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which chain grocery stores in the east bay are better?

ladybugsmom Sep 9, 2011 10:01 AM

hiya!
i have a friend whose having a difficult time financially now and has to cut her grocery budget back. so for her that means no more whole foods or trader joes and the like.

so with that said... which chain grocery stores such as safeway, lucky, raley's and the like, have better quality meats, fish, and deli? are there certain days she should shop to get them at their freshest?

i do shop at these stores occasionally, but get our meats, fish and some fruits/veggies at farmers markets, small/local natural foods stores, whole foods, or from my small garden. but honestly, there are times when it's difficult to get to these places or my garden is tapped out, so i'd love to have this info as well.

thanks everyone!

angela :)

  1. d
    daruma Sep 9, 2011 10:08 AM

    Just my opinion but in terms of freshness of meat and produce, in my area (Richmond), I rank them as follows:
    Raley's
    Lucky
    Safeway

    I will often go out of my way to go to Raley's (in El Sobrante) even though Safeway is just down the block. Other people may have different opinions, but I also feel that the butcher is most available at Raley's as compared to the other two.

    That being said, Safeway was just relocated and remodeled and I haven't had a chance to really check it out yet.

    Hope that helps a little.

    -----
    Raley's
    3360 San Pablo Dam Rd, El Sobrante, CA 94803

    1. Ruth Lafler Sep 9, 2011 10:19 AM

      I'm puzzled by your implication that Trader Joe's is expensive. I find that for things like dairy products and eggs it's generally cheaper (or better for the same price) than supermarkets -- the trick is to get out of there without impulse buying some delicious treat you don't need! Farmers markets can also be cheaper for produce than supermarkets when you compare item for item, especially some of the less upscale markets that have more conventional produce.

      If saving money is an important consideration in choosing a store, you need to factor in the price of gas driving to the store -- with gas nearing $4/gallon there's no point in driving around the East Bay trying to save a few pennies. I like the Nob Hill near my house in Alameda, and they have good sales on meat, but depending on where you live, it might not be worth it.

      I think Berkeley Bowl has the best regular prices on produce (not to mention the best selection).

      Mi Pueblo is probably my second "go to" when I'm looking to save money.

      For meat, if price is an object I either check to see what's on sale, or head to Costco (if you don't have a Costco membership, ask a friend who has one if you can tag along some time).

      No one store is best for everything. If you really need to save money, the best thing to do is sit down with the ads every week and make a shopping list based on what's on sale.

      -----
      Berkeley Bowl
      2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

      8 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler
        ladybugsmom Sep 9, 2011 10:31 AM

        hi ms. ruth... oh no, i didn't mean to imply that, i'm sorry. my 9 year old is home sick today and i answered her call at least 5 times while trying to type that msg, lol.

        yes, i think TJs quite reasonable for what you get as well. but again, this is mainly for a friend of mine who does have, shall i say... 'high' taste, lol! she's realizing that she can't impulse buy, nor shop at just whole foods. but because that's all she's done, she has no clue as to what options are and level of quality for the price.

        i'm so thankful there's a TJ's is just down the road from me (i'm in hercules), and we practically LIVE there!

        :)

        1. re: ladybugsmom
          rworange Sep 9, 2011 10:33 AM

          Seriously, if she's buying produce at Whole Foods, ANY farmers market, even Ferry Plaza would be less expensive ... and the quality is better.

          1. re: rworange
            m
            MagicMarkR Sep 15, 2011 04:26 PM

            Well, except for the Berkeley farmers market: the quality is good, no doubt, but you've got to take out a second mortgage to afford a bunch of beets.

            1. re: MagicMarkR
              JasmineG Sep 17, 2011 11:30 AM

              A second mortgage for $1.25?

              1. re: JasmineG
                tpc Sep 17, 2011 12:26 PM

                People are in worse financial straits than you can imagine. That's why I buy canned beets, because I can't afford the money and time for fresh beets that may not taste as good or even be at their nutritional peak.

                1. re: tpc
                  rworange Sep 17, 2011 12:52 PM

                  The only thing I'll give you is the time (and convenience) element.

                  If you are buying organic beets in a can, they are still more expensive. Conventional beets aren't that expensive and would ... beat ... the price of a conventional can of beets which goes for about 99 cents and is laden with salt.

