republic for the grocery adds and there are always great deals particularly before a holiday weekend. For example, this week Safeway has 18 eggs for $1.29 but you need the coupon from their ad. Albertsons has cantaloupe and pineapple for $1 each.

                I'm not a fan of Fresh & Easy. I think their stores are cold and without good variety. I haven't found their pricing near Fry's or Safeway. Tesco has acknowledged losing about $1 million per store last year in the US and also badly misunderstanding the US market. I think they still don't get it. Notice their produce is plastic wrapped and prepared food product is made in a commissary in California and trucked in. Why would I want to buy inferior prepared foods at Fresh & Easy that's at least a day old when I can buy it freshly prepared at AJ's right in the store. Besides, I'm supporting a local grocer versus an international chain.

                I like Super Target and wish they were closer. However, I have noticed some missing basics at those stores. No sauerkraut or dill pickles for example. Generally good prices and their Archer Farms in-house brand is very good.

                The Safeway Select in-house brand is very good and I've found Fry's Private Selection just a cut below this.

                The closest Phoenix Ranch Market to S. Tempe is in Mesa. Definitely worth a trip. Their produce prices are the areas best and they are very competitive on most other things. However, that comes at a bit of a sacriface. Some of their produce, oranges and papayas for example, would never make it into a main stream grocer because of appearance. Product quality however is as agood. I was buying ugly oranges from PRM at 20-30 cents a pound when Fry's and Safeway were at $1.49 and I was getting great fresh orange juice from them.

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                Food City
                1940 W Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ

                3 Replies
                1. re: Phoenix99

                  I agree with a lot of what you say. We don't eat much red meat, so the prime beef isn't something I look for I guess. I still have some beef in our freezer that we were given by a relative who bought it from a friend who had raised his own cow. O.O It's really good!

                  I do shop at Costco a bit too for some things. I agree with your comments on F&E, too. I stop there once in awhile if they have something good on sale. I don't buy a lot of prepared meals, so those are never a selling point for me. There is one right near where I work though, so I occasionally stop for some munchies to keep at work. I don't think I'd ever do my full shopping there though. I think they seriously underestimated how most Americans grocery shop. It's not at all the way Europeans shop. My in-laws are visiting from Europe and the multiple shopping trips per week are killing my budget because she doesn't really understand the planning/buying only sale items/stocking up thing. But I get free homecooking out of it, so I can't complain too much.

                  For citrus, what I can't get from family off their trees, I tend to get from a local shop called Summer's Fruit Barn at around 32nd St./Baseline. She buys from local growers. The oranges she sells - when they are in season - are phenomenal. She also sells pastry from a local baker, local dates, nuts, honeys, and other produce. I mostly go for the citrus though.

                  I am a pretty hard core grocery shopper, though, I realized based on observing how many of my friends shop. But, I think that's what has allowed us to live off one modest income while my husband pursued a his degree full time all without any student loans.

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                  32nd Cafe
                  2822 N 32nd St Ste 1, Phoenix, AZ 85008

                  1. re: Phoenix99

                    Small world, Phoenix99. I also spent a year in Norwalk, CT. I can remember getting a lot of prepared food at Wild Oats and Stew's. And, could hardly stand to go to Super Stop N Shop or Shop Rite. Trader Joe's in Westport was a very small oasis.

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                    Trader Joe's
                    4821 N 20th St, Phoenix, AZ 85016

                    1. re: johnseberg

                      I couldn't remember the name of those two supermarkets as I've obviously droped them from memory for a reason. Yes, it's a small world but boy do Super Stop N Shop and Shop Rite make the Phoenix stores look good!

                  2. I am just a little ways west of you in SoPho. These days a lot of my groceries come from CSA purchases -- veggies, meat, sometimes dairy -- but for the rest of it, I tend to like to go to Fresh & Easy. I see the argument was made that Americans don't prefer the small store concepts and it is frustrating to shop three times a week; well, I shop there once per week and get everything I need. Also, my husband and I have found that after living overseas it is very hard to go into the typical American large supermarkets and the warehouse Costco-type places as they are so sensorily overwhelming. We do not prefer the tyranny of choice presented by a ten by forty-foot wall of soup cans. I would rather go into a store that has the twenty different kinds of soup I am most likely to want and get out with all my groceries in twenty minutes.

                    We don't typically buy the pre-prepared dinners from Fresh and Easy or places like that, but I would like to point out that those offerings are preservative-free, which is better than you're going to get from other processed or frozen foods.

                    My other two periodic stops for staples are Sunflower Market and Sprouts Farmers Market, both small greengrocer chains. Sunflower wins for beer and wine selection, but Sprouts has a terrific butcher and fishmonger. The very first Sprouts store is at Dobson & Ray and the company operates about forty stores, currently, in four states.
                    ,
                    I will also second the suggestion to support Bashas stores wherever you can; the Basha family has done remarkable works of charity in the time they have been in business. They have kept the East and West Valley Child Crisis centers afloat for much of the last twenty years. If you believe in keeping your money local, if you think that abused parents deserve a safe place to take their children and a hand up to start a fresh life, shopping at Bashas is a no-brainer.

                    I notice that of the five links that wound up in the sidebar, none of them are actually in south Tempe and a couple of them are for the wrong place entirely. Annoying!

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                    Summers Fruit Barn
                    2760 E Baseline Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85042

                    Sunflower Farmers Market
                    1706 E Southern Ave, Tempe, AZ 85282

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: themis

                      I tried like eight times to add links to the Sunflower Farmers Market at McClintock and Southern, the Fresh & Easy at Kyrene and Baseline, and the Sprouts at Dobson and Ray. I give up.

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                      Fresh & Easy
                      425 W Baseline Rd, Tempe, AZ 85283

                    2. Thank you all for the wealth of information! I'm very much looking forward to our CSA and exploring the Phoenix food world in general. This board looks like a fantastic resource!

                      1. In my experience, the chain stores vary so much by location it's impossible to pick a favorite chain-- one Frys may be nice, for example, while the one 2 miles down the road has a poorer selection and less appealing produce. I'd just make a visit to each of the ones near you (or on your way home from work or weekly errands) and pick the nicest one as your regular. If a decent Basha's is in the mix I'd give it the edge, but otherwise the location (or maybe the managers?), not the chain name, seems to be key.

                        1. The Guadalupe Farmer's Market is worth checking out if you live in South Tempe. It changed owners recently (and I moved to the Bay Area recently as well) but it was always a good stop for me to get cheap produce, oftentimes local and/or organic, for much better prices than Whole Foods or AJs. They also have a decent selection of homemade jams, dried fruit, and some Mexican goods. They regularly roast hatch chiles there too during chile season!

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                          Guadalupe Farmer's Market
                          9210 S Avenida, Del Yaqui Guadalupe, AZ