Food and cooking on a budget in Manhattan?
June 28, 2013 5:18 AM   Subscribe

How does one do food shopping and eat healthily on a very constrained budget in Manhattan? I'm looking for resources: specific stores that have 'dented' food items, websites for good local deals, etc.

I am trying to coupon, but the deals don't seem to be super great in Manhattan at places like the Food Emporium or Gristedes. As for Chinatown and Flushing, I do frequent those, but obviously they have a specific set of foods that they carry that are a good deal. Lastly, I know of the Aldi in East Harlem, though it is a little bit of a trek...

Are there other tips that you New Yorkers have? FWIW, I'm omnivorous.
posted by raspberry jam and clothes iron to Food & Drink (21 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
I do a lot of shopping at Trader Joe's and Fairway.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:30 AM on June 28, 2013

Best answer: Yes, Trader Joes. For dry food items (pasta/rice) try 99cent stores. The fruit sold by street vendors is often a good deal. I find Fresh Direct to actually be a good deal on some items and if you looks up coupon codes for them online you can usually find 15% off or free delivery.
posted by greta simone at 5:39 AM on June 28, 2013

Best answer: For super-cheap produce in Chinatown, there's a strip of Forsyth St. just below Canal -- alongside the Manhattan Bride exit ramp -- where a bunch of street vendors set up their carts. They specialize in bruised and imperfect fruits and vegetables, sold at big discounts.
posted by neroli at 5:42 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would recommend a subscription to either The Grocery Game or Coupon Mom.

These sites provide detailed lists that pair what's on sale with coupons, so you can get tons of stuff for nearly free. I haven't paid for deodorant in years! (and I have a bunch of them, so I'm not going around stinky)

One good thing to note is that you can do some shopping at drugstores. CVS and Walgreens allow 'stacking', so if an item has a store coupon AND you have a manufacturers coupon, you can use both on one item. Sure, the selection isn't stellar, but they have some basics, tuna, soup, mandarin oranges...

I do the CVS loyalty card, so I'm always getting coupons, I get my makeup very inexpensively, same for shampoo, razors, toothpaste, etc.

You can also print coupons on-line.

But I really liked The Grocery Game, it was fun, easy and I got amazing deals on stuff. Once I got the hang of it, I stopped subscribing, but it really does help teach you how to coupon optimally.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:45 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Why not rely on a food bank for now? Bank your money toward big purchases that will help you grow your income. Remember to give back when you can.
posted by parmanparman at 5:45 AM on June 28, 2013

Looks like there are a few ALDI locations in NYC. I slashed my food budget in half shopping there. You won't recognize the brand names, but they're SPOT-ON in taste to the national brand. They offer a double money-back guarantee, where if you don't like an item, they will not only replace it but also give you your money back. You won't be disappointed, every shopper I've converted to ALDI has thanked me for it - it's an amazing money saver!
posted by Falwless at 5:49 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Jack's 99 Cent is kind of ridiculous (I've been to the one by Penn Station). My local C-Town in Brooklyn has some dollar packs of slightly old veggies which are probably a good deal if you use them quickly. You may want to see if there are any somewhat convenient less-fancy grocery stores like C-Town and Met Foods, rather than, say Food Emporium; in my experience they are a bit cheaper. Good luck!
posted by mlle valentine at 6:19 AM on June 28, 2013

Best answer: Big Apple Meat Market and Stiles Farmers Market on 9th Avenue just below 42nd Street.
posted by agent99 at 6:22 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Buying fruit and vegetables from street vendors is a good way to go. They aren't in every neighborhood and tend to get lost in the landscape, but keep your eyes open. Definitely cheaper.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:34 AM on June 28, 2013

Just wanted to point out that places like Food Emporium and Gristedes are well known rip-offs. In the city you pay a surcharge for the convenience of buying all your groceries in one place (vs. the suburbs where economies of scale win out in giant supermarkets). You'll do better getting your meat from the neighborhood butcher shop (they can tell you what's cheap that day, and you can plan your meal around it), fruits and veg from street stands (if organic is not a requirement), dry goods from 99c stores, etc.
posted by telegraph at 6:47 AM on June 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

I know it has an up-front cost which may prove not worth it to you, but perhaps Costco might be worth it to you? A $55 membership, but then you can stock up on staples for much cheaper than at a regular grocery store.

Looks like there are a few ALDI locations in NYC.

