How Convenient: Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Fairway
BY CARLYE WAXMAN RD, CDN (sweetnutrition.nyc.com) | Have you ever gone to a supermarket and arrived home, only to realize you managed to pick up everything but the thing you actually went shopping for? Have you purchased a quick lunch or dinner, only to experience buyer’s remorse because you spent an absurd amount on one stupid sandwich? Waiting in long lines while your frozen food defrosts is bad enough…but the worst is when you know you have to go to another grocery store to purchase things the previous one didn’t offer.
Finding a place that has absolutely everything you need is kind of a miracle — but with the recent opening of Fairway, Chelsea now has three large, well-stocked grocery stores, each with their own unique offerings and particular strengths. Best of all, they’re located within a very reasonable distance of one another (making for a short commute if you can’t find what you’re looking for at one place, or just forgot to pick it up).
Last week, I scoped out all three (multiple times), then broke down the offerings into a few handy categories. Since we don’t tend to do all our shopping in one shot (unless you have five hands), Fridays are best for buying produce and what you’ll be cooking over the weekend. Sundays are the right time to pick up all the ingredients for the coming week’s breakfasts and lunches. One weeknight will do the trick when it comes to last-minute meals and all the miscellaneous stuff you’re just about to run out of. Now here’s where to go:
Trader Joe’s, located at 675 Sixth Ave. (btw. W. 21st & W. 22nd Sts.). Hours: 8am-10pm daily. Visit traderjoes.com.
Fairway, located at 766 Sixth Ave. (btw. W. 25th & W. 26th Sts.). Hours: 8am-11pm daily. Visit fairwaymarket.com.
Whole Foods, located at 250 Seventh Ave. (btw. W. 25th & W. 24th Sts.). Hours: 7:30am-11pm daily. Visit wholefoodsmarket.com.
FAST FOOD OPTIONS
Trader Joe’s: The winner in this category, TJ’s has a whole section dedicated to grab-and-go lunches — including falafel wraps, kale and edamame salad, roasted butternut squash and sushi lobster rolls, all for less than $5! Now you’ve got lunch covered for the next day…but tonight’s dinner may be a stretch unless you want to cook. There are meals like chicken marsala and chicken pot pie, but they’re packaged, and the calories and sodium are higher than if you picked something that wasn’t ready-to-heat. If you do need to pick up a heat-and-eat dinner, I suggest you do it halfway here. Buy the “just chicken” ($5.49) that’s in the refrigerated section and a “stir fry kit” ($3.99) in the produce section. While you plate your chicken and heat it, you can throw the veggie mix in a pan with a little oil and low-sodium soy sauce to have a semi-home cooked meal at less than $10.
Whole Foods: Better for ready-to-eat dinners instead of lunches, they have fancy prepared mains and sides behind the counter that tastes like you just went to mom’s and fixed yourself a plate. With options like BBQ Chicken, roasted turkey, poached salmon, London broil, roasted tofu, vegan cranberry cous cous, steamed vegetables and quinoa salads, you can stay healthy and avoid guilt about a purchase made based on last-minute hunger pains. They may be more expensive than the Trader Joe’s packaged meals, but they are fresher and probably better for you (if you don’t choose the high-fat, high-salt packaged options). Though not the best options for lunch, there still is the $8.99/lb salad bar, which also has hot food for dinner — but be careful! When you make your own food selection at a salad bar, you may overshoot your calories since there’s so much variety.
Fairway: During their opening last week, they had specials like $3.99 for sushi. I happened to notice later that the rolls only went up to $4.99, and there’s a sushi chef on campus. Score! They have a make-your-own salad for $6.99/lb that gets tossed by the staff, plus suggested salad combinations (which are great for lunch). They do have some packaged salads that are a bargain — like $8.99 for a salad with a huge chunk of grilled salmon — but no quick wraps or sandwiches that I could see. For dinner, they have a hot bar at $6.99/lb with fresh cooked food like roasted broccoli and cauliflower, herb grilled turkey cutlets and balsamic Cornish hens. They only have about eight options but if you like what’s there, you’re sure to get out of there a lot quicker than you would at Whole Foods, and you’re spending less. To sum up my experience for here regarding “fast meals,” I would say Fairway doesn’t have as extensive a variety as the other two stores, but it still has healthy options that are available if you’re looking for a quick lunch or dinner.
Trader Joe’s: I’m usually not a huge fan of Trader Joe’s produce, but some of it is definitely worth going here as your first stop. For only $2.99 you can get a quart of grape tomatoes or pay 17 cents for a banana. Large mangos are 99 cents each and large stir-fry kits are only $3.99. I suggest you buy your frozen fruits and vegetables here, as large bags of veggies range from $1.69 to $2.99, while a big bag of frozen strawberries and mango are under $3. I’ve never been a fan of the avocados or consistency of other produce items. But if you’re looking for bargains on some of the above products, you can find them here.
