Grocery Shopping in NYC is Depressing

Grocery Shopping in NYC is Depressing


I knew that groceries would be expensive in Manhattan. They were expensive in NJ so thought the difference would be negligible. It was not.

Here’s my first shopping trip on the upper west side:

Grated parm: $3.91
Grapes @ $2.69/lb: $5.33
100% whole grain bread: $3.99
Jarred Pesto: $3.59
Unsalted butter: $4.39
Cottage Cheese: $3.79
Strawberries: $3.99
Nellie’s Natural Eggs: $2.69
Chicken breasts: $6.01

Now, let’s compare this to the prices of some of these at a central New Jersey Wegman’s super market:

Cottage Cheese: $2.99
Unsalted Butter: $2.79
Strawberries: $2.49
Eggs: $3.69
Grapes @ $2.49/lb
Pesto: $2.49
Bread: $2.69

Shopping Around

Now, I am sure that the prices are cheaper in the outer boroughs and plan to experiment with that at some point. There might also be cheaper grocery stores 20-30 blocks away, but then convenience and time becomes a factor as well.

Because of these prices, I have been a bit deterred from cooking at home. I did make a vodka sauce last week but the can of stewed tomatoes (14 oz) was $1.99.

Also, remember that storage space is extremely limited. Even if I could carry home a month’s worth of groceries, I have no place to put them! For this reason, I have begun buying groceries by meal, which creates added costs as well.

I have yet to figure out the most cost effective method of eating (groceries vs take out) and will have to visit some more near by markets for a better cost comparison.


How have you handled higher-than-expected grocery costs?


14 Replies to “Grocery Shopping in NYC is Depressing”

  1. I try to buy in bulk when it’s cheaper, but otherwise, I just try to make simpler meals, eat the same things more frequently, take advantage of leftovers, etc.

    Grocery prices have gone up quite a bit everywhere, I think. :-/

  2. Sorry to not be all that helpful but I need to say it. Up here in Canada the prices you listed from NY are standard. Man we get ripped off! The only things that might be a bit less are the fruit but only this time of year because they’re in season.

    I don’t really have anything else valuable to offer if you don’t have a lot of storage space but when I used to have to carry everything home I tended to buy more on the dried side of things rather than canned whenever I could get away with it. Lighter to carry and would take up less space.

  3. AGREE. Yesterday I went to Fairway and for $19 I bought a tub of Greek yogurt, one small yogurt, baba ghanoush, pre-sliced papaya chunks and a bag of granola. And I need to go back tonight for dinner supplies… Let’s not even talk about the fact that the place I’m currently staying has NO utensils and practically no cookware!

    However, I have found it’s worth the trek to go to a Trader Joe’s for most of my staples – except produce which I get elsewhere because their quality is horrible. (My $5 Halal cart lunches that last me 3 meals are cheap even if they aren’t healthy in the slightest…oh New York!)

  4. I would start looking in the least obvious places for price savings. For example. I found out one time when I was “splurging” that buying the fresh baked loaves of whole wheat bread at whole foods wound up being cheaper that buying the prepackaged breads at the regular store.

    Also, going to farmers markets or co-ops for produce.

  5. Boo to increased prices but HI and welcome to the neighborhood. The key to frugal shopping in NYC is shopping around. I live in the UWS too and my closest option is Food Emporium which I find to be OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced. It takes a bit of planning, but I try to schedule a day a week where I stop at the Trader Joes in either Union Sq or on 72nd and Broadway (I’m partial to this one!). Their prices are fantastic and they have some awesome, better for you than a box of mac options. Also, they deliver within a 10 block radius for like $6 or something. Honestly, Trader Joes is my saving grace!

    Second, don’t be afraid of those shady looking fruit stands. Some of the best cherries and bananas I’ve ever had has come from there. There is also a green market in union sq monday, weds and friday.

    One last thing: I visit my grandparents in NJ at least twice a month. I try to build an extra hour into my schedule so I can dash out to the hugh Shop Rite near them and stock up on things like cereal, chips, tea and olive oil (things that are silly expensive in the city but relatively light to lug back).

    Lastly, while storing supplies in bulk may not be possible, try making one big dish (my go-to is chili in the fall) that will last you 4-6 meals and can be compacted into tupperware containers.

    While I adore Wegmans and miss it every day, it is definitely possible to eat well in the city without breaking the bank.

    Welcome to the city!


    1. Thanks Meghan! I suppose my one excuse for not going to Trader Joe’s or the green market in Union Square is having to carry everything back home with (or around if I do other things that day). It just seems like so much effort! This is the same for bringing things back with me from Jersey; it’s just a lot to juggle!

      I like the idea of making one big dish. I have done this several times now, even though fridge space is pretty tight around here!

  6. Ok Shopping can be crazy expensive in NY, and this is coming from someone living in Queens. I have been using City Maps, when I go to Manhatten and I bet you could use it to find some hidden, better priced food stores.

  7. My sister goes to NYU and shops in Chinatown because it’s so cheap. Also I hear Trader Joe’s at Union Square isn’t too bad either pricewise but it’s massively crowded.

  8. I just happened upon your blog and have found some very useful tips. Thanks for all your effort and time putting this together.

  9. Groceries in Australia (Sydney) are ridiculously expensive. I eat Kangaroo meat (which is actually nice – and lower in fat and higher in iron than beef), partly because it is cheaper than other meat. Due to a cyclone earlier this year, bananas peaked at about $14.00/kg (almost $6.50/lb). Now they are “down” to $11.00/kg. I was in LA recently and enjoyed having them at $0.69/lb!

  10. I am on a strict budget and I find myself saving money by constantly checking City Maps. Sometimes I have to go to a couple different stores to get the deal, but if they are on my way, what’s the difference.

  11. Man alive! Those are much higher, I’d be frustrated as well. I guess I would just watch the store circulars and online coupons and somehow make it work! Hopefully that’ll save you over time! Good luck :(

    1. Unfortunately store circulars are rare as items don’t really go on sale often. Being creative and going to multiple places seems to do the trick!

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