                  A little over a year ago I might have agreed about beets, but after a year in Guatemala which has a love affair with beets, I have to disagree about price. My stepdaughters here won't touch canned beets after the first taste of them here and continue to buy fresh beets. Even at crummy Mexican markets they taste better than canned.. Even in the US they cost less than canned.

                  I mean age doesn't really kill the taste of beets. That's their thing. They are a root crop that can be stored for a while.

                  1. re: tpc
                    JasmineG Sep 17, 2011 04:36 PM

                    Beets in a can don't give you the beet greens, and right there that makes them more expensive than a bunch of beets. You buy the bunch, you basically get beets and a bunch of chard for about the same as a can of beets.

                    1. re: JasmineG
                      Ruth Lafler Sep 17, 2011 06:58 PM

                      What's more, a couple of times I've compared the price of a bunch of beets with the greens and loose beets before I bought the bunch of beets. When I took them home, cut the greens off and weighed just the beets, the beets alone were cheaper than if I had bought them loose, so the tops actually had a negative cost.

                      I think the main key to saving money on groceries is to minimize waste. That's one way in which shopping more frequently can be cost effective: you only buy what you have immediate plans to use. When I go to the market and buy a lot of produce, I inevitably buy more than I end up using before it goes bad. That's also another good reason to utilize bulk bins, where you don't have to buy a ten-ounce package when you really only need four ounces.

        2. Robert Lauriston Sep 9, 2011 10:22 AM

          Trader Joe's is often cheaper than other places. Ditto Costco.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Robert Lauriston
            w
            wintersweet Sep 17, 2011 04:54 PM

            Yeah, I think the friend should look into making lists and sticking to them! For example, breakfast cereal is cheaper at Trader Joe's than at Safeway, and bulk oatmeal is cheaper at Whole Foods than at TJ's or Safeway.

          2. rworange Sep 9, 2011 10:30 AM

            What city does your friend live in?

            Raley's is the best in terms of quality, but they have been getting expensive lately. If you go early in the morning they have a ;lot of marked down meat.

            As mentioned, your friend should watch for what is 0on sale that week at any store ... Whole Foods can even have deals ... occasionally. You just hhave to be careful not to get sucked into buying other stuff while there.

            As mentioned, Berkeley Bowl is great for produce. Watch it on other stuff.

            FoodsCo is really great on deals. Currently this week pears are 4 lbs for $1. The quality is good, but they are not organic. Is that a requirement? If you go in the morning, they also have mark downs on meat, dairy, and salads.

            Seriously though ... talk your friend into checking out Grocery Outlet. Organic yogurt is never over 50 cents and often 25 - 33 cents. The fresh produce is mostly skippable, but there's lots of organic stuff that is usually half the price of the supermarkets. Great wine deals. Check the GO threadds on this board for the deals.

            17 Replies
            1. re: rworange
              ladybugsmom Sep 9, 2011 12:08 PM

              hey rworange....we both live in hercules.

              actually, this info is helping me too! i had forgotten about raley's, especially since they moved from our little town. but they're not that far away in el sobrante.

              for her, yes, price is a big thing, given her situation. but she's been 'all organic' for long time because she could afford it, but now she really can't. i do know organic meat/fish is very important to her though. but she may have to compromise - so many of us have to now.

              for me personally, i do my best to stick to organic/natural meat fish and poultry, mainly for health issues (i have several auto immune diseases - lupus, pulmonary fibrosis, MS, vasculitis, among things), but not that that's a guarantee or anything, that i know. so i compromise in other areas, clip coupons, etc.

              1. re: ladybugsmom
                wolfe Sep 9, 2011 12:32 PM

                I would consider combining a trip to Grocery Outlet,2079 23rd St and the nearby Las Montanas Market,13901 San Pablo Ave.

                1. re: wolfe
                  k
                  kc72 Sep 9, 2011 12:37 PM

                  Or Pinole GO

                  1. re: kc72
                    wolfe Sep 9, 2011 12:40 PM

                    As long as she doesn't skip Las Montanas.

                    1. re: wolfe
                      Mission Sep 10, 2011 05:59 PM

                      Why go to a Chain grocery store in the Eastbay?

