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Grocery prices

Original post made by Joe, Barron Park, on Jun 30, 2009

I am curious about grocery price comparisons.
How do Piazza, Safeway, TraderJoes & MollieStones compare?

Are Piazza prices on a par with Safeway or higher?
Is MollieStones the highest of all?

What are your experiences...?


Comments (33)

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:11 am

Prices - I'd rate Trader Joe's , then Safeway with Piazzas and Mollie Stone pretty equal.
Produce - Piazza's, Mollie Stone, Trader Joe's then Safeway
Selection - Safeway, Mollie Stones, Piazza, Trader Joe's
Meat - Piazza (real butchers!)
Kosher products - Mollie Stones
Gluten free - Piazzas
Salad Bar and hot entrees - Piazzas
Bakery - Piazzas

My favorite grocery store - Nob Hill in Mountain View, good prices, produce, selection

Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:13 am

svatoid is a registered user.

If you like Asian food, try Ranch 99 on Grant Road in Mountain View> they also have a large produce and fresh meat and seafood section, as well as hot asian food to go. And if you do find what you want there, the Nob Hill that Palo Alto mom mentioned above is right next door.

Posted by Comparison shopper
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2009 at 11:16 am

I like this question. I have my own impression of these stores, but what we need is a short list of comparable items, and a list of their prices. Everyone can help.
I suggest:
Half gallon of 1% milk
Loaf of Health Nut bread
Kellogg Corn Flakes, 15 oz.?
Quaker Oats, 18 oz.
Ben & Jerry's Vanilla ice cream (size?)
Coffee beans Starbucks 12 oz?
I'm not sure of the package sizes, but this could be a good start for some information.

Posted by All too expensive
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Joe, you obviously don't do too much grocery shopping. Safeway is the cheapest on your list that's why it's so crowded. After that Safeway in Mountain View has even better prices that's why I always shop at Costco or Safeway in Mountain View.

Posted by Nut head
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I think TJ is the cheapest, but has limitations on selection and size. Safeway can have some comparable deals if you are a Safeway club member and shop accordingly with some flexibility.

You can't buy those 1.75qt boxes of ce cream at TJ, but at safeway, the Lucerne ice cream is usually only $2.50 for 1, and its pretty darn good too.

Whole chickens were only $.79/lb at the shoreline safeway yesterday. Awesome deal - beats even Costco, I believe. If you smell some mesquite grilled chicken this weekend...its coming from my house.

TJ salad mixes are really good..slightly cheaper than Safeway. Safeway's brand of in-house bread is decent, not as good as Acme or Semifreddi's, but its really cheap. Safeway often has good Litehouse or Marie's salad dressing for a great deal.

I love Piazza's and Mollie Stones, but they definitely are more expensive, so I usually save them for special situations. MS produce is incredible. I love the cheese smell in Piazzas. Plus, Piazza's has a nice butcher that will answer questions. Safeway has a lot of meat, but I don't think they'll custom cut much or help you out.

I think of all these stores as tools in my toolbox, so I'm often going to at least 2 to by weekly groceries.

Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 30, 2009 at 4:33 pm

On butchers - I had a great experience at New Year's with the butcher at Safeway in MV. Looking for a standing rib roast, trimmed to my mother's specific instructions, separated from the bone and retied. "No problem" was the reply, "come back in 5 minutes." They did the job at a price that was less than half the butcher shop on San Antonio. I don't think the meat was absolute highest quality, but there were no complaints around the table.

Posted by anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2009 at 9:49 am

Mollie Stones is by far the most expensive

Posted by another shopper
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 10:38 am

Target actually has some good prices on cereal and packaged coffee.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2009 at 10:38 am

I have found butchers very helpful within their constraints. Safeway (Midtown and Cal Ave Mtn View) are usually as helpful as they can be but are not knowledgeable. Piazzas are really helpful and if they don't have what you want, they send you where they know it is available. This happened to me recently and they sent me to JJ & (?) in College Terrace where they had exactly what I wanted and went out of their way to do it just right for me (beef kidney) which took them time for something that is really very cheap meat.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 1, 2009 at 10:54 am

What about Whole Foods?

