Author Topic: West Harlem/Upper Manhattan NYC grocery savings tips?  (Read 1422 times)

blake201

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West Harlem/Upper Manhattan NYC grocery savings tips?
« on: December 01, 2016, 01:22:24 PM »
Anyone here have some strategies for keeping a lean grocery budget in the West Harlem area? Favorite stores, ways to obtain coupons, monthly Costco trips, etc?

We just closed a few months ago on an amazing affordable housing apartment in Hamilton Heights, Harlem (an HDFC purchase--a newly renovated 3-bedroom for $1,300 a month including mortgage and maintenance). This was a huge win for our housing budget... but has really bloated our grocery budget.

When we lived in Brooklyn we were right near a Trader Joe's and about 4 different supermarkets, and kept our grocery bill well under $800/month (family of four with two young kids, one of whom has severe food allergies often requiring specific pricey food items).

Now we find ourselves regularly paying $1,200+ a month for groceries. Our closest stores are a Key Food, Food Universe, Fairway and Whole Foods, and I'm not aware of any local newspapers with good coupon sections. We also end up using Instacart and Freshdirect delivery sometimes lately, which is such a waste of $$$.

There is a Costco we could take the bus to (and a car service home), but haven't explored it yet. There's a Trader Joe's but it's a 20-minute subway ride away. I believe some people travel to BJs in the Bronx, too.

The other day an elderly woman was in front of me at the grocery line at Food Universe with a big pile of coupons and circulars. She loaded up TWO ENTIRE GROCERY carts of food for delivery, and her bill came to under $180.

Meanwhile I had half a cart of items that cost over $100.

Clearly I'm not doing this right.

onlykelsey

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Re: West Harlem/Upper Manhattan NYC grocery savings tips?
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2016, 01:31:46 PM »
Anyone here have some strategies for keeping a lean grocery budget in the West Harlem area? Favorite stores, ways to obtain coupons, monthly Costco trips, etc?

We just closed a few months ago on an amazing affordable housing apartment in Hamilton Heights, Harlem (an HDFC purchase--a newly renovated 3-bedroom for $1,300 a month including mortgage and maintenance). This was a huge win for our housing budget... but has really bloated our grocery budget.

When we lived in Brooklyn we were right near a Trader Joe's and about 4 different supermarkets, and kept our grocery bill well under $800/month (family of four with two young kids, one of whom has severe food allergies often requiring specific pricey food items).

Now we find ourselves regularly paying $1,200+ a month for groceries. Our closest stores are a Key Food, Food Universe, Fairway and Whole Foods, and I'm not aware of any local newspapers with good coupon sections. We also end up using Instacart and Freshdirect delivery sometimes lately, which is such a waste of $$$.

There is a Costco we could take the bus to (and a car service home), but haven't explored it yet. There's a Trader Joe's but it's a 20-minute subway ride away. I believe some people travel to BJs in the Bronx, too.

The other day an elderly woman was in front of me at the grocery line at Food Universe with a big pile of coupons and circulars. She loaded up TWO ENTIRE GROCERY carts of food for delivery, and her bill came to under $180.

Meanwhile I had half a cart of items that cost over $100.

Clearly I'm not doing this right.

Posting mostly to follow.  I'm in Harlem, too.  We buy a lot of our staples (big things of walnuts and oatmeal, for example) at the east Harlem Costco complex, buy perishable staples at the shady local grocer, and then make outings to Fairway or Trader Joe's or Best Yet on 120 (we're further south) for more interesting stuff.  If you're near the 1/2/3, you can make the Trader Joe's and ~98th Street fairway run pretty efficient, especially on weekend mornings or off times.

blake201

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Re: West Harlem/Upper Manhattan NYC grocery savings tips?
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2016, 01:39:15 PM »
Posting mostly to follow.  I'm in Harlem, too.  We buy a lot of our staples (big things of walnuts and oatmeal, for example) at the east Harlem Costco complex, buy perishable staples at the shady local grocer, and then make outings to Fairway or Trader Joe's or Best Yet on 120 (we're further south) for more interesting stuff.  If you're near the 1/2/3, you can make the Trader Joe's and ~98th Street fairway run pretty efficient, especially on weekend mornings or off times.

Does the East Harlem Costco have good prices on produce/meat/brand name items as well? Because of kiddo's allergies, we can buy some Kirkland brand items but for other staple/packaged things we have to go for specific safe brands (she has one safe brand of pasta, two safe brands of rice, two safe brands of oatmeal, etc).

I think we need to suss out the less crazy times for that Upper West Side Trader Joe's -- it's along my evening subway ride home on the 1, but that always seems to be the worst time to go.

We've been going to the Fairway on the water near 132nd because it's close biking/walking distance but the prices doesn't seem like as much of a savings over Key Food as they were in our Brooklyn Fairway.

I hadn't heard of Best Yet!

blake201

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Re: West Harlem/Upper Manhattan NYC grocery savings tips?
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2016, 01:47:54 PM »
P.S. I am really curious too about the whole couponing thing. I try to purchase items on sale based on the weekly circulars for the stores around us. But I don't know of local papers in Manhattan with good coupon sections?

And because we're limited to certain allergy-safe brands, my attempts to coupon haven't really worked out so far. I have a cousin who coupons in a SERIOUS way and barely pays anything for groceries or household items but she doesn't care what brands, she just goes with whatever she has coupons for.

