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Apr 29, 2013 06:52 PM

Grocery Outlet

Ok--I think (I hope) I've done my due diligence, and this subject hasn't already been done to death, but I was wondering about this chain, Grocery Outlet.

I've noticed that they've entered the San Diego market in a big way in the last year or so. Now there's one by me, and I'm planning a field trip.

So, is it worth the hype? I've heard they have good brands at good prices, and that the stores, while not fancy, are clean and well kept. I've also heard they have a good selection of toiletries and such as well.

Are there any folks out there who makes Grocery Outlet their main shopping venue? What do you like? What don't you like? Is it like a Big Lots (what used to be called Pic & Save) with more food?

Insights please...

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  1. Grocery Outlet is hit or miss. I drop in to the one near downtown Oakland now and then, when it's convenient. Sometimes I see something I want at a good price. Other times I leave with next to nothing. I never go there expecting to get something unless it's something I saw only a day or two earlier when I didn't have my car. I couldn't possibly use it as my main shopping venue without a complete overhaul (and downgrading) of my diet.

    The location I use is a nice enough store (It's a 1960s-era Safeway building), but another location I've been in a couple of times is cramped and unpleasant.

    2 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      If I'm in the headspace for it, I don't mind hit or miss. There's a small chain in San Diego, GTM, that sells closeouts and the like. Even when I leave with an empty cart, it was fun hunting.

      Downgrading your diet, you say? That's sorta worrisome. So would you say it tilts more towards a Sav-a-Lot than a Trader Joe's?

      1. re: NorthEncantoGirl

        I don't know Sav-a-Lot, and I very rarely go to a TJ's, so can't say, except that it definitely isn't a TJ's. I just mean I would have to give up a lot of things I use regularly now, like Pavel's yogurt, Beckman breads, deli meats, and so on. The things I get there are good, or I wouldn't go.

    2. Not my main shopping venue, but definitely on the rotation. If you know your prices, it's well worth it. I regularly buy canned organic garbanzo beans, for example, and their perfectly fine version is 1/2 to 1/3 the price of other stores. Similarly, I was shopping for chicken wings and found WAY cheap organic (!) chicken wings for a good price. Tissues, dry goods staples, very nice, as is the occasional cheese and seaweed snacks. Their stock isn't consistent, but you always can find some kind of quality bargain. Worth a visit. And the nickname, Groc Out ("c" pronounced like "s") is kind of charming.

      1 Reply
      1. re: rcallner

        Thanks for the reply.

        Yeah, I do fancy myself a fairly savvy shopper, in that I have a pretty decent grasp of what a decent price sounds like and what overall good quality looks like.

        So you trust the meat? It's funny that I'm asking this, as I've recently made a commitment to go meatless, but, over the years, even as a 'bad vegetarian' I've found the meat dept to be the canary in the coal mine--in that if the meat dept looks skanky, I don't trust the rest of the store...

        Another question for you all who have been to more than one 'Groc Out' (thanks for that!)--do you find the offerings are more or less the same store to store, or there wide swings in product mix/quality of offerings? There is one that just opened in Downtown SD; I wonder if it's a fair guess that they might have more 'specialty' items than in a suburban store...

      2. The food items are often labeled as 'not meeting quality standards for appearance' or the cooking instructions or nutrition statements have a corrected copy stuck over the original one printed on the box. Years ago, Special K boxes with Kristi Yamaguchi on the front were sold for months. Once, they were selling frozen Pepperidge Farm garlic bread for 50ยข and all the packaging was upside down, so you let the package get warm before opening it then pulled the bread out, the garlic butter was stuck to the bottom (opposed to the top) of the box

        You can only count on there being some variation of milk, cheese, eggs and bread and probably cold cuts as well as some sort of fresh vegetable available, everything else comes and goes. Sometimes lots and lots of ice cream novelty products, sometimes none; sometimes Stouffers products fill half of the freezer sections, then for months, none. In that sense, it's like Big Lots.