Fairway: They have a large section for produce and a nice aisle that separates organic from non-organic. There are more fresh herbs here than the other two stores, and at a bargain price of $1.99. Carrots are two for $3, romaine lettuce is $1.99 for a local head or $2.49 for a pack of three. Bananas are 79 cents per pound, which is three to four bananas for about 20 cents each and peaches are 69 cents each (so less than $3 per pound). There are stir-fry kits available and frozen fruits and vegetables — but not as large, good looking and cheap as Trader Joe’s. I bought cauliflower, zucchini and squash, which were all very good. I still believe in buying your berries and in-season fruits at fruit stands or farmers markets when you come across it, as they are usually the best priced and tastiest.
Whole Foods: I didn’t realize until now that Whole Foods produce is almost entirely organic — meaning it costs $2.99 for a mango, $3.29 per pint of grape tomatoes and $4.99 per pound for loose raw veg to make a stir fry kit. Unless you believe in going totally organic, I suggest you save produce shopping for Fairway and Trader Joe’s.
FISH, POULTRY AND MEAT
Fairway: There is a wide selection of fresh and packaged meat and poultry. There weren’t any frozen items that I could find, except for a few in the fish section. It’s nice to see a selection of farm raised and wild caught fish — it’s a definite bonus to have a place to get fresh seafood any time of the week.
Whole Foods: Whole Foods has specials every Thursday, and this Thursday it was wild caught salmon at $13.99/lb. That’s a good bargain. Other than that, Whole Foods’ prices are similar to Fairway’s. Chicken has a stamp at Whole Foods for Animal Welfare Grade 2. If you see that stamp, it means that animals are provided with enrichments that encourage behavior that’s natural to them (like a bale of straw for chickens to peck at, a bowling ball for pigs to shove around or a sturdy object for cattle to rub against). The chicken is $3.99/lb, which is pretty average.
Trader Joe’s: Save your frozen fish shopping for Trader Joe’s. Frozen fish filets are usually a bargain and sometimes there’s wild-caught Ahi tuna at less than $7 for two filets. A pound of frozen shrimp that’s cleaned and deveined is less than $10, which is what I look for in a frozen bag. There’s nothing like defrosting and throwing shrimp right on the skillet without having to do the dirty work.
Fairway: Probably the best for bread, with rolls and bagels for 69 cents each — and with fresh baguettes that are two for $3, it already beats the other two on cost and availability. Fairway also has whole wheat baguettes for only $1.99.
Whole Foods: Their bread section has fresh rolls and bagels for 99 cents each, $2.50 baguettes, $5 loaves and Italian bread for $3.50.
Trader Joe’s: The large bread section has all-around good prices. Their Italian bread is only 99 cents, and they also have a ton of other packaged sliced breads — though no fresh bread showcase.
I wasn’t able to sample all the bread choices at each of the three markets — but for a fresh baguette to go with your dinner, Whole Foods or Fairway will have what you’re looking for.
I’d go to Fairway for variety and cost in this category — but check for specials, as it may vary at each place.
Fairway: They have my favorite yogurt on sale, at four for $5 (Fage Total Greek Yogurt). That’s the best bargain on the block, seeing as each yogurt can cost anywhere between $1.99 and $2.50 if you buy it last-minute in a deli. They don’t have their own yogurt brand, but do have varieties that are new and I haven’t seen anywhere else like “Chobani Flips” and “Fruyo Fage” (Fage with fruit mixed in…finally). Milk at Fairway is $3.19 per gallon of hormone and antibiotic-free Farmland milk.
Trader Joe’s: Their milk is also hormone free, at $3.69 a gallon. They have their own brand of Greek yogurt (99 cents), but my taste buds always revert back to the other thick creamy Greek varieties. Fage here is $1.49 per yogurt, which is still good (but not as good as Fairway).
Whole Foods: Fage yogurt here is $1.89, one of the highest I’ve seen in grocery stores. There are whole foods yogurt brands (365), which I haven’t tried, at $1.29 each. One gallon of 365 milk is $3.19, also hormone-free.
SNACKS, CEREALS AND BINS
Trader Joe’s: Probably the best I’ve seen as far as having a large cereal aisle and wide variety of name brand snacks for a cheap price. I like TJ brand kettle cooked Reduced Guilt chips for only $1.99 per package — and their high fiber cereal is also a good brand. Puffins are cheap at $3.99 per box, another favorite brand.
Fairway: I was in the mood for a few dried figs (just a few) and maybe a little granola for my morning yogurt. It was nice that they had a wide selection in their bins. I was able to get three figs and ¼ cup of granola for less than $1.50. Their cereal aisle isn’t as big as Trader Joe’s, but I noticed similar prices.
Whole Foods: Their own brand of cereal features in-store versions of familiar favorites (like “Cocoa Krisps” and “Protein and Berries”) for an affordable $1.99. Their Puffins, however, were $5.39 each. I would bargain shop for cereal if you get it often and do your own research weekly as this may change.
To sum it up, Chelsea has the best of all worlds now that Fairway has come to our part of town. The next time you do your big general food shopping (produce, dairy and meat), hit Fairway first. Get to Trader Joe’s for the things like name brand cereals, snacks, general every day produce (lettuce, carrots, tomatoes) and something quick to bring to lunch the next day. Hit Whole Foods for interesting last-minute dinners, 365 brand canned foods and cereals — and check for their fish and meat specials.