                      They all just have high prices and corporate crap low quality products.

                      The Eastbay has many,many cheaper and superior places to shop.

                      1. re: Mission
                        rworange Sep 11, 2011 12:04 AM

                        Such as?

                        I'm going to say something I didn't think I'd ever say ... Whole Foods isn't that expensive. I went today ... ok, it was the Napa store ... and it has been over a year since I've been to WF.

                        Walmart sells some organic food and after stopping at the American Canyon store, I thought I'd see how Whole Food compared. Um, some prices matched Walmart and others were less. Of course the selection was 100 to 1 for organic food, obviously in favor of WF.

                        Also, it stood up well agains Berkeley Bowl and farmers markets in terms of organic items. Is it just the Napa store or has WF dropped prices. My last visit there, what I was thinking was anyone buying produce at WF must be nuts because it was so out of line.

                        Sadly, for me, I liked my little WF reunion.

                        About the only place to beat WF in terms of price for organics is Grocery Outlet because it is soooo below everywhere else in terms of packaged organics ... no produce or meat though. They had a nice medium organic cheddar for $3.99 lb.

                        Sort of unrelated aside. The American Canyon Walmart is selling Haagen Daz pepermint bark ice cream for $1.50. The sell by date is 9/23/11, so I'm guessing it is from last season. Still, they looked in good shape. They aren't in the ice cream section , but in the freezer case facing the eggs.

                        1. re: rworange
                          l
                          lrealml Sep 11, 2011 12:29 AM

                          Not sure what places Mission had in mind, but Monterey Market's prices for organics are fantastic.... I've only been a few times, but I believe that their organic produce is much cheaper than Berkeley Bowl's (whose organic produce is actually quite pricey IMO compared to all their other food).

                          Down here in RWC, WFs produce prices are outrageous compared to Sigonas. Also, at the local farmer's markets I can normally get organic produce for half the price or even cheaper (normally it is cheaper than non organic produce is at the chains).

                          1. re: lrealml
                            rworange Sep 11, 2011 01:53 AM

                            The chain part threw me a bit. A great place in El Cerrito to get fresh organic produce at Grocery Outlet type of prices is Giovanni's.

                            Outside the front of the store are boxes with conventionally grown AND organic produce. Like GO, it depends on overstock type of conditions, businesses with amounts too small to go to a chain or fruit close to experation.

                            My all time memorable buy there was a huge head of fresh, organic fennel for 10 cents ... seriously ... 10 cents for the whole thing.

                            Currently they have conventional tomatoes for 10 cents a pound.

                            It is located tw blocks from the new El Cerrito Safeway. When I'm driving up that stretch of road, I often take the two block detour (the street with Denny's). and drive by Giovanni's to see if there's anything with a spectacular sale price.

                            -----
                            Giovanni's Produce & Grocery
                            1600 Liberty St, El Cerrito, CA 94530

                            1. re: lrealml
                              m
                              MagicMarkR Sep 15, 2011 04:32 PM

                              I absolutely agree that Monterey Market is significantly cheaper than BB. There was a time I think when BB was actually pretty cheap, but that does not seem to be the case any more. I still marvel at the fact that I can get a grocery bag filled to the top with nice fresh produce at MM and still spend less than $20. At BB or Whole Foods, it comes to almost twice that. And never mind Andronicos --though I wonder if bankruptcy will force them to reconsider their price structure.

                              1. re: MagicMarkR
                                jason carey Sep 16, 2011 02:22 PM

                                The produce at BB is cheap.. the rest of the food is Whole foods prices..they get you in the door with the produce.. and that is what to get there.. especially the section with the slightly used and damaged fruits and veg.

                                1. re: jason carey
                                  oakjoan Sep 16, 2011 09:23 PM

                                  BB has Whole Foods prices on non-produce? Say what! It certainly isn't the same as my local Whole Foods (Grand Lake). It's less expensive.

                                  I also have never thought Monterey Mkt was "significantly cheaper" than Berkeley Bowl. That seems wrong to me. Some of their produce (I found this true of peaches and nectarines in the past month) is more expensive than BB. In any case, one can't do regular shopping at MM because of their lack of selection aside from produce.

