Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard? Five stores to buy groceries from in NJ

LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: So, you’re a newbie expat in New Jersey. You’re just arrived and trying to unpack. The kids are already asking… ‘what’s for dinner?’ Of course, there isn’t any food in your home yet, you’ve just gotten here. It’s the expat’s version of Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. 

Great… You’re at that point that you’ve been dreading: the need to go grocery shopping for the first time in the USA.

Whoa.. that’s gonna be fun, isn’t it? You don’t have a clue what the local New Jersey grocery stores are even called, let alone where to find one.

Where to start? First: the store names.

Five major grocery retailers in New Jersey

  1. Shop and Stop – grocery, bakery, seafood, meat, deli, produce, pharmacy, ready-prepared foods, general merchandise
  2. ShopRite – grocery, bakery, dairy, meat, deli, seafood, produce, a takeaway snack food bar, ready-prepared dishes, pharmacy and liquor.
  3. Kings – grocery, bakery,  dairy, meat, deli, seafood, produce, gourmet food, ready-prepared dishes.
  4. A & P – grocery, bakery, dairy, meat, deli, seafood, produce, selected gourmet ready-prepared dishes and pharmacy.
  5. Wholefoods – grocery, bakery, dairy, meat, deli,seafood, produce, gourmet foods and ready-prepared dishes.

Other big grocery suppliers include Acme, Pathmark, Costco and Trader Joes.

How to you know which one to choose?

With any luck, you should live nearby to at least one of the chains listed above. All will have the basics you need to get started with establishing your food pantry and stocking the fridge.

You may start to wonder whether one grocery retailer is different to any of the others. Well they are, in some large and also subtle ways. Here is a quick summary of what you will find.

Stop and Shop

Stop-and-Shop-grocery-store-NJ

Stop and Shop Grocery stores are one of the largest chains in New Jersey. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ

Stop and Shop is probably the cleanest and best organized of any supermarket chain in NJ with large super-style stores. In Australia, these would be the closest fit to a Woolworths or Coles store except they have a pharmacy service as well.

Inside-Stop-And-Shop-store-NJ

Stop and Shop stores have wider aisles than most of the other chains. Of course, I haven’t measured them, it just seems so much easier to navigate in. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ

The aisles are wide and sections are well labeled.Prices are competitive but this may depend on the item and whether you are using their Stop and Shop Card program to get maximum discounts. Some items may be more expensive than ShopRite everyday prices but category discounts occur in some departments regularly. Customer service is relatively good here. Groceries are packed for you and if needed, carried to the car. 

ShopRite

ShopRite-grocery-store-NJ

ShopRite grocery store in New Jersey. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ

These stores offer a wide range of groceries at very competitive prices with most others. ShopRite stores are often more crowded to navigate with a trolley due to narrower aisles and high volumes of shoppers. Their products mostly cover middle-lower end price needs for their main clientele: families and retirees. ShopRite also have a large number of specialist wine and liquor stores under the same banner.

Inside-ShopRite-store-NJ

ShopRite stores are not the worst as you can see here. The produce area looks quite attractive, for a supermarket! The large number of people who use this store though, do make navigating with a trolley that much harder. However, if you are after lower prices, then ShopRite is one of the best. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ

Although the price is right, their choice of gourmet or specialty products is less interesting versus Kings, Wholefoods or A & P. Customer service is pretty good here. Groceries are mostly packed for you and if needed, carried to the car.

Kings

Kings-Supermarket-NJ

A smaller Kings Supermarket store in New Jersey. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ

Although not as commonly found as the others listed here, Kings Supermarkets still have a lot to offer. They are a smaller chain of grocery stores that specialize in offering high quality produce, gourmet fresh food and a narrower grocery line range that caters for the middle-higher socio-economic customer band. Prices are not generally lower than other major shopping chains however this is offset by the quality of products offered. Customer service is usually quite good and groceries are mostly packed for you.

