Supermarket Secrets

Prices are up, but you can keep grocery bills down. The trick? Learn which stores offer the best deals and when. Herein, a guide to merchandise, prices and more (like who keeps you jacked on coffee—beware the cup-holstered cart).

First, the Chains

Acme’s Dover, Fairfax, Smyrna and Trolley Square stores got facelifts in 2008, and all of them boast bigger and better-priced produce and organic food sections. But functionality trumped superficiality at the 60-year-old Trolley Square icon. Because its demographics are changing—a mix of professionals, first-time homeowners and longtime residents—the store had to handle lunch-hour crowds fast. Wider checkout aisles were built, eliminating the crush of salad grabbers, and a front-end manager was hired to keeps things moving. Neighbors are happy. Abandoned Acme carts no longer litter their streets. The new carts are equipped with built-in censors linked to a Gatekeeper security system, so they can’t leave the lot.

Food Lion
Food Lion offers good prices and gracious staffers, but more important, this is a business that knows its demographics. Hispanic brands such as La Costena, Jumex, Juanitas and La Banderita are stocked in all stores. Large assortments of Asian and Indian foods are offered in some beach-area stores. Rehoboth Beach and Lewes shops feature expanded Kosher foods. Coming soon: self-service produce scales that let you weigh and label produce yourself.

Be sure to check out the Easy Shop program at your local Giant.Giant
Giant is ahead of the technology curve. A program called Easy Shop allows customers to scan and bag as they shop. At the Deli Vision kiosk, you can place deli orders to be picked up after shopping. Giant remodeled the North Wilmington store in 2008. It recently completed work on the 56,000-square-foot Rehoboth Beach location. The store houses a larger pharmacy, great sitting area and an exceptional produce section.

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Harris Teeter’s seafood counter has made a splash among customers. Harris Teeter
Given the tiny “customer in training” shopping carts, Harry’s Balloon Corral and the mini-library of videos, children’s books, paperbacks, and a bench for reading, Harris Teeter screams Southern hospitality, family values and great deals. Head to its deli for reasonably priced chef-prepared meals. Throwing a bash? Harris Teeter is home to the fabulously cheap Harris Teeter cookies and Big Bucket drink mixes. (Find the margarita, daiquiri and mojito varieties in the rear aisle.) The farmers’ market carries about 600 produce items and 90 organic choices, much from neighboring Magee Farms in Selbyville. Need greeting cards? Harris Teeter has the nicest selection.

Pathmark and Superfresh
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, better known as A&P, owns both Pathmark and Superfresh, though the stores serve different demographics. Pathmark caters to urban, ethnically diverse markets, and its prices are lower than those at Superfresh, which operates in upscale areas. (Note the resort-like, newly remodeled Rehoboth Beach location, complete with coffee bar and expanded pharmacy.) In terms of friendly pharmacists and fast service, A&P pharmacies are among the best. Proprietary America’s Choice goods are typically priced 25 percent less than famous brands. But compare prices. When the store brand is overstocked, you’ll save more with name brands.

Dover shoppers find great bargains at Redner’s Warehouse.Redner’s Warehouse
If you prefer good deals over pretty packages, head to Redner’s. Virtually everything is less expensive because there’s less overhead and no gimmicky promotions. The back row, where prices are lowest, offers a mountain of  products still in cardboard boxes. Find a pound of bagged cereal for about $3, giant boxes of whole wheat spaghetti for $1.80, and sacks of  pre-cut vegetables for $1.98. Big families are well served at the deli, where they can score foods such as the 5-pound tub of Amish macaroni salad for about $9. This year Redner’s will add 10 fuel pumps in its parking lot.

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Safeway gets a portion of its produce from local farmers.Safeway
Safeway’s produce comes from Graham Farms and Magee Family Farms in Selbyville, and in summer, from the Laurel produce auction, which draws buyers from all over the Eastern Shore. Safeway’s exclusive Rancher’s Reserve beef is a good bet: If you don’t like it, you’ll get a full refund and another cut of beef. All but one store (Bear) features a Starbucks coffee bar and seating area. Five bucks gets you a large plain pizza on Fridays, and the Newark and Rehoboth Beach stores offer great cheese selections. All three Wilmington-area stores house WSFS branches. Your club card earns free airline miles or gas.