                                  The idea that BB is " twice the price" of Monterey Mkt. amazes me. Did prices go way up in the past month? I've shopped at MM in the past month and found it sometimes more expensive and sometimes cheaper, depending on what I get and who knows what else. It's certainly NOT twice the price.

                                  A little off-topic, I find that I really hate going into Safeway and WF because of their decor. The dimmer lighting is just weird. The Safeway on Grand gives me the creeps because the lighting reminds me of a den. I expect to see a fake fireplace soon. Do they think that the artistic arrangement of their produce will make it taste better or do they merely think people will think it does?

                                  I don't find BB much different in price than the chains - I compare it to the Lucky's on 18th and Lakeshore and Grand Ave. Safeway. The thing that does bother me (as it does all of us these days) is that EVERYTHING is more expensive due to the price of oil.

                                  -----
                                  Berkeley Bowl
                                  2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                  Lakeshore Cafe
                                  3257 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                                  1. re: oakjoan
                                    rworange Sep 17, 2011 08:48 AM

                                    I think the dim light .... over the produce section ... is to disguise bad fruit.It makes the fruit look better than it is. When I buy at Safeway I take another look at it in a better lighted part of the store to double check it.

                                    As to prices, let's play a game. I have the prices for some items I jotted down at various stores. People report in on places where you shop to see who is the least expensive.

                                    A few years ago when I did my "eating on $3 a day thread, I did a week where I bought everything from Ferry Plaza. It isn't as expensive as most people think. Sure you can shop at the glamour vendors, but there are plenty of vendors there that charge prices less that Whole Foods.

                                    Looking around and paying attention, I found that 90% of Raley's organic produce is EXACTLY the same price as the conventionally grown. It is a shame Raley's doesn't promot that.

                                    Raley's conventional produce is expensive enough, so I never paid much attention to the organic section. Had I known the prices were the same, I'd be looking in that section more often. I think other people would two and it might expand the organic section. I might drop the store a note about this to the store. .

                                    1. re: oakjoan
                                      jason carey Sep 17, 2011 01:48 PM

                                      I am going to go to both stores and then price 20 non produce items and post them for you so you can see that BB is about the same as Whole foods.

                                      1. re: jason carey
                                        rworange Sep 17, 2011 02:14 PM

                                        Ok, here's the problem I had initally doing this ... so just something to keep in mind.

                                        If it is not produce, it really needs to be brand to brand. You can take the most expensive spaghetti sauce at Berkeley Bowl and then compare it to Whole Foods in-house pasta souce. That is kind of skewed.

                                        If you can't do brand to brand, then I'd sguggest going with the least expensive item at each store.

                                        I was running into probelms with stuff like eggs. Organic eggs can range all over in price in the same store. Ditto milk, yogurt ... and lots of stuff.

                                  2. re: MagicMarkR
                                    Robert Lauriston Sep 17, 2011 09:15 AM

                                    Berkeley Bowl and Monterey Market have similar prices, but I think Berkeley Bowl's stuff is generally in better shape and for many things they have better selection. On the other hand, MM often has a wider selection of mushrooms and a few months ago when I wanted rhubarb they had some good stuff before the Bowl had any.

                                    Quality at either is way inferior to the farmers market, where you can sometimes get very good deals, especially toward closing time. Blue Heron had huge heads of green leaf lettuce for 2/$1.50 Thursday evening.

                                    -----
                                    Berkeley Bowl
                                    2020 Oregon St, Berkeley, CA 94703

                                    Blue Heron Restaurant
                                    25275 Steelhead Blvd, Duncans Mills, CA

                                2. re: rworange
                                  oakjoan Sep 16, 2011 09:26 PM

                                  A little sneaky thing about WF which really turned me off. I saw what I thought was a really great deal on Peet's coffee at the Lake Merritt store. They were $8.99 for what I thought was a pound. Of course this was my fault, but it was a bit sleezy...turned out that it was like 11 oz. and would have been the usual full price for a pound. I also blame Peet's for this, since they packaged it. Why would they pull such a stunt unless they thought people would think it was a pound? Eww.

