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Jamaica Plain's Stop & Shop is in Middle of the Pack for Prices in Boston

We price tested seven supermarkets in the eight Boston neighborhoods Patch serves. The result? Trader Joe's is cheapest (though you won't find rotisserie chicken there.)

Supermarkets — they're big news in Boston. Of course, we in JP were at the epicenter of controversy when a Whole Foods replaced Hi-Lo. This year, Charlestown is embroiled in a debate about Whole Foods taking over Johnnie's Foodmaster.

At the heart of these discussions is whether we, as Bostonians, will have access to affordable food.

To test prices, the Boston Patch editors each went out to various supermarkets in our respective neighborhoods on Thursday, Sept. 6. Here's our shopping list:

  • MacIntosh Apples (price per pound)
  • Bananas (price per pound)
  • Zucchini (price per pound)
  • Corn (price per pound)
  • 2% Milk (gallon)
  • Large eggs (dozen)
  • Whole rotisserie chicken
  • Box of cereal
  • Can of chicken noodle soup
  • White bread (loaf)
  • Toilet paper (six pack)

In some cases, prices had to be approximated due to some stores not carrying a specific item (in the case of Macintosh apples) or because some stores sold certain goods by the pound while other sold it by the piece.

To keep it apples-to-apples, we sought ought the cheapest available option in each store. So, yes, that excludes some of the higher-end, higher-quality organic products.

Here is the list of the supermarkets, from costliest to cheapest. Please note we had to exclude the whole rotisserie chicken because it isn't sold at Trader Joe's. If you include that item, Whole Foods becomes the most expensive store:

  1. , South End — $24.84
  2. Whole Foods, Cambridge Street, West End — $24.05
  3. , West Roxbury — $23.64
  4. , JP — $21.76
  5. , Charlestown — $20.79
  6. Shaw's Landmark Center, Fenway — $20.61
  7. , Back Bay — $18.06

 


Fenway Shaws Charlestown Foodmaster West End Whole Foods W. Rox Roche Brothers Back Bay Trader Joe's JP Stop & Shop South End Foodie's AVERAGE MacIntosh Apples (lb.) $1.89 $1.99 $1.99 $1.99 $1.49 $1.99 $1.79 $1.88 Bananas (lb.) $0.74 $0.79 $0.79 $0.79 $0.51 $0.69 $0.79 $0.73 Zucchini (lb.) $1.99 $1.99 $2.49 $1.99 $1.84 $1.99 $1.49 $1.97 Corn (lb.) $0.50 $0.42 $0.63 $0.63 $0.63 $0.75 $0.49 $0.58 2% Milk (gallon) $3.49 $2.79 $3.59 $3.99 $3.39 $1.69 $4.39 $3.33 Large eggs (dozen) $2.99 $1.99 $2.89 $2.49 $1.99 $2.59 $1.99 $2.42 Whole rotisserie chicken $7.99 $6.99 $9.99 $5.00

Not sold

$7.99 $8.73 $6.67 Box of cereal $3.59 $2.39 $2.50 $2.69 $1.99 $2.99 $3.89 $2.86 Can of chicken noodle soup $1.99 $0.75 $2.79 $1.99 $1.49 $2.69 $1.83 $1.93 White bread (loaf) $1.39 $2.99 $2.99 $2.39 $2.49 $1.39 $4.49 $2.59 Toilet paper (six pack) $2.04 $4.69 $3.39 $4.69 $2.24 $4.99 $3.69 $3.68 TOTAL $28.60 $27.78 $34.04 $28.64 $18.06 $29.75 $33.57 $28.63
Fenway Shaws Charlestown Foodmaster West End Whole Foods W. Rox Roche Brothers Back Bay Trader Joe's Jamaica Plain Stop & Shop South End Foodie's AVERAGE Without Prepared Chicken $20.61 $20.79 $24.05 $23.64 $18.06 21.76 $24.84 $21.96 Produce Total $5.12 $5.19 $5.90 $5.40 $4.47 5.42 $4.56 $5.15 Processed and Prepared Total $13.57 $10.13 $15.28 $9.68 $3.48 13.67 $14.45 $11.47 Milk, Eggs, Bread $7.87 $7.77 $9.47 $8.87 $7.87 5.67 $10.87 $8.34
MMRosenthal September 13, 2012 at 01:21 PM
According to your figures, it only costs JP residents $3.08 cents more to purchase some of the best organic groceries available, if they shop at Whole Foods in JP. From all the hoopla before they opened, it sounded like Whole Food's prices were going to be much higher. The price for their rotisserie chicken IS outrageously expensive for something that costs $4.95 at BJ's. So thank you for not skewing the other prices by including it in your totals. I still shop at Stop and Shop for some of my groceries, buy my fried chicken at Alex Chimis and my fresh produce (and occasional desserts) at Whole Foods. Indeed, Jamaica Plain residents are very blessed to have such a wide variety of grocery choices available to them. Thanks for taking the time to document the findings for your "readers."
Matt September 13, 2012 at 01:30 PM
You are aware that all organic products are sprayed down heavily with pesticides upon entering the US to prevent entry of foreign pest/ insects.
DS September 13, 2012 at 02:04 PM
@MMRosenthal - yes, the $3.08 more at Whole Foods seems negligible when compared to Stop n' Shop in terms of overall average of food prices. You're forgetting however, that the cost is multiplied by the amount of food purchased. So, that 3 bucks is going to be multiplied several times over during a typical shopping experience at Whole Foods, resulting in a significantly higher final shopping bill - one that is unsustainable for many middle and lower income shoppers in and around JP. I would also take issue with your comment about JP having a "wide variety of grocery store choices." Essentially, we have Whole Foods, City Feed, Harvest (all prohibitively expensive for a wide swath of shoppers), Stop n' Shop, and a collection of eclectic bodegas. Parkside is lacking in terms of grocery options, and I for one, would love to see something the likes of Trader Joe's enter the area (wishful thinking perhaps).
Maura September 13, 2012 at 07:06 PM
There are many problems with the approach taken in this exercise. When you purchase items at WFM you are purchasing food that meets a different quality standard than what you purchase at nearly all of the other stores mentioned. You may or may not have purchased a similar item when you look at the ingredients. Are there artificial colors, preservatives, antibiotics, hormones? Part of the choice of buying food at WFM is that you know you won't be buying those things. So unless you are buying the same (or equivalent by make up) products, you aren't comparing apples to apples at all.
Maura September 16, 2012 at 06:54 PM
I'm not sure how many other numbers need checking, but you will be hard pressed to find a gallon of milk at Stop and Shop for $1.69. The current cost is $4.09. Perhaps you should re-do your math.
Chris Helms (Editor) September 16, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Thanks for the attention to detail, Maura. That is the price that was listed under the gallon of 2 percent milk the day I did the exercise. Maybe the item had been shelved improperly or there was a special?
Maura September 16, 2012 at 09:35 PM
That's the price for a quart.
Chris Helms (Editor) September 16, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Thanks, Maura. I must have looked at it wrong, then. I'll go by Stop & Shop next chance I get to confirm that and will fix the problem. This would move Stop & Shop up to being more expensive the Whole Foods!
Bob from JP September 16, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Just look at the other prices - no need to even bother checking as there is no reason why S&S would be 1/2 the cost of everything else

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