The new ShopRite near the Riverfront in Wilmington offers an impressive produce section.ShopRite
ShopRite’s new 70,000-square-foot store at Christina Crossing on the Wilmington Riverfront offers rooftop parking, elevators and a cartveyor escalator system—all firsts for Delaware supermarkets. The fourth offering from the Kenny family, the megastore lays claim to the largest meat department in the state, a spectacular produce department and an in-house floral designer. There are also aisles of affordable ethnic specialties.  ShopRite’s North Wilmington store operates the only full-service, certified-Kosher bakery and deli in the state. Need Halal goods? ShopRite has them. (Halal foods are allowed under Islamic dietary guidelines.) Vegans are well served in the Live Rite with ShopRite aisle. And you won’t find better birthday cakes anywhere.
Click Here to download a comparison chart of local chains (cost of Milk, eggs, bread, delivery, etc…). (52KB PDF)

Page 4: Now, the Little places


Now, the Little places

Bachetti Brothers Gourmet Meat Market & Catering
Head to Bachetti’s for great cuts of Midwestern beef, chicken from Delaware, veal from Lancaster, and pork from Hatfield, Pennsylvania. During holidays, staffers at the family-owned business do bone-in rib roasts, crowns of pork or lamb, turduckens (deboned turkey stuffed with a deboned duck) and Frenched racked lamb. Don’t leave without homemade kielbasa and sausages. And don’t forget the inventory of fresh breads and frozen pasta products from the best makers in the region.
Janssen’s Fine Foods in Greenville sells flowers for most any occasion. Photograph by Ben FournierJanssen’s Fine Foods
You don’t buy high-priced necessities here. You do buy gourmet offerings such as jamón Ibérico (cured ham from Spain), Moroccan honey, shallot confit from France, Himalayan pink salt, English clotted cream and Australian hibiscus flowers for cocktails. A section with matzoh and other Kosher products is popular during Passover, and chefs can prepare a full Seder. The seafood section is stocked with wild Atlantic salmon, Hawaiian prawns, Chesapeake blue crab, Mediterranean bronzino and Florida pompano. Lunch at Janssen’s large cafeteria covers the gamut, from burgers and chicken to salads and homemade soups.  The crowd thins considerable after 1 p.m.

McCabe’s Gourmet Market in Bethany Beach stocks everything from fair-trade coffees to ingredients for sushi.McCabe’s Gourmet Market
There’s more to McCabe’s than fabulous croissants, though locals flock for them. Its signature spices, for example, are purchased from Vann Spices in Baltimore, an outfit that supplies only top gourmet shops nationwide. Fair-trade coffees, teas and chocolates are priced well, as are cookbooks, utensils, tea towels, candles, oils, vinegars, mustards, jams and preserves, pasta—even sushi-making ingredients. Staffers bake Vie De France French baguettes, multigrain batards, sour dough batards, cinnamon buns, muffins, cookies and scones daily. Sandwiches are made to order.

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Ralph Papa is the big cheese at Papa’s Food Market in Wilmington’s Little Italy. Photograph by Luigi CiuffetelliPapa’s Food Market
Papa’s has served Little Italy since 1920. From the kitchen of this tiny general store come homemade sausages (veal, turkey, liver, sweet and hot), cold cuts (excellent mortadella and Genoa salami), breads stuffed with pepperoni and sharp provolone, oil-cured olives, fresh mozzarella wrapped with prosciutto, and the most savory cherry pepper shooters anywhere. Regulars enjoy good prices on traditional Panettone cake, Little Gina’s pizzelles, Ferrara hazelnut cream chocolates and cannoli shells. Papa’s boasts one of the largest selections of Olevano olive oil in town.

Trader Joe’s
This is not a typical market. There are no coupons, membership cards or promotions. There are employees hired solely to taste foods. The deli, loaded with unusual cheeses, chicken sausages, hummus and party platters, is where you’ll find great prices. (You’d be hard pressed to find salmon-mushroom pâté this good and this inexpensive anywhere.) Consumer Reports awarded high marks to Trader Joe’s organic whole-wheat pasta. It has lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber, and tastes better than most other whole-wheat pastas. One sore spot: Tomatoes are only sold in packs, though there is generally not a dud in the bunch.

Zingo’s Market
Zingo’s screams upscale, but prices say otherwise. Check out the Richfood brand, where you’ll pay about 20 percent less for canned goods, frozen foods and dairy products. Zingo’s carries a good number of gourmet offerings as well, such as all-natural Tribe hummus (found in the front refrigerated section), which is slightly less expensive Athenos brand. Zingo’s is one of the few carriers of Bob’s Red Mill packaged stone-ground, whole-grain and natural foods. Note the store’s impressive array of Bob’s reasonably priced soy flour, bulgur wheat, pancake mix, and gluten-free flours and bread mixes.  

 Click Here to download a comparison chart of local chains (cost of Milk, eggs, bread, delivery, etc…). (52KB PDF)

Some tips
  • Buy less expensive store brands. The boxes aren’t pretty, but the ingredients are the same.
  • Browse outer aisles for dairy, produce, meats and seafood first, then check inside aisles for processed foods. You’ll buy less of the bad stuff.
  • Location, location, location. Companies pay to plant pricey items at eye level. The real deals are above and below.
  • Those end-of-the-aisle promotions? Total impulse buys. The store can’t sell such items—which often are not discounted—and you don’t really need them.
  • Cut coupons. Lots of markets are double-matching them, saving you big money.
  • Buy non-food items such as batteries at Wal-Mart, Costco or Target, where they’re cheaper.
  • The supermarket is not the place to buy cereal. Target is.

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