Grocery Shopping

For some time I’ve been saying my grocery costs are high and seem to keep going higher. We’ve got two bottomless pits growing school-aged girls and two adults to feed. Recently I decided to comparison shop for prices. So hey, if you saw me wandering around the grocery store this week with my pad of paper, writing down prices, I really wasn’t crazy. I was on a mission. I blogged about it and I’m sharing because I thought you too might be intrigued at the results.

Also raising a question for you: are the prices at all of the Super One stores the same?  I claim yes, my neighbor claims no and thinks that the Lakeside one is more $$ than others.



about 12 years ago

I think your findings may generally be true, but there is a lot of leeway.  Mount Boil is of course mostly expensive.  But their greek yogurt is the cheapest around.  As a Sri Racha addict, Chub Foods is pretty much the only place to stock up, they buy bulk in produce as well, so you'll find a lot of that being cheaper, like avocados.  I've also heard that Lakeside Stupid One Foods gouges, and I don't doubt it. 
 The 2012 Corn Holocaust will undoubtedly drive the prices apeshit, but that's par nowadays.  A chunk of ice twice the size of Manhattan just wandered off by itself from Greenland.  Weird is the new normal.  Ben and Jerry's is cheapest at the gas station by our house.  If that ain't weird, I don't know what is.  Regardless, the co-op had organic cukes in May for about 3 bucks a piece, hard to imagine. And if you shop by specials/sales, then that skews the whole curve too, they all throw out different ones, so you have to be alert.  The best prices to be had today will be at Tom's Burned Down Bar on Madeline, so I'm bee lining there right now and catch me a little S.J.K.


about 12 years ago

You can live exclusively off Claussen hot & spicy pickles.


about 12 years ago

"You can live exclusively off Claussen hot & spicy pickles."

And if you do, don't shop at Cub.
3.79 at both Mt Royal and Super One, 3.99 at Cub.
My family might be able to exist solely on pickles. But not just any pickle.


about 12 years ago

Plant a backyard or community garden/farm.  Spend money on food as if it's an important cost, which it is.  Read Michael Pollan books.


about 12 years ago

Thank you, kerc! I have thought several times that I should do this and post it on PDD. As someone who is feeding four bottomless pits, I find it impossible to buy all the organic, free-range, guilt-free food that I'd like.

@Bret: I hear you, and I agree. But in this context, I find your advice unhelpful. I say this only because it seems you are trying to help. I think better solutions to environmental concerns and health issues will be found when people acknowledge the difficult spot families are in. It's not a simple matter of not caring enough or not thinking it's important.


about 12 years ago

Super one prices are NOT equally all the same. There are THREE superones in superior and all three vary on prices on the same items. The one off belknap is 2nd highest, the one in east end (used to be jubilee/iga is the highest. Of course the original superone just off tower is the cheapest. It irks me that in superior my only choices are superone1,2,3 or walmart. I do goto superior meats as much as possible because the quality is MILES above both.


about 12 years ago

Bret  -- "spend money on food as if it is an important cost." We do. I thought I wrote in my post that we get our veggies from the Food Farm or our garden. Chickens and eggs too. Fruit from the Lake Superior CSA. Salmon from Simple Gifts. Beef and pork from local farmers. But it still comes down to a handful of staples that I need to buy. And frankly, this time of year the kerc-household is relatively low on cash (and I'm sure many families are in the same boat), so perhaps I'm more interested now than I might be in a different season.

Someone pointed out to me that it would be an interesting comparison to include items that could be sourced at the Co-op and the gas station in Lincoln Park. When it comes right down to it, its tricky to find an item that is available at all those places. I can probably buy a pound of black beans at all of them, or a can of black beans. But it isn't the same product at each store.

I think it's also fair to point out that a family of four making what I do working for the State of Wisconsin qualifies for free school lunch. I have an advanced degree, I have a good job, I'm not in desperate straights. (And frankly my kids wouldn't eat 90% of what the school might like them too). I'm still very aware of the cost of feeding growing bodies. Fortunately my husband works as well, otherwise I'd probably be even more intimately familiar with the cost of groceries and what they all cost.


about 12 years ago

Super One prices are not the same.  No successful chain stores have the same prices on every item at all locations. A few pennies per item are the difference between keeping the doors open or going out of business. Cheap computers are to blame.


about 12 years ago

I used to go to Cub weekly, until a co-worker's spouse did some comparison shopping, and reported that SuperOne in Kenwood was consistently less expensive.  And it is.  We save about $50 a month, and that includes use of the Holiday gas coupons.

banjo tom

about 12 years ago

There have been a number of interesting threads on groceries on PDD.  I was unable to locate the one I was thinking of: something about the fairness/unfairness of prices being higher in more densely populated areas.