Posted by One from Midtown
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2009 at 11:11 am

If you are willing to look at small box operations, I strongly recommend JJ&F Market in College Terrace for meat and produce and the Milk Pail for fabulous and very reasonably priced produce and a wide variety of cheeses.

Personally, I try to stay away from Safeway which, except for stuff on sale, can actually be more expensive than many other operations (especially for its produce, which I find horribly overpriced and at best mediocre).

Posted by Steven
a resident of Ventura
on Jul 1, 2009 at 11:31 am

I live close to Mollie Stone's and I almost never shop there because it is too expensive. Mountain View Safeway gets my business almost every time because it is the cheapest and has the biggest selection. In particular, if I compare Safeway's cereal, milk, and meat prices with Mollie Stone's, Safeway comes out cheaper in a big way. I should add that Target and Walmart have the best cereal and milk prices. If you use lactose-free milk, Target sells a half gallon of Lactaid brand for about $3.39, way cheaper than everybody else.

For fruit, I prefer shopping at the weekend farmer's markets. At the California Ave one, I get a half flat (6 baskets) of organic strawberries for $10. For organic, that's a great deal!

Piazza's always seems expensive to me, but in fairness I rarely go in. If I go in at all, it's because I just ate Rick's ice cream :-)

Posted by Trade-offs
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2009 at 11:34 am

Safeway's produce is somewhat more expensive than Piazza's, but the trade-off is that Safeway's is much less fresh (therefore, less flavorful and nutritive) and there are fewer good organic selections. Piazza's is my FIRST stop for produce. No question. For standard packaged items, Safeway is lower priced, but their selection is limited. Again, fewer organic and specialty items if you are person who really loves to cook.

Cheese, wine...selection is much nicer at Piazza's...but it's not cheap. I shop both stores. I go to Safeway once a week for staples: flour, milk, butter, etc. I walk or bike to Piazza's almost daily for fresh items to round out menus. I go to Trader Joe's now and then when it's convenient to make the extra stop. Their selection is limited but they have great prices on some items. I hate that they package so much of their produce in plastic.

Piazza's also has lots of locally grown produce with regular deliveries so everything is nice and fresh. With produce, fresher is better. Something that has been sitting on the shelf for days is a waste of money.

JJ&F is a sweet little family store that serves their neighborhood nicely. When I'm in that neighborhood I have occasionally stopped in...but it's not terrificly convenient for me so I don't get there much. Butchers at Piazza's and JJ&F consistently give great service when you need special cuts.

Posted by aworkingmon
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 1, 2009 at 11:46 am

When my husband was unemployed, we started going to Milk Pail in Mountain View for produce. Very good prices, good selection. I love Trader Joe's for ready-made salads, great buys on frozen fish, and produce. Piazza's has it for meat.

Posted by ag
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 11:51 am

I actually made a comparison about a year ago of a dozen grocery items between Safeway and Piazza (bread, fruit, rice, jam, etc.) TEN of the items were more expensive at Safeway than at Piazza. The items at Safeway ranged from 9% more expensive than Piazza to more than DOUBLE what they cost at Piazza.

Add to that the fact that Piazza's produce is far better than Safeway's - I never waste my time at Safeway. I buy certain things at Trader Joe's that are cheaper, but Piazza is my grocey store of choice. For Kosher items, I go to Mollie Stones, but Mollie Stones is generally more expensive than the others, except for their sushi.

Posted by soccer mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2009 at 11:55 am

Every two weeks I head up to Redwood City to shop at Discount Grocery Outlet on Broadway at Maple. Best prices for wine (good selection in the $3.99 range. Milk ($2.19 per gallon), gourmet coffee - compare to Starbucks ($4.99 lb) and all staples. Boxes of cereal less than $2. Pasta at 89 cents a bag. Canned goods - canned ravioli at 89 cents. Great prices on lunch meat 1/2 of Piazzas. Orowheat bread at $1.98 per loaf. Discount grocery also has toiletries, but not the best prices.