                                  1. re: oakjoan
                                    rworange Sep 17, 2011 08:38 AM

                                    If you check out most supermarket coffee like Peet's and Starbucks, you will see that they are 12 oz and not a pound. So it isn't just Whole Foods. I keep griping about companies in general doing this, but you get the corporate cheerleaders with the "buyer beware" chant. I'm sorry, but I can't inspect every single item I buy and get out of the store the same day. I hate when any company does this.

                                    On a different level, Walmart "Great Value" instant coffee ... isn't. The jar is a few ounces less than other jarred coffee. If you look at the unit cost, it is almost as expensive ast the brand names.

                    2. rworange Sep 17, 2011 09:49 AM

                      THE PRICING GAME

                      Think Monterray Market is less expenstive than Berkeley Bowl. IS Whole Foods stupidly expensive? How does it compare to regular prices

                      Take a little time and PROVE IT.

                      Jot down even one item. Since the OP was going for organic, maybe keep it to that. Here's some stuff I noted at various stores. Again, not important to write down a bunch, one item is enough. Let's see who is less expensive.

                      Please note if the item is on sale.

                      WHOLE FOODS NAPA

                      Cantelopes 2 for $1.50 (on sale)
                      Melons (including Crane melons) $1.29

                      ORGANIC PRODUCE AT TUESDAY EL CERRITO FARMERS MARKET

                      Cherry tomatoes $1.50 basket
                      Eggplant $1.50 lb
                      Green beans $3 lb
                      Herbs $1.50 a bunch (larger quantity than those prepackaged supermarket organic herbs)
                      Lettuse $2 bag
                      Onions $1.50 lb
                      Peppers (green bell) $2 lb
                      Spinach $2 bag
                      Swiss Chard = $2.50 lb
                      Tomatoes $3 lb

                      RALEY"S ORGANICPRODUCE AND OTHER GROCERIES

                      * Same price as Raley's conventional produce
                      * apples $1.99 lb
                      * carrots 79 cents for a bag
                      * Celery 99 cents
                      * Celery hearts $2.99
                      Cucumbers $1.49 lb (conventional 99 cents lb)
                      eggs, cage-free dozen $2.59 (conventional $1.98 lowest price)
                      * Grapes $2.9
                      Herbs $1.99 (didn't check out conventional)
                      Milk, Horizon 1/2 cgallon $3.99 (regular milk $2.49)
                      * peppers $1.99
                      radishes $1.29 bunch (conventional 99 cents)

                      * zuchinni $1.99 lb

                      ORGANIC ITEMS AT WALMART AMERICAN CANYON

                      Except for the first item, mostly you can do better anyplace else, sometimes even Whole Foods

                      Pouch of wild-caugt salmon 2.6 oz 99 cents (no one sells it cheaper including Grocery Outlet)
                      Broths, Pacifc boxed 3.20 (Grocery Outlet always beats this 99 cents - $1.29)
                      Catsup 15 oz 2.28
                      Cold cuts, Hormel Naturals $2.98 (Safeway had them on sale for $1.99)
                      Eggs, cage-free dozen $2.64
                      Frozen fish 1 lb, wild-caught
                      - Cod $3.98
                      - Perch $6.97
                      - Salmon $4.94
                      Milk, Horizon 1/2 gallon $3.50
                      Salad mix 10 oz $3.48
                      Soups , Amy's 3.0k (are they kidding? Anyplace beats this price)
                      Spaghetti sauce, Bertolli 24 oz $2.48 (Whole Foods matched this for some sale sauces)
                      Tomato paste, Muir Glen 98 cents
                      Tomato suace, Muir Glen $1.39
                      Yogurt, Fage 17.6 oz $4.29

                      GIOVANNI"s EL CERRITO

                      Occasionally there are some organic items in the bargain bins in front. Because the conventional produce in these bins is soooo inexpensive I'm going to note a few recent specials. I usually detour to do a drive by of Giovanni's when driving down that part of San Pablo Avenue which is near the new Safeway.

                      Pesticide-free tomatoes (and nice, tasty ones 79 cents lb

                      Conventional produce

                      10 cents white corn
                      3 lbs for $1 - Flat Chinese nectarines
                      3 lbs for $1 - tomatoes
                      3 lbs for $1 - oranges
                      39 cents lb - cucumbers
                      48 cents lb - local gala apples
                      48 cents lb - local Bartlett pears
                      59 cents lb plums

                      21 Replies
                      1. re: rworange
                        rworange Sep 17, 2011 10:10 AM

                        One additional thought about keeping it organic

                        I think the perception of some stores such as Monterrey Market being cheaper is based on the conventional produce, especially the bins ... so that is getting extended to the organic produce.

