Author Topic: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?  (Read 8330 times)

Vilgan

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What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« on: April 26, 2014, 03:46:32 PM »
So, living in Seattle I've gotten used to really high food prices. $5 for ground beef, $2/lb for apples, $4+ a lb for asparagus, $4+ per lb for strawberries, etc. Amazon Fresh prices for produce/meat are actually pretty close to what is available at Safeway and other large grocery stores other than sometimes Costco. The "nice" grocery stores are another 20-33% higher or more.

So.. we were exploring nearby small markets today and were blown away at the prices at two, both by the Mexican produce stand and the Phillopino small market. Prices were half or less than what I'm used to paying. Strawberries for $1.49/lb, Asparagus $1.49/lb, ground beef $2.50/lb, whole chicken for $1.19/lb, bananas for $0.59/lb, sandwich (banh mi) for $1.75.

I think we'll try to buy as much as we can from these places, especially since they are walking distance. However... seeing prices this different did surprise me a bit. What are the downsides and risks to small ethnic grocery stores with super low (comparatively) prices? The meat looks fresh and is clearly marked and such, but I'm not sure what risks we might be taking with our health in order to reduce spending.

SwordGuy

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Re: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2014, 03:57:38 PM »
None.  Just check the expiration dates

galliver

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Re: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2014, 04:01:07 PM »
Not sure if this is what you're talking about, but around Chicago there are "Fresh Markets" I don't know if they're related...my mom shopped at "Michael's" and there was "Cermak" near my college and "Family Fruit Market" by my bf's apt now. They tend to have a Mexican, European, etc. slant to the packaged products and very fresh/cheap veggies. Never had a problem. Obviously don't buy/eat anything that looks/smells/feels bad!

Mr. Frugalwoods

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Re: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2014, 07:24:51 PM »
Echoing the "check for ripeness" of the other posters.

But ethnic markets can absolutely be gold mines.  Take spices for example.  Cumin from a normal supermarket?  $5 for a small jar.  From a Mexican grocery?  $3 for a giant ziploc.

socaso

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Re: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2014, 08:53:43 AM »
I shop at a grocery that caters to a largely Persian and Armenian clientele and the prices are amazing. I've been shopping there for 5 years with no issues whatsoever. The first couple of years I avoided the meat counter because I had this irrational prejudice about the quality but one day they had .99/lb stew beef and I bought some and have continued shopping for meat there ever since. We also have a large Asian market with great prices on all sort of things like exotic mushrooms and every kind of noodle you can think of and Pocky! I love Pocky.

sunnyca

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Re: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2014, 10:11:02 AM »
1. Often the produce is a little riper, so I usually try to cook or eat it ASAP. Not a huge problem for me, but these are usually not the place to buy a week's worth of vegetables in one shot.

2. I find the meat tends to be lower quality, so I but meat in bulk at BJ's.

3. I find the milk and butter don't turn as fast at Chinese grocers, so I buy those elsewhere.

It's worth buying teas, spices, vegetables you will use that night, rice, beans, fresh fruits, sauces and frozen convenience foods at ethnic markets. Oh and Indian grocers seem to turn dairy really fat, so milk and yogurt are good bets there.

+1

I frequently shop at Asian supermarkets, and the produce and meat usually have shorter shelf lives- mostly because the norm for people who shop there is to buy every few days.

It also helps to know when the sale days are- for example, the market I frequent has sales from Thursday-Sunday, and you can see the promotions online. They're great- 10 bunches of celery for $1, 2 lbs of Persian cucumbers for $1...

I buy produce based on what's on sale and menu plan around that.

cats

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Re: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2014, 12:17:57 PM »
I get most of our produce at a small independent market, the prices are SO much lower than at Safeway, etc.  I *love* it.

As far as what to look out for, I've never gotten anything that made me sick or that made me feel I was likely to get sick.  Sometimes the produce does need to be cooked or eaten relatively quickly to avoid spoilage, but if you plan your meals accordingly that's not an insurmountable problem.  I actually do get all my vegetables for the week in one shot and it almost always works out just fine.  I think that having the market available has been GREAT for our health, because if I were restricted to shopping at safeway we would not be able to afford as much produce and would definitely be eating from a narrower spectrum.

Our particular market is really only good for produce--the milk/eggs/meat prices are not competitive at all, so for those I go to Costco.

Gerard

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Re: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2014, 12:46:04 PM »
Previous posters have given some good strategies. I'd also recommend learning how to turn a bunch of a fresh thing into a really good thing that freezes or refrigerates well. For example, red peppers are really easy to roast in bulk. Cut them in half, remove seeds and stems, put them skin-side-up on a few pizza trays or cookie sheets, flatten them with your hands, and pop them under the broiler until they're mostly blackened and blistered. Put them all into a pan and pop on the lid. Let them steam for 20 minutes (makes them easier to peel). Peel/rinse/rub off the blistered skin. Freeze them in smallish amounts (along with the goo that oozed from them during the steaming).

Also, why indie places (especially greengrocers)  are cheaper, without having worse stuff:
1. They buy stuff at the wholesale markets when it's been around a day or two and the sellers are getting a little desperate. They thus pay much, much less for stuff that's only slightly older.
2. Mainstream big groceries make a *ton* of money on marking up produce. There's a limit to how much they can mark up the middle-of-the-store staples and processed foods, so they make up for it on produce. I was at a small store one day when they were paying for the cilantro (which retailed for a dollar a bunch, a decent price in my opinion). They paid the wholesaler seven dollars for a case of a hundred bunches. Seven cents a bunch!

MrsPete

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Re: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2014, 12:50:31 PM »
Risks?  None.  I've shopped at these places all my life, and I have only positive things to say about them.  I do have one downside:  Most of them are located in the city, not here where I live; however, when I have a reason to go to that area, I bring a cooler and stock up. 

FYI:  It's not illegal for any store to sell food past its expiration date, so you might not be "any safer" at a big supermarket chain.  They don't sell expired food because it'll get them a bad reputation.  One exception:  Expired baby food (or is it just formula?) can't be sold legally.

Davids

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Re: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« Reply #9 on: April 27, 2014, 12:55:23 PM »
My parents have a russian store near where they live which has one of the most amazing delis I have ever seen and wayyy chaeaper than grocery stores. The chickens are very cheap plus they also sell rabbit! They also have a great selection of fruits and veggies cheaper than grocery stores (They are usually already riper so yes have less time to consume) and a lot of different European products to try. Every time I visit my parents I always go to that russian store to load up.

jbow808

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Re: What downside/risks for small cheap ethnic grocery stores?
« Reply #10 on: April 27, 2014, 07:43:28 PM »
Where in Seattle? Have you tried the farmers markets in the U-District or Capitol Hill? IMHO Pikes is a little overrated and I leave that to the tourist.

Second, I've never had a problem with ethnic grocery stores, been shopping them most of my life. Cheaper produce and never had a problem quality with meat or fish.  I used to shop at Uwajimaya, 99 Ranch and Sea Food City all the time. 
« Last Edit: April 28, 2014, 05:55:47 PM by jbow808 »