Costco for dog food, toilet paper and papertowels, eggs, romaine lettuce and meat - although Safeway's meat prices are coming down.

Walmart for toiletries.

Produce is tough. Piazza's has a discount rack and sometimes you can get lucky. I do buy produce at Discount Grocery and Piazza and roadside fruitstands and farmer's markets.

Posted by marshmama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 12:42 pm

No one has mentioned buying in bulk at Whole Foods - grains, herbs, etc. It is the most economical. Also Smart & Final in Redwood City has good deals on selected items - not so great on fresh items though.

Posted by jway
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2009 at 3:19 pm

Piazzas is my neighborhood grocery...we call it Piranhas! It's a lot cheaper than Mollie Stone through - prices at MS are hideous. If you read the Piazza's circular and shop from that, you can get your money's worth.

I love Milk Pail for produce and all the good stuff, shop TJ (begrudgingly), and supplement w/ staples from Bailey Park Safeway in MV. Ranch 99 when we want cheap meat & seafood - miss Golden Phoenix.

Yup, pretty much do all the shopping in MV...PA native...sad.

Posted by Mireya
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 1, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Wal-Mart in Mountain View usually has the best prices for a certain limited amount of goods. They don't offer produce or meats (other than frozen foods, hot dogs, etc...). However, Wal-Mart can save you quite a bit of money for bread, eggs, milk, ice cream, cereal, coffee, soda, etc... It is also the cheapest place to find a wide variety of health products.

I know that there is some bad sentiments regarding Wal-Mart, but we recently moved from a state where there was at least one Wal-Mart Supercenter and Sam's Club in every town. We miss them so much! You really do save a lot of money there!

Currently, we make a trip to Gilroy to visit the new Wal-Mart Supercenter about once a month. It is about 45 minutes away...but it is worth the drive!

We buy our produce and cheeses at the Milk Pail in Mountain View and our meat at Safeway in Menlo Park. Trader Joe's is great...but very limited. However, they have a nice, inexpensive selection of open and cook meals.

Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 1, 2009 at 6:32 pm

For least expensive:

Trader Joe's & Safeway using club card & hitting their sales.

Piazza's is less than Mollie Stone's, phenom customer service, some of their sales items on a par w/Safeway price-wise, & supremely good produce.

I avoid Mollie Stone's due to prices and because of a bad interaction with the owner years ago, ugh ugh ugh.

Posted by Mireya
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 1, 2009 at 7:26 pm

BTW, we were shocked by the prices of groceries when we moved here. We expected that the cost of living was going to be high; We just didn't realize that it would affect even the cost of basic groceries. I think that the price of groceries around here might be around 40% higher than where we lived before moving to California.

We are hoping that Wal-Mart will consider building a Supercenter somewhere just a little closer...and create real competition with the other big chains (Safeway, Whole Foods, etc...) in the area.

Posted by Rez
a resident of another community
on Jul 1, 2009 at 8:15 pm

Target is a treasure chest of low prices. Examples Peets coffee beans for $7.99 (goes for $10.99 at Safeway), Simply Orange Juice for $3.39 (pay up to $5 elsewhere), Cherrios for $3 (usually over $4). Just wish Target would open up a meat and produce section, so I could do one-stop grocery shopping there.

I have to agree with Safeway being the most economical on this list, especially if you use their discount card. Piazza has nicer produce and bakery goods but at a higher price. Trader Joe has good deals on lots of interesting foods but there is no way I could do all my shopping there. Too limited. Mollie Stone has more upscale selections but at higher prices. I just wish there was one magic store that had it all: low prices, wide selection of good foods, and good service. Who needs all this driving here for this and there for that?

Posted by The Old Grocery Hag
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jul 1, 2009 at 9:33 pm

The conspiracy theorist in me suspects that "Joe" might have planted his question looking to take the price pulse of the local community for some sales & marketing data ....
No offense meant,"Joe," if you are just a regular citizen looking for where to get the best deals on groceries. But I read this Town Forum posting yesterday, and today when I went to Safeway to do my grocery shopping I noticed for the first time that Safeway has numerous tags on their shelves touting "New Low Price!" These appear to be permanent mark-downs, rather than a short term sale price. Remember when Wal-Mart "rolled back" their prices, and used a black/yellow happy face in it's campaign? Nob Hill did something similar with their prices a few years back too.