                        Similarily, it is those jaw-dropping prices on select items at Whole Foods or Ferry Plaza that catch our attention and so the perception is EVERYTHING is that expensive.

                        Yes, I have my favorite Ferry Plaza vendor where a salad mix is $10 ... and I happily pay that because I love it. At the same time I know vendors where I can buy raspberries for $2 a basket.

                        Whole Foods has some good sale items for produce and I was surprised that so much of the bottled spaghetti sauce was less expensive than Walmart. However it is that $8 or more bottle of spaghetti sauce that catches the attention and remains in my mind.

                        The problem with the places like WF and FP is self discipline. It is too easy to get lured by some $$$ item and that screws up the entire bill ... look ... organic butter from a rare breed of goat raised by monks in the Himalayas ... sure ... $15 lb.

                        Anyway, jot a few prices down to prove who is less expensive.

                        1. re: rworange
                          l
                          lrealml Sep 18, 2011 12:44 AM

                          Actually I think Monterrey Market has a lot of cheap organics... For example all their organic herbs are $1, and I remember getting organic parsley for 39 cents once. I remember Berkeley Bowls organics being way more expensive in comparison. Also, I think I view Monterrey market as having good prices b/c every time I go there, there is some gourmet item for mind blowingly cheap. This time it was padron peppers for $3/lb. Last year it was Matsutake mushrooms for $10/lb.

                          Thanks for your research, but I also agree with jason carey below: you have to consider quality. There is no point in comparing soggy bagged lettuce to crisp just picked FM lettuce.
                          Monterrey Market's quality is pretty good... almost as good as some FMs. Berkley Bowl is hit or miss. WF's produce looks good, but I haven't shelled out the $ to try it.
                          IMO TJs, Raleys/Nob Hill and Safeway are only acceptable for avocado, onions, potatoes, and lemons/limes. Also at similar if not slightly better quality is Ranch 99 (no organics though), and they are super cheap. I've only been to Lucky's twice and remember thinking that their produce made Safeway look like a Farmer's Market, but maybe that is not always the case at all their locations.

                          Regardless, I feel lucky reading these prices that here on the Peninsula I can match if not beat the cheapest of them at my local FMs/independent grocery stores.

                          1. re: lrealml
                            Ruth Lafler Sep 18, 2011 09:37 AM

                            RW's misspelling seems to be catching. It's "Monterey Market" (apparently it's actaully "Monterey Foods" but no one calls it that -- seems the alliteration is too irresistible). In California, "Monterey" is spelled with one "r" not two as it is in Mexico. (i.e. Monterey, CA vs. Monterrey, Mexico). The linking function works a lot better when you spell the name of the establishment correctly.

                            -----
                            Monterey Foods
                            1550 Hopkins St, Berkeley, CA 94707

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              l
                              lrealml Sep 18, 2011 12:56 PM

                              I spelled it right in my first post on this thread... it was late, so I was just copied the misspelling without realizing it thus proving that misspelling is contagious :)

                        2. re: rworange
                          Windy Sep 17, 2011 11:11 AM

                          RW you should win an Emmy for investigative reporting.

                          My rule for Whole Foods is only store brand or what's on sale and in the bulk bins. If you can do that--and the very high prices on other produce help--you can do very well. Never shop there hungry. Know that staples like milk (1/2 gallon for ~$1.69) are in the back corner of the store.

                          Safeway has gotten much more expensive in recent years. I used to shop there. Now I stick to the corner produce store.

                          Also worth noting that a CSA is a great way to save money on organic produce. Not in the East Bay, but Mariquita, with exceptional restaurant quality vegetables, charges $22 a week for 7 or 8 large allotments. I go to the grocery store much less because of getting CSA boxes. And eat more vegetables.

                          I do love the farmers' market. Not the fancy ones, but markets like Alemany in the city where superfresh eggs are under $3 a dozen purchased from the farmers. I don't know what the East Bay equivalent is.