The other thing I need to do is reassess all the meals we're eating and see if I can lower the cost per person per meal by changing proportions of cheaper items to pricier items. This is tricky because older kid can't have dairy or eggs and seems to crave protein in large amounts (so lots of pricey meat) and we eat relatively little carbs due to my chronic health condition (we eat a lot of vegetables and poultry and seafood and seeds/peanuts/legumes and meat).

So we wouldn't just have pasta or rice and beans for dinner ... they would be a side dish to the veggies and protein.

onlykelsey

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Re: West Harlem/Upper Manhattan NYC grocery savings tips?
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2016, 01:54:30 PM »
Posting mostly to follow.  I'm in Harlem, too.  We buy a lot of our staples (big things of walnuts and oatmeal, for example) at the east Harlem Costco complex, buy perishable staples at the shady local grocer, and then make outings to Fairway or Trader Joe's or Best Yet on 120 (we're further south) for more interesting stuff.  If you're near the 1/2/3, you can make the Trader Joe's and ~98th Street fairway run pretty efficient, especially on weekend mornings or off times.

Does the East Harlem Costco have good prices on produce/meat/brand name items as well? Because of kiddo's allergies, we can buy some Kirkland brand items but for other staple/packaged things we have to go for specific safe brands (she has one safe brand of pasta, two safe brands of rice, two safe brands of oatmeal, etc).

I think we need to suss out the less crazy times for that Upper West Side Trader Joe's -- it's along my evening subway ride home on the 1, but that always seems to be the worst time to go.

We've been going to the Fairway on the water near 132nd because it's close biking/walking distance but the prices doesn't seem like as much of a savings over Key Food as they were in our Brooklyn Fairway.

I hadn't heard of Best Yet!

I'm probably the worst person to ask about the Costco offerings because we're only two people with a very tiny fridge so we don't really get produce there (it goes bad), we don't eat meat, and we don't have brand-specific requirements. 

Best Yet is actually now called Best Market (2187 FDB).  I'm not sure it is better than Fairway, I think if I were closer to Fairway (I'm between 6th and 7th), I would probably go there, instead.  I haven't really priced them against each other, but think of them as relatively equivalent and go to whichever one is easier. 

Uptown is generally underserved by supermarkets, and it seems like a lot of them have an old-school paper circular system for coupons, which I don't really think is worth my time, honestly.  Fairway and Best Market have more modern coupon systems where you can sign up for email discounts, etc. 

I am a fan of the TJ/Fairway combo run on the UWS, although now that I'm 35 weeks pregnant, I'm pretty useless for food shopping for more than a bag at a time.  It can take some time, but I don't find standing on the subway with bags all that stressful if I'm not on my way to an appointment.  My husband's preferred method is to make repeated runs to the local place, which may not be as workable of a strategy with a newborn...

Not sure what neighborhood you work in, but you could check out grocery options there, as well.

One last idea: for non-perishables/diapers/cleaning supplies/etc, see what you can get on Amazon, assuming you have a doorman.    Then you're just shopping for fresh stuff.

Mtngrl

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Re: West Harlem/Upper Manhattan NYC grocery savings tips?
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2016, 02:21:52 PM »
You asked about couponing -- I don't know how much this will help in your situation, but most of the couponers I know don't do much with paper circulars anymore -- they get coupons online that you print at home. One site is coupons.com. Redplum.com is another. Mambo Spouts.com often has coupons for natural/organic foods. Another thing to do is to go to the manufacturer's website and/or Facebook page and see if they have any coupons posted there. If there is a product you like and use often, you can write to the manufacturer and tell them how much you love their product and they will usually respond by sending you coupons for discounted or free products. Obviously, you can't do this every month, but once a year or so it doesn't hurt to contact them.

I agree with looking into Amazon Grocery -- you may be able to find a lot of your specialty brands there. Also check out the Amazon warehouse -- they sell items that may be nearing their expiration date and things like that. Perfectly fine if it's a dry staple.

blake201

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Re: West Harlem/Upper Manhattan NYC grocery savings tips?
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2016, 02:28:03 PM »


Not sure what neighborhood you work in, but you could check out grocery options there, as well.

One last idea: for non-perishables/diapers/cleaning supplies/etc, see what you can get on Amazon, assuming you have a doorman.    Then you're just shopping for fresh stuff.

I work in Chelsea, near a Fairway and Whole Foods (so similar prices to our neighborhood). No doorman, but husband stays home and we do indeed use Amazon/Vitacost to get discount bulk items, diapers, etc. Though I wonder if CostCo would be cheaper for that stuff.

Does Fairway have something in addition to their email circular? It seems to only contain a few items each week, so maybe I'm missing something...

blake201

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Re: West Harlem/Upper Manhattan NYC grocery savings tips?
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2016, 02:29:10 PM »
You asked about couponing -- I don't know how much this will help in your situation, but most of the couponers I know don't do much with paper circulars anymore -- they get coupons online that you print at home. One site is coupons.com. Redplum.com is another. Mambo Spouts.com often has coupons for natural/organic foods. Another thing to do is to go to the manufacturer's website and/or Facebook page and see if they have any coupons posted there. If there is a product you like and use often, you can write to the manufacturer and tell them how much you love their product and they will usually respond by sending you coupons for discounted or free products. Obviously, you can't do this every month, but once a year or so it doesn't hurt to contact them.

I agree with looking into Amazon Grocery -- you may be able to find a lot of your specialty brands there. Also check out the Amazon warehouse -- they sell items that may be nearing their expiration date and things like that. Perfectly fine if it's a dry staple.

That is helpful to know about the death of paper coupons. I'll give Coupons.com and the others a shot, since my local Key Food and Food Universe seem coupon-friendly.