I do my shopping primarily at the Menlo Park Safeway and the Menlo Park Trader Joe's. There are some definite pricing trends, and therefore some definite shopping patterns due to those pricing trends.

MILK - $2.99 per gallon at Trader Joes.
Safeway's prices are easily TWICE that for comparable milk. Therefore, I only buy milk(or Half & Half) at Safeway when I am desperate - we are completely out of milk and it's either after 9pm, or I am too dog-tired to go to BOTH Safeway and Trader Joe's. Safeway stopped carrying the Stremick's brand milk - it was the best tasting milk ever.

There are some products that are only available at Trader Joe's. There are some products that are only available at Safeway.
There are some products that are only available at Drager's.
There are some products that are only available at Piazza's.
There are some products that are only available at Nob Hill.
You get the point....

It did seem as if Safeway upped some of their prices immediately after opening the newly remodeled Menlo Park store. There are benefits and drawbacks to EVERY store mentioned thus far in this thread. But I shop all over.

Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 1, 2009 at 9:35 pm

My "magic store" is still Nob Hill, but its a good 15 minute drive (but has great prices, produce, selection and meat - Piazza's butchers are still better).

There is virtually no chance you will see a new Walmart, much less a Walmart supercenter anywhere near here. Too much anti-walmart sentiment and zoning in most places won't allow that large of a store.

Posted by picky
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 1, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Like others, I buy the cheap basics at Safeway, but go elsewhere, like Piazza's for meat and produce. Ground beef from Safeway is often crunchy, and tastes suspiciously like offal. Not worth eating at any price. Safeway's milk, specifically the 2 gallon bundle, is a "loss leader" designed to compete with Costco, so I go there mainly for the milk (I'm not a Costco member). I also like their policy of hiring disabled people (at least at the Calif. Ave/MV store), but wish they'd get rid of the fund raisers outside the doors. Trader Joe's may have the cheapest prices around on things like coffee and butter, but every time I go there I end up buying far too much that wasn't on my shopping list .. it's too seductive! I avoid the Milk Pail because it's not possible to shop there without being rude - too crowded.

Posted by resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 1, 2009 at 10:16 pm

I shop almost soley at Whole Foods. Call me an organic snob I guess. Whole Foods has the best and widest selection of organic foods around. I can always rely on obtaining fresh food. It's a one stop shop for me. Organic is expensive, but, at least I can rest a little more assured that my kid won't have hormonal issues.

I used to shop at Milk Pail which has great prices, but it's so crowded on weekends you have to fight to get through. And with so many people touching everything, you have to wonder with Swine Flu and everything how clean anything is.

Posted by shopping
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 1, 2009 at 10:42 pm

I love the meat quality and sale prices for meats at Mollie Stones but find their prices for staples astronomical. Worst is what I observe to be regular pattern of sale price ite
s being sold at regular prices at the checkstand. Anyone else observe this?

Posted by Liz
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 1, 2009 at 11:59 pm

For quality, price, selection and helpful staff I shop at Piazzas. And sometimes for meat and deli items at JJ&F. I love the farmers' market in MV. The Milk Pail is great but impossible at weekends because of the crowd (haven't been there since they expanded though).

I rarely shop at Safeway anymore except for some basics like tp or detergent when I don't feel up to standing in line at Costco. The quality of Safeway's 'fresh' food is not very good and deteriorates quickly - for example, have you noticed the smell as you walk past the seafood department?

I find Mollie Stones unbelievably frustrating: 1. they are pricey, 2. for a store that never seems to have very many shoppers they always have the slowest checkout, and 3. you must watch how they ring you up because in the past 3 or 4 months we have found at least half a dozen pricing errors and I have started to wonder if it is deliberate since people rarely check their receipts.