                          1. re: Windy
                            JasmineG Sep 17, 2011 11:36 AM

                            Mariquita is in the East Bay now!!! (Yes, that is worthy of three exclamation points). Get on their mailing list, East Bay people, they are starting to do delivery drop offs at Camino on Grand Ave. They did tomatoes on Saturday a few weeks ago and this week have tomatoes and mystery boxes.

                            1. re: JasmineG
                              Windy Sep 17, 2011 11:44 AM

                              Worth at least three exclamation posts.

                              If you've ever wondered why the food at Quince, Delfina, Incanto, Greens, Piccino, Local Mission, Slow Club, etc etc is so good, they buy vegetables from Mariquita.

                              Mystery boxes are $25 and usually have 8 or 9 things in them. Like the CSA you have to preorder.

                              -----
                              Delfina Restaurant
                              3621 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                              1. re: JasmineG
                                c
                                carieshmarie Sep 19, 2011 10:52 PM

                                Apparently this will be a "sometimes" occurrence, which is great! I think their Mystery Boxes are one of the best deals around - it's a ton of produce for $25, it's organic, extremely high quality, and always includes an interesting vegetable or two. I can't recommend them enough! They also often have extras for sale, like tomatoes or strawberries. Can your San Marzanos now!

                                -----
                                Marzano
                                4214 Park Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94602

                                1. re: carieshmarie
                                  Windy Sep 20, 2011 11:58 AM

                                  They're at Camino tomorrow (9-21) from 5 to 7 delivering preordered boxes and flats of tomatoes, peppers, and strawberries.

                                  http://cts.vresp.com/c/?MariquitaFarm...

                                  1. re: Windy
                                    JasmineG Sep 26, 2011 05:02 PM

                                    I loved my mystery box, and my picky sister went crazy for the dinner that I made her that night with purple cauliflower. I also couldn't get over how much food there was in the box for $25 -- at the farmer's market that would have cost me at least $40, if not more. They said they'll be in Oakland once a month, they think, and maybe more often in the winter.

                                    I also got 40 lbs of tomatoes to can, which were much much cheaper than they would have been at any of the East Bay farmers markets that I go to.

                                    1. re: JasmineG
                                      Windy Sep 26, 2011 05:11 PM

                                      Wasn't that cauliflower gorgeous?

                                      I save a huge amount of money not eating out, thanks to Mariquita. Why spend $8-9 plus tax or tip on an heirloom tomato salad, when all you need to do is buy the perfect tomatoes and slice them?

                                      I also wanted to link to the SF Food Bank's recent hunger project: following in the steps of RWorange (look up her month of eating on less than $5 a day from 2-3 years ago), they challenged members to limit themselves to less than $5 a day for 1 week.

                                      A number of members and food bloggers took up the challenge of living well with very modest means to raise awareness.
                                      http://hungerchallenge.blogspot.com/

                                      Of course one of the best tips is to cook with friends and family. Shopping for one can be expensive, and involves a fair amount of waste. I hate my leftovers but wouldn't mind someone else's

                                      1. re: Windy
                                        rworange Sep 26, 2011 07:30 PM

                                        I don't know if I can work up the courange to read that or not. It simply can't be done for only a week. That was the reason I did the month long thing. Reporter after reporter would do it for a week and eat badly. The cost needs to be spread over a month ... like real life. I'll probably look at it after a few glasses of wine. I don't want to see people eating bologna and white bread. Hopefully they did better than that.

                                        1. re: rworange
                                          Windy Sep 26, 2011 08:22 PM

                                          It's not that bad. Some people ate PBJs, others got creative.

                                          I agree that short-term budgeting is like fasting for a day to have compassion for people starving in the developing world--a drop in the bucket. Especially when you have cabinets full of canned salmon, capers, and quinoa to fall back on.

                                          But it's meant to raise awareness and money for the SF Food Bank, and their wonderful, and very efficient program.

                              2. re: Windy
                                rworange Sep 17, 2011 11:41 AM

                                My college major ... Journalism. THere was no money in it.

                                Haven't been to Alemany for years, but the last I heard is they were moving more organic stuff in?

                                The Friday Richmond farmers market is one of the least expensive. but at most, there is one or two pesticide-free vendors.

