Monday, February 18, 2008

Bag Math - The Art of Getting More Groceries for Your Money

Yesterday I went to Valley Produce, a market about 10 miles away from my house that I've been meaning to visit. They have two locations, one in Reseda and one in Simi Valley. As the name suggests, they specialize in produce so I thought I'd buy some fruits and vegetables to see about the quality and pricing. The picture on the left shows Satsuma tangerines priced at 2 lbs for $1.00. Here's my shopping list and various prices:

2 grapefruit - 59 cents ea.
2.24 lb red grapes - 59 cents/lb.
3.14 lb bulk rice - 59 cents/lb.
2.88 lb bulk pinto beans - 69 cents/lb.
1 lb peaches - 49 cents/lb
1.06 lb Gala apples - 49 cents/lb
6 pan dulce - 33 cents/ea.
.39 lb. Satsuma tangerines
1 pkg chocolate wafers (chosen by son)
1 dz. flour tortillas - $1.49
Total: $13.36

If I'd bought these items at our local, national chain grocery store, I'd have probably paid almost double for each item so the total would have been close to $25. I've noticed that when I shop at Vons, Albertson's or Ralph's, each bag averages about $8-10. I had 4 bags from my trip to Valley Produce so maybe $25 is a low estimate. Valley Produce sells more than just produce. They also sell fresh meat, fish, and poultry along with canned goods, pasta, rice, dairy products, and deli. It offered the same as national stores albeit with fewer brands and different brands. I've already eaten some of the produce and it tastes great.

There are other ethnic and local markets throughout the LA area. Korean and Asian markets are also good places to find fresh produce and low priced meats. You can see the prices for poulty in the picture to the right. Chicken breast is listed at $1.99 per lb. I was also amazed at the price of lettuce and other green, leafy vegetables. You can see in the photo below that lettuce (regular price) was 59 cents per head. Considering that it's 99 cents to $1.19 in our national chain stores, that's quite a difference. Cabbage was 33 cents a head although it's not pictured.

So, in the end, I guess it's probably worth spending $3 in gas if I save $15-$20 in groceries because the net savings would be $12-$17.

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