Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A College Student’s Guide to Groceries (in Manhattan)

It’s a question that should be added to the FAQ of Manhattanites: Where do you go grocery shopping? I mean, there can’t possibly be space for a regular grocery store, right? And prices must be outrageous, right? Wrong! (Well, depending on your definition of “regular” and “outrageous” …)

When it comes to the Lincoln Center area of Manhattan, there are actually quite a few options available, depending on your personal preferences. Here, I’ll attempt to enlighten you all on the nuances of each.

The Big-Name Chains

Whole Foods: This one is one of the closest stores to the Lincoln Center campus. It’s just a short walk to the Time Warner Building, down an escalator, and BAM! You’re smack dab in the middle of the busiest Whole Foods in the city. It’s got your standard Whole Foods fare, organic produce, free range meat, around 25 different varieties of dairy-free milk. My go-to in Whole Foods, though? The hot bar and prepared foods. When I’m just too lazy to make something myself, the hot bar at Whole Foods is my savior. There’s even a sushi bar and a Jamba Juice! But beware, Whole Foods is notoriously pricey and the lines can be absolutely ridiculous.

Trader Joe’s: Until recently, this was my ride-or-die. I mean, seriously, what’s not to love? There’s a great selection, the frozen food section is downright legendary, and the staff are so friendly! It’s even pretty cheap! Well, my friends, Trader Joe’s has two things standing in its way of total perfection: it’s 12 blocks from campus and it’s just too popular. The lines here can be almost as long as Whole Foods, and some products sell out almost immediately. If you’re going to Trader Joe’s go during off-hours (1 pm on Fridays is a great time. Tell your friends, just not too many).

The “Regular” Groceries

Morton Williams: This one might be your first instinct: 1 block from campus, open 24 hours, carries what you might consider to be your average grocery items. But don’t be fooled. While this one may seem convenient, it can easily sap you out of your allowance. You may be fooled into thinking that out of your two ultra convenient options, the other being Whole Foods, you’ll save a pretty penny by heading to Morton Williams. However, if there’s not a sale on what you want, you could end up spending just as much as you would at Whole Foods. My advice? Only come here for sale items.

Western Beef: Strange name, awesome grocery. The selection is here is amazing (and I’m not just saying that because it carries my preferred off-brand, Everyday Essentials). It’s not too far from campus, but the walk back does entail walking uphill, so beware and plan accordingly. In addition to being absolutely massive (on a Manhattan scale), the prices can’t be beat. There are constant sales and even regularly priced items are considerably less than what you would pay at Morton Williams. This one has usurped Trader Joe’s as my ride-or-die. It’s just that good.

The Convenience Stores

Duane Reade: There’s one on every block. And I mean every block. They’ve got a pretty large selection for a convenience store, and just like you might expect, they’ve got convenience store pricing. I don’t recommend buying here unless there’s a sale, in which case, stock up, because their sales tend to be pretty good. And keep an eye out on clearance items. Those items go wicked fast, and they are super cheap (45 cents for a box of pasta!). A surprise win is their egg prices. $2.49 for a dozen, cheapest out of all the options. Keep your Wellness card handy.

CVS: In my experience, their prices tend to be a little higher than Duane Reade, but they give you coupons galore after you purchase something. They have pretty consistent sales on candy, but typically don’t offer much else. If you’re a CVS fan, go for it, but if you can consider a switch, head over to Duane Reade. It’s not that far away.

The Conclusion

Stick to Western Beef and Trader Joe's if you ever find yourself in the Lincoln Center area. Don't be fooled by Morton Williams' proximity or the allure of Whole Foods. Keep your eyes peeled for sales and don't be afraid to try out the off-brand! May your grocery expeditions be successful from now on!

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