Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Our grocer's basket

During the first few months here, we frequent Albertsons , down along Mathilda or El Camino in Sunnyvale. Supermaket chains such as Albertsons and Safeway offer those (look irresistable) 10 for $10 deals, and recently even 20 for $10 deals. But by what means can the two of us consume 20 cans of 15-oz beans, 10 packs of 64-oz fruit punch, 10 2-litre bottle of Coke/Pepsi etc ? The only thing that we deem a necessity and not a waste is buying drinking water - 10 of 1-gallon bottles of drinking water at $10 ($1 for 1-gallon drinking water). Since we have recently found out a cheaper way to get drinking water, this means even fewer trips to Albertsons. Moreover, the branch at El Camino is closing down soon, so convenience does not tempt us there so often.

Warehouse club such as Costco Wholesale admits shoppers at a membership fee (current Goldstar member fee is USD50). Most of their goods are usually bulk-packaged and marketed primarily to large families and small businesses. I said MOST, not all. Even for two of us, we still get our dairies such as milk(1 box, of 2 bottles at 1-gallon each), bread, eggs; breakfast cereals; and sometimes fresh meat, from Costco.

I do not dare say these items are the cheapest you can find in town but for us, this warehouse club does offer the right balance of economy, good quality and convenience. Unlike many retailers however, these stores do not maintain a full range and brand of each product type. What ? Costco also acts as an investment broker and travel agent, arranging air travel and cruise bookings. Sounds alike in some way to Mustafa Singapore ? Sorry. Nope. Their scale of business are different. I have found out that Costco does have a presence in Asia with these stores - 5 in South Korea, 5 in Japan, 4 in Taiwan and 4 in Philippines. So will one work in Singapore ? Also, do not forget to pump up at Costco...gas, I mean. Always one of the cheapest gas prices around.

Long queue spotted at Costco Gasoline

The farmers' markets at Sunnyvale(Saturdays) and Mountain View(Sundays) are where we usually buy our vegetables and fruits. These weekly events often offer quality produce at reasonable prices. Well, this is one of the few places around us that we can get a variety of chinese vegetables such as Bok Choy, Kai Lan and Kang Kong. Not forgetting Ranch99 in our neighouring city Cupertino that is well-stocked in all things (groceries, produce) ...CHINESE. You can even get your Lee Kum Kee sauces in Ranch99. They have many stores in Northern and Southern California.

And how can I miss out Trader Joe's, which is just few footsteps away from our apartment. Also one of my favorites. Do not be deceived by the word "specialty grocer" and associate with hefty price tags. I discovered that I could buy fresh mushroom, peanut butter and specialty jams/spread, cheaper than at the local supermarket. Once again, Trader Joe's does not endeavor to carry every conceivable brand, just items they think are worth carrying and at great prices. They stock a good range of organic items too! Compared to Whole Foods, another specialty store which retails lots of gourmet and organic items, TJs does not offer that much variety. But I still prefer the prices tags at TJs.

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