But, I found "The Cost of Food" and the one I authored, which is again timely -- "Sweet Corn Analysis."


about 12 years ago

Pine and Bennett 2011 (the ur-text of Lincoln Park food access) has some retail grocery price comparisons, although perhaps not the precise ones y'all are looking for: 

Food Access in Duluth's Lincoln Park/West End Neighborhood


about 12 years ago

Super One Plaza would regularly deny coupons from the weekly flyer.  i.e. "Jacks pizzas 5 / $10" at the Plaza would be " Jacks Pizzas 3/ $10"

It is called "poverty tax" and has been a business model in this country for a loooong time.

America's poverty tax


about 12 years ago

I've found Kenwood and Lakeside Super Ones the highest in my experiences, so I rarely go there. Plaza can be sketchy too. Mall was cheapest overall and has the best clearance items - including meats, and Mall/West Duluth has foods the others don't carry. I probably go to the Plaza more out of convenience, and the Mall when I want certain things the others do not carry, or am stocking up, want to cruise the clearance. 

I rarely go to Cub, unless it's for something I cannot get at SO (ethnic and some fish deals). Going up to the Mall area just seems so far out of the way anymore. All their deli stuff is higher too. I really feel Cub's gotten more and more expensive over the years compared to when they first started out up here (plus, I grew up with the old warehouse ones in MPLS where you marked your own food with grease pencils, along with Rainbow's yellow and black generic products). That said, sometimes I wish we had a Rainbow Foods for certain products/deals too, but such is life. 

I have, however, found some very good/cheap deals at Mount Royal (esp on fish/seafood + Chicken Wednesday! or discounted sushi for a treat now and again), and more often than not on some fruits/veggies (asparagus!) on special, and a few other items, so I stop in, as it's close (walking/biking), or when I want some specialty item. I've also known some of the workers there for years, and they are very nice/helpful.

I rarely go to the Co-op (maybe once/twice a year - mainly for a specialty item). Too $$ and seems a bit stuck up/odd people-wise.

I grow some, and buy a lot from the Farmer's Markets in town while they're in season, as I love the fresh foods and the people I've come to know who provide them to us, and feel they're very reasonable (for the quantities I purchase), and I like to pick my own pieces/amounts - not have them pre-wrapped up like at the grocery stores. My newest fave is the goat cheese guy. +1. 
The meat guy who comes to the UMD Market has some good deals (like a buck a brat), or interesting products for a one-off or bbq/meal.
I also love when Fabian Seafood comes up once a month (May-Nov) for fresh shrimp, and when they have it, Red Snapper for my grill. YUM!

But then, it's just me, not a household full of people to feed anymore, although I still am very frugal overall, as I live on a very limited budget.


about 12 years ago

How do we get a Trader Joes in West End?  West End gets its grocery store and everybody gets a Trader Joes.  Trader Joes would work well being located near the Duluth Grill, and in West End, wouldn't be too near Whole Foods Co-op.  This plan rules.

about 12 years ago

I think the issue with Trader Joe's is distribution center placement. Last I heard, their closest is in (I believe) Chicago which puts it just out of reach for trucks to make the trip in a short enough amount of time (DoT regs are pretty strict about this), but looking at their current cities map, there are seven locations, which might have already set the stage for that move. 

All that money going to California, though...


about 12 years ago

Ruby2sd4y gave a great synopsis of local stores and my experience is similar.  

When I wasn't working for quite some time I really became strategic in my grocery shopping and began stockpiling staples when they were cheap. For example, canned tomatoes (something I cook with a lot) get pretty cheap just about now, so I would buy several cans when they were really cheap. Baking goods go on sale at deep discount when the Holidays come around and I would stock up on a whole year's supply.  I have storage in my basement and have good plastic containers to keep things fresh and safe.  When Super One would have their dollar sales I would stock up on anything on sale that I needed.  Every week I would search the grocery fliers and purchase only those things that are on sale and then purchase in bulk those things that I knew I used often.  The trick was to buy only those things that were on sale and those things I regularly cook with ... no extra treats, spontaneous buying decisions, etc.  I also cook from scratch vs. from a mix and that saves money plus is healthier.  Three things I don't scrimp on fruits, veggies and coffee beans.  

To your point, groceries have become expensive and I can't imagine how difficult it is to feed a family on a budget these days. (We are empty nesters.) One particular pet peeve is how manufactures have the audacity to make their packages smaller and then proclaim the price hasn't gone up.  Of course the price has gone up!  I'm getting less product!  As a result I don't buy breakfast cereal anymore and instead bake bread and have toast for breakfast ... just like my mom and dad did!

Anyway, kudos to you for working hard for your family to find good food for them to eat at the best price possible!

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