To whomever was asking, no one mentions Whole Foods because they are not cheap.

Posted by Cheapskate
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 2, 2009 at 1:41 am

First and foremost, the cheapest strategy is usually to shop the sales. I religiously read the weekly ads for Safeway, Piazza's, and Mollie Stone (as well as all the drugstores), and end up getting 90% of my "on sale" stuff at Safeway (with my Club Card), because their sale prices are usually the best for most items. One thing (that is not an issue for our family of four) is that Safeway sale items must now often be purchased in large quantities to get the super-good deals — this can be a problem for single shoppers. One frustration is that the Safeway in Palo Alto is so small that they often do not even carry items listed in their ads, so I do my major Safeway shopping at the store in Menlo Park (the one in Mountain View is closer to me, but carries fewer items and runs out of stuff faster).

Milk — Costco consistently wins big, if you can use 2 gallons at a time. Otherwise, Walgreens and Longs/CVS are — surprisingly — usually cheaper than any grocery store for single gallons.

Produce — the Milk Pail in Mountain View (corner of California and San Antonio). They often get produce that is slightly irregular or "overripe" (which often means just right for eating!) from local growers and distributors and put it on sale really cheap. So their prices vary a lot for given items, but you'll almost always find great deals there. And it's a lot of fun to shop there — lots of interesting specialty items, and sometimes good deals on cheeses. They also carry a lot of bulk items in bins such as grains, cereals, nuts, etc. Just don't go on the weekend if you can help it, as several above have mentioned.

Specialty items at good prices — Trader Joe's (specific things we like, such as their Dijon mustard) and Costco (wonderful Acme bread at the best prices).

Hit-or-miss, but get what you can there — Grocery Outlet in Redwood City (corner of Maple and Broadway). They carry overstocks, test-marketed or phased-out items, and close-dated perishable items (be sure and check expiration dates on everything that has them!), so you can never depend on them to have any one particular item, but if they have it that week, it's probably at the best price you'll find anywhere. Quality runs from the fanciest gourmet brands to generics depending on what they got in that week. (Plus, they always have basics such as milk, bread, some produce, etc., but not necessarily at rock-bottom prices.)

Another place to check out in Redwood City is FoodsCo near Broadway and Woodside Rd. — a lot of Hispanic items, and some wonderfully-priced items (especially produce and sale items) mixed in with some surprisingly high prices on other things, so shop carefully.

Posted by Mireya
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 2, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Mollie Stone's is extremely expensive! It is almost like shopping at a convenience store! The Safeway in Palo Alto always runs out of items that are on sale. I have gone three times to purchase cherries...only to find them out of stock.

BTW, thanks for all of the helpful information everyone. I wish that there was more legitimate competition in the area to bring down the prices of groceries. As a rule, my husband and I avoid Whole Foods and Mollie Stones (except for the occasional sale prices on a particular item).

What about Costco? I haven't been to one since high school. Do they sell non-bulk groceries like Sam's Club?

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 2, 2009 at 5:43 pm

I'm always shocked by how expensive things are at Mollie Stones. I'm not actually sure who keeps it in business. It's the only grocery I avoid because I consider it too expensive.

Piazza's and Whole Foods are comparable, but I think WF is a bit pricier. Piazza's does have a nice produce selection and its specials are good. But I go there for the quality, not the bargain.

Midtown Safeway is hit or miss. No bargain at all without a club card except for store-brand items.

No one's mentioned the Andronico's at Stanford--nice grocery store, similar to Piazza's.

Country Sun actually has some reasonable bulk-food prices and, yes, the Ranch 99 in MV is impressive.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm

Quality of produce at Midtown Safeway is rather hit and miss. I have had some very good cherries, grapes, strawberries at both Piazzas and Safeway as well as some very poor ones at both. Since many of these items appear to come from the same farms or distributors, a great deal depends on how long they have been in the store before you buy them.

Posted by Rez
a resident of another community
on Jul 2, 2009 at 10:13 pm

I wish Lunardi's would open a store in Palo Alto. I use to live near the one in Los Gatos and never shopped anywhere else.

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