Actually there are only two, one of which is in Rego Park which might as well be Mars, and then a bunch in New Jersey.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:52 AM on June 28, 2013

Go to a farmers market at the end of the day and see if there are any discounts for less-than-perfect produce. This works really well during tomato season--look for boxes of "ugly" tomatoes. Even at higher rent Greenmarkets like Union Square, there will be farmers who slash prices at the end of the day for items they don't want to haul back home.
posted by kathryn at 7:10 AM on June 28, 2013

Best answer: Another vote for Jack's on 32nd St between 7th and 6th. The food actually ranges from 99 cents to $2, I believe. There's lots of junk stuff, and lots of high turn over of product, so it pays to pop in frequently. But I've gotten amazing things there. They will often get brand name or boutique foods that might have package misprints, or are overstocks. They have a refrigerated and a freezer section, so it isn't all dry goods. I used to do pretty extensive shopping there, and I never got anything that was spoiled.
posted by kimdog at 7:12 AM on June 28, 2013

Best answer: Keyfoods is usually my place for cheap protein. They've got meat on sale regularly (99c per lb for chicken breasts? yes please!) as well as frozen vegetables although I don't really buy much of anything else there unless it's on sale. They do have decent coupons as well. (I subscribe to the school of thought that certain frozen veggies are just as good as fresh- ie broccoli, spinach, corn. Frozen greenbeans suck)

Seconding the chinatown both right below canal, as well as the strip of grocery stores on Chrystie street near Grand.

Hitting up the greenmarket at union sq at the end of the day during the week (so mondays/wed/friday) and you can get some really good deals on less than perfect veggies, that can be refreshed by cold water, or are just fine cooked down into a sauce. The weekend farmers market is a madhouse, so it's totally not worth going.

Also asian supermarkets such as M2M or Sunrise mart will occasionally have really good deals on vegetables, but they tend to sell them in small quantities.
posted by larthegreat at 7:12 AM on June 28, 2013

Food Emporium or Gristedes

Those places are complete ripoffs. Avoid at all costs. The fact that you're willing to travel to Flushing and Chinatown shows you're mobile, which is great.

Trader Joe's is pretty good (except I find their produce to be less than desirable). Produce from Street Vendors is hit-or-miss. Don't plan on buying it if you're hoping it'll last a week. Instead, it's a buy-and-use-in-two-days kind of thing. There are grocery stores that can be pretty reasonable, sometimes. Western Beef (like the one between 9th and 10th on 16th street) and Fine Fare can have some deals.
posted by Stynxno at 7:14 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: -2nding Stiles (both locations).
-Limit meat intake (beans, kale, etc. for protein)
-Buy spices in Curry Hill
-Trader Joes
-Hunts Point later in the morning (quite a trek though)
-Greenmarkets in the late afternoon

If you have sufficient time, making the following items is pretty easy and requires basically flour, eggs, water/oil, salt:
-tortillas (masa harina if you want corn tortillas)
-bread (plus yeast)
posted by melissasaurus at 7:19 AM on June 28, 2013

Why has no-one mentioned food coops?

When I was significantly poorer than I am now, the PSFC was a real lifesaver.
posted by overhauser at 7:26 AM on June 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

This may be more of an outer borough thing, but look for neighborhood hole-in-the-wall produce stores - they often sell fruit and veggies at really good prices. (My partner is a native New Yorker and always refers to them as fruit stands, which makes me think of the sidewalk vendors, but they're indoor stores, that may have some of the cheaper produce displayed on the outside.) For the longest time they never registered on my radar, but if you can find one, you can save lots of money on produce.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 8:17 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's an ALDI in Manhattan. It's in upper Manhattan - but still. It's in the Costco, Target complex at 517 E 117th St. Pretty easy to get to by subway.

I don't know about the Fairways in Manhattan but the one in Red Hook regularly has giant bags of slightly bruised but perfectly good vegetables for about $2 outside the store. You never know what they're going to have though.
posted by rdnnyc at 8:33 AM on June 28, 2013

Best answer: This wouldn't be actionable until next year, but many CSAs in NYC have income-qualified subsidized shares available, and can take SNAP and/or arrange payment plans. Just Food is the CSA umbrella org and they also have farm markets that are aimed at lower income folks that might be a bit more wallet-friendly than the Greenmarkets.
posted by yarrow at 11:43 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have a couple hours a month, I recommend the Park Slope Food Coop. You have to work there 3 hours a month, and there are a variety of different jobs you can do. They sell a mix of products: some fancy and organic, some absolutely basic and cheaper than anywhere else around. If you can't stay on top of the 3 hours/month, and you let them build up, it's a drag. But as long as you can swing the time, it's a fantastic deal for lots of groceries (produce and packaged) as well as some housewares.
posted by pompelmo at 5:17 PM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older What's the best short term high speed cellular...   |   I can't sleep. I like sleep. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.