        There's been a location in National City, (which was first in Chula Vista), for more than 20 years now. There was another location I went to in Oceanside a few times about ten years ago. San Diego County is 4200 square miles large and it's nice that the Grocery Outlet chain is expanding within the county.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Cathy

          Where's the National City one? That's close to my parents, and semi-close to me. The one that I had heard that was opening near me (I'm close to Lemon Grove) is in Spring Valley/Casa de Oro, but I'll swing by whichever's closest.

          1. re: NorthEncantoGirl

            The South West corner of the 54, at 4th(Highland). Same parking lot area as the Walmart, but more East (closer to the McDonald's).

            I hadn't heard-Spring Valley will be closer for me (live in Santee), but know the inventory is different at each one, so will probably stop in whichever one I am closer to at the time I go shopping.

            I saw those posts for the SF Bay area. Maybe once there are more locations here, there will be steady inventories. So far this year, I've seen the inventory and layout completely change from after Christmas to Valentine's Day to Easter to now. Things completely sell out rapidly.

        2. The newer stores are more like full service markets in that they do have a fresh meat and produce section. Although they are not gourmet stores, if you hunt around you will find some well known brands at very good prices. Like the Muir Glen tomatoes that I pulled out of the cupboard last night, I don't remember exactly what I paid, but probably about half of what Safeway or WF charges for them.

          I couldn't do my entire shopping there, but I go about once a month and look for the interesting items. It's kind of fun, but not the place to go if you are in a hurry.

          You can also find non-food household items, personal care, cleaning stuff, etc. Let's not forget wine, some great (and a lot of not so great) deals there too.

          Stores are individually owned and operated, so even though they all get products from the same central warehouse, each store is stocked somewhat differently.

          There is an ongoing topic on the SF Bay Area Board about current finds at the various local stores. That will give you an idea about what kinds of things you can find there.


          also on the California board:

          I didn't see a similar topic on the San Diego board. It would be good to start a local topic because things vary so much from store to store.

          1 Reply
          1. re: pamf

            Thanks for the great tips! You also answered a question I posed upthread, which was about the variability of products.

            So the stores are more or less franchises, eh? That probably accounts for what seems to be variations in physical plant and customer service as well. Interesting.

          2. Pretty much everything's been said, but I'll throw my two cents in and add I shop at several in our area a lot. You can't do your main shopping there because you never know what they'll have but the hunt is fun and you can score some great deals. But as has been noted, you really have to know your prices by heart because sometimes the prices aren't that great.

            You'll find a lot of brands you've never heard of, or regional stuff not common to your area, and stuff that's near its pull date but never anything unsafe or unpalatable. I like to stock up on canned and boxed staples and once bought four dozen frozen game hens of decent size for a buck each. Last time I was there I bought 128 boxes of cake mix for our restaurant because it worked out to less than half the price of the commercial mix we usually use. The only annoying thing is they always slice the cases real low; I wish they would leave them intact.

            You nailed it when you asked if they are basically the Big Lots of Food: Yes, they are. There is one of those right near one of our Grocery Warehouses and I usually hit up both on the same trip and come home with a truckload of cheap tasty eats. But note that both of these are still usually more expensive than your typical Costco Business Center, Cash & Carry/Smart & Final or Restaurant Depot on most of the same or similar items if you are willing to buy larger sizes; I've done the comparisons.

            Usually the everyday prices at GW are a little bit higher than the Supers' weekly sale specials. So if you only shop the specials and Costco, for example, you won't necessarily save hugely at GO. But it's worth adding to your rotation if what you need isn't on sale that week and isn't at Costco and just happens to be at GO.

            1 Reply
            1. re: acgold7

              So just to follow up a little bit, stopped by one of our local GOs on my regular run today. To continue on the cake mix example, they had two of the three big national brands, but prices weren't great: Pillsbury for $1.29 and DH for $1.49. Both claimed the regular price was $1.99 but they are rarely that high in the normal supers, and all three National Brands regularly go on sale for a buck each in rotation several times a year. So you gotta be smart about this.

              On the other hand, they had Velveeta 2-lb loaves for $2.99, about half of what you can get them for at Costco. Their pasta aisle had tons of stuff working out to about $1 per pound, but that's the sale price nearly every week somewhere at a super, and I remember getting Ronzoni at 10 pounds for $4 when we lived in CT (but never that low here in WA).

              Random examples to be sure, but instructive.