Thursday, February 23, 2012

Food shopping in San Francisco

The Trader Joe's at 301 McLellan Drive in Sout...
A Trader Joe's in South San Francisco, Calif.

Editor's note: Food shopping in San Francisco was only slightly different than in North Jersey, but after a week there I was glad to get back to my familiar stores.
Jack and Rina, my hosts in San Francisco, spend most of their food-shopping dollars at Trader Joe's and Costco Wholesale.

Jack picked me up at the airport on Feb. 13 and, after we had a bite to eat, we headed over to a big Costco store in South San Francisco.

I wanted to buy a few familiar items that would make me feel more at home as well as compare this store to the Costco warehouse store in Hackensack, where I usually shop. 

English: Costco Wholesale Corporate Logo
Image via Wikipedia
The South San Francisco store appears to be bigger than the one in Hackensack, with many more tables and chairs in the food court. And the selection and brand names differ, and so do some of the prices.

I found Costco's Kirkland Signature Smoked Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon for $15.59 or about 20 cents more than I paid the last time I bought the 1-pound package in Hackensack. 

But Earthbound Farm's Organic Spring Mix was only $3.79 -- compared to $4.79 to $4.99 for the 1-pound package in North Jersey.

I also picked up three bottles of organic carrot juice, cartons of egg whites and dried organic Black Mission figs.

But when I went over to the fresh-fish case, I could find only farmed fish, including whole trout.

Three days later, the fish case offered several wild-caught fillets: Pacific rock fish for $5.99 a pound, California halibut for $12.99 a pound, True Pacific Cod for $5.99 a pound and Pacific Sea Bass for $12.99 a pound.

In Hackensack, I usually find cod for a couple of bucks more a pound, haddock from Iceland and flounder -- all wild-caught. Fresh wild salmon is sold in North Jersey from the end of May until October.

The sea bass made a wonderful main dish for dinner at Jack and Rina's, cooked on the stove top for about 15 minutes with a can of organic diced tomatoes, olive oil, fresh lemon juice and organic non-salt seasoning -- all from Costco or Trader Joe's.
English: pic of Trader Joe's bag
Image via Wikipedia

At Trader Joe's, I found a 1-pound package of Smoked Wild Sockeye Salmon for $16.99. I checked the sodium content, which is about the same as the cheaper Costco smoked wild salmon for a 2-ounce portion.

Trader Joe's also was selling non-organic Gala apples for 59 cents each, but the store didn't have a produce scale. An employee said Trader Joe's prices on produce were better than at Safeway, one of the big supermarket chains. 

I wanted lactose-free milk at Trader Joe's, but found only Lactaid half-gallons for $3.99. I passed, thinking I could do better at Safeway. I was wrong.

I couldn't find a store brand of lactose-free milk at Safeway, and Lactaid was $4.69 for a half-gallon.

Small Gala apples at Safeway were $1.99 a pound, and when I weighed one, it was 8 ounces, meaning they were about a buck apiece, compared to 59 cents for the larger apples at Trader Joe's.

I also purchased Two Buck Chuck -- $1.99 bottles of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon red wine from Trader Joe's. We opened a bottle at dinner and it was drinkable.

The Trader Joe's we visited was in a shopping center -- one floor below the parking lot. It had up and down escalators for shoppers, and in the middle another up escalator for shopping carts.

Jack mentioned there was a large Korean supermarket in the city, but we never got there, so I can't compare it to the H Marts in North Jersey.

Costco Wholesale, 451 S. Airport Boulevard, South San Francisco, Calif.

Trader Joe's, 265 Winston Drive, San Francisco, Calif.

Safeway, 2350 Noriega St., San Francisco, Calif. 

Jersey bounce

Back in North Jersey,  I resumed visiting my familiar food stores.

On Tuesday, I picked up fresh mustard greens for 69 cents a pound, three blood oranges for $1 and 3 pounds of small Fuji apples for $2.49 at H Mart in Englewood.

Sauder's Cage Free Large Brown Eggs were $2.99 a dozen, and store-prepared stewed tofu was $3.25.

On Wednesday, I found the store brand of 2% lactose-free milk for only $2.89 in the grocery section of Target in Hackensack. A half-gallon of Lactaid 1% milk with added calcium was only $3.59. 

I got 5% off my order for using a Target credit card and 5 cents back for a reusable bag. 

At Costco Wholesale in Hackensack, a trio of large, seedless, pesticide-free cucumbers were only $2.99 -- $1 less than the last time I bought them. Earthbound Farm's Organic Spring Mix was $4.99.

A half-dozen yellow mangoes from Mexico were $5.99. They have a sweet, silky interior that makes them worth the price. Five pounds of Sunset greenhouse-grown beefsteak tomatoes were $6.99.

I also bought 64-ounce cartons of Tropicana 100% Florida Orange Juice, organic 1% milk, wild-caught haddock fillets and 2 pounds of French green beans. 

Rebates and coupons

At my Costco, I used a $489.22 reward coupon from the American Express True Earnings Card -- and left the store with more than $415 in cash. 

The card gives me a 3% rebate on gasoline purchases, 2% back at restaurants and for travel, and 1% back at Costco and everywhere else.

In the mail today, I received a $10 off coupon, if I spend $75 or more at Fairway Market in Paramus -- good until March 1.

The New York-based supermarket is continuing its "shock prices" campaign to lure shoppers to its store in the Fashion Center mall on Route 17 north. 

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