                                For organic, the Sunday Oakland Fruitvale market is the least espensive, especially at the end of the day. It is a small market, but there are some vendors there like Catalan. This is the last market of the week (Monday is market-free). So given the neighborhood, some of these vendors are willing to unload produce that didn't sell at the other markets.

                                If one doesn't care about organic, there are the flea markets.

                                Even I have my limits though and I don't often frequent the flea markets because I'm really not much of a shopper ... really. I'm usually in and out of places I happen to be driving by. Flea markets require some commitment in time. A freind recently got 7 cucumbers for a $1 and 10 avocados for $1. Still ... I presonally can't tolerate the whole flea market thing. It's like street fairs which I deplore. Too much junk to wade through to get to the stuff I want.

                                1. re: rworange
                                  Windy Sep 17, 2011 11:48 AM

                                  Not sure if Alemany is moving more in or farmers are growing more organic and some prices are dropping.

                                  There are four or five organic vendors at Alemany; and many more that offer spray free but not certified organic. My favorites there are still Haney Ranch eggs and Far West Fungi. Twin Girls has been there for years.

                                  And going late is an important tip. I generally go at 1, when the crowds are less, and while the selection isn't the same as at 8, you can pick up whole flats for a steal.

                                  Pursuit of the truth pays in other ways.

                                  -----
                                  Far West Fungi
                                  1 Ferry Bldg # 34, San Francisco, CA

                              3. re: rworange
                                Glencora Sep 17, 2011 12:47 PM

                                MM today, all organic
                                cherry tomatoes 3.49 basket
                                onions .98 lb
                                eggplant 1.49 lb
                                cucumbers (pesticide free) 3.29 lb

                                The best deal was green cauliflower for .59 each

                                1. re: Glencora
                                  Robert Lauriston Sep 17, 2011 02:49 PM

                                  Organic cucumbers have been $1.50-2 at the farmers market, last batch of onions I bought were $1.

                                2. re: rworange
                                  jason carey Sep 17, 2011 01:46 PM

                                  The problem with this is that you are comparing industrial orgainic, which is crap with non industrial organic, depeinding of if from farmer's market and or which store.. Most of the produce at Whole foods is Industrial organic.

                                  1. re: jason carey
                                    rworange Sep 17, 2011 02:09 PM

                                    Still, farmers market stuff is much cheaper, not to mention fresher.

                                    I have to disagree somewhat about Whole Foods being industrial organic ... walmart ... yes.

                                    At least at the Napa store, many of the same farmers that sell at the farmers markets are the farmers that Whole Foods buys produce from.

                                    My memory isn't great here, so I don't want to say specifically which vendors because I might screw it up. However, they are vendors represented at both Ferry Plaza, Berkeley and San Rafael on Sunday.

                                    Whole Foods does try to buy local. I'd say Trader Joe's might be more industrial organic than Whole Foods ... but I could be wrong because TJ doesn't identify vendors.

                                    1. re: rworange
                                      b
                                      BigWoodenSpoon Sep 24, 2011 12:04 PM

                                      With TJ's, I think it depends on the region. This summer I was fortunate to pick up some "local" organic WA blueberries at the Lake Oswego, OR store while on vacation.
                                      They were tasty and some of them were a little mushy, but I wanted something from the general PNW area.

                                      I really wish we had more vendor information available for you the consumer, but occasionally there are "hustle buys" that show up where we do have farmer or at least area of origin information. It never hurts to ask for a "Quick Item Lookup" to see if the computer system has anything to add to what's on the package.

                                      1. re: rworange
                                        ladybugsmom Sep 26, 2011 04:54 PM

                                        i can honestly say that TJ's IS industrial organic. my cousin works there, has for years and years when they only had a few stores, and she's currently in the buying department.

                                        yes, they do separate by region, and some regions are different than others, depending on who's in charge. but for the west region (includes the bay area, not sure about oregon tho), it's primarily industrial organic.

                                        my cousin has a colleague who left TJ's and went to WF and can confirm that WF does buy local, especially if/when they're just down the road from farmers (as in the north bay).

                                        i focus on TJ's grocery items like ice cream, and other dairy, dried pastas, and sauces, crackers, cookies, etc... oh, and can't forget the alcohol!

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