Dining in California is fun, but if you are going to be in California for a long time it is going to get expensive if you go out to eat all the time. An easy way to get over this is, of course, to go to a super market. California certainly has its share of markets. While there are your traditional national chains (Target, Walmart, etc.), I am going to focus on some California chains.
Trader Joes is now a national chain, but its roots are firmly founded in California. Trader Joe’s describes itself as a “your unique grocery store.” In it you will find a lot of organic, vegetarian, imported, and unusual frozen food. With its uniqueness comes a “unique” (high) price.
The first of the big three, this is a large market that caters to the higher end of the market going buyers. Their prices are higher, but you will find all the best items a market can provide. There will be a deli, in-store coffee house (usually Starbucks), televisions at the register, and even on the shopping carts!
Ralphs is Vons’ main competition. The prices are not as high as Vons, but you will still find everything the same as Vons. If you use Ralph’s free membership club card you will almost always beat out Vons.
Is known as number three of the big three. In this store you will find quality produce, but not quite all of the services you will find in Vons and Ralphs. The prices, however, will be lower on average than Vons and Ralphs, so if you don’t mind not watching television at the checkout stand or buying an espresso while you shop this might be your place.
Not in the one of the big three, this store got famous for its meat. Most grocery stores these days in California do not have a meat counter, but you can guarantee that Staters Brothers will have one. We have put them to the test with some of our less known cuts and they have always done a good job. Less gimmicks (no club cards, no double coupons, etc.) at this store means that if you a looking for the best deal without already having a coupon this is your store.
These two grocery stores are known as “do-it-yourself” stores. Very minimalist stores, they save on prices by having the least amount of personnel possible. The produce is usually what is considered “category 2” food meaning that it passes inspection, but isn’t going to be the best produce possible. At the checkout you will not have bagger and so you will have to bag all the groceries yourself.
Fiesta Market/Rio Rancho/Cardenas
These are the big three Mexican shopping markets. Being so close to the border, you better believe that we are going to have Mexican style shopping markets. Catering to their Hispanic clientele you will find that these markets will always be the lowest when it comes to Hispanic foods (tortillas, salsa, etc.). Also one thing a lot of people don’t understand is that Hispanic people typically buy produce every day. This means these markets will have the lowest prices on produce, but if you don’t get there at the beginning of the day you might find that it has been picked through already.
This is the newest market on the horizon. A British invasion backed by Testco, this store has brought a new model to the supermarket business in California. Touting new low prices, this store simplifies itself by only carrying a limited amount of brands. Everything thing at this store is fresh and in small quantities (no bulk here). When you check out you scan the items yourself and bag them. The computer will tell you how much you owe. This store does not accept any coupons, but if you go there early in the morning you will find many items marked 50% or more off. This store does not like to keep any inventory more than a day.
Anyhow, this is just a primer for some of the stores that you will encounter here in Southern California. It is by no means an exhaustive list. There are several other stores that I have not mentioned. Also, I have listed these stores in their relative cost ranges (highest to lowest), but depending on the item and the day you will find deals at any of them. There are many ways of getting the most from these stores (maybe if I am lucky Denise will write about it one day), but that is for a different blog entry.