A & P

A&P-grocery-store-NJ

Tragically, this chain was one of the largest in the USA but lost out big-time in recent years. While there are definitely some things they offer that are appealing, customer service is not one of them. Probably the worst customer service I’ve ever received in a grocery store anywhere. Most people go there for convenience. It is near where they live and less chaotic than ShopRite. Still, I avoid this store when ever possible. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ

A & P stores are often smaller, older and somewhat poky, with a more restricted range of products on offer. Depending on the location, they do cater somewhat for gourmet tastes but with only a selective range. Pricing may sometimes be higher than ShopRite but it depends on the items. They have their own liquor store chain called Best Cellars.

Inside-A&P-grocery-store-NJ

A&P stores are a lot more congested than they need to be. While there are not exactly ‘crowds’ of people, the aisles are narrower and congested with far too many on-floor displaystands. Point-of-sale here is put above shopper comfort. The stores are also very poky. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ

Customer service is poor. Customers pack their own groceries and staff are often also unknowledgeable or unmotivated to help. Don’t go here if you need help while grocery shopping.

 Wholefoods Markets

WholeFood-Markets-grocery-store-NJ

WholeFoods Markets. Photo © ExpatAussieInNJ

This retailer is entirely focused on providing healthy, quality foods in all their products. You will not find any popular brands that you are familiar with unless you are already a loyal customer. Their produce section is very fresh, and they offer high quality gourmet food across their fresh food categories. Prices are notably more expensive than the mainstream retailers above but you are paying for the added value of ‘healthy and fresh’. Customer service is usually very good in all areas of their stores. 

Tips for making shopping in New Jersey supermarkets easier and less costly

  1. Visit the stores online sites to find out what products are offered at special/sale prices. These are listed on a weekly circular which you can view online or pick up a hard copy catalogue instore. They are often dropped into household letterboxes as well.
  2. Most retailers have a savings program that is free to join like the Shop and Stop Savings card mentioned above. Join these ASAP as these provide significant savings without too much effort on your behalf.
  3. Look online for store or product coupons offering further discounts. America is the poster child for couponing and these certainly help lower grocery bills.
  4. Re-usable shopping bags are offered here but most are poor quality versus Australian bags. The best are offered at Shop and Stop but even these have a short life before breaking or tearing. You will receive a further discount at some stores for using these bags instead of shop bags. It’s only minor but it’s the principle that counts I guess!

Well there you have it: enough information at least to start the process of food shopping in your new location. Happy shopping!

 If you have already gained some experience grocery shopping in New Jersey, what stores have you found are best to shop at?

 

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5 thoughts on “Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard? Five stores to buy groceries from in NJ

  1. I was a Stop and Shop fan, good member discounts, and nice laid out store, that was consistent across many stores, the ability to pre-order deli items while you shopped, and they would announce (or text you) when the order was prepared. I loved whole foods, but not on our budget on a regular basis anyway. Nice variety of sausages (without fennel seeds).
    Also I liked the self check outs

    • I am a Stop and Shop fan too. They seem to do it the best usually. Funnily enough we are in Cape Cod right now, and the local Stop and Shop is dreadful compared to the Clifton and Bloomfield stores. Poor choice of products and staff are pretty off the planet. Just goes to show that even the successful retailers don’t have every store perfect.

  2. You’ll see a lot more variation among the ShopRite stores than you will with any of the others, because ShopRites are independently owned, whereas Stop & Shop, Kings, Whole Foods, and A&P stores are all owned by the corporation. For instance, the ShopRite in these pictures is the Bloomfield ShopRite, owned and operated by Brookdale Supermarkets, which owns this store and the one in Newark. The ShopRite in Nutley, however, is owned by Nutley Park Supermarkets (Nutley and Belleville); the ShopRite in Passaic is owned by Cuellar Family Markets (which owns just that one).

  3. I’m a Stop and Shop fan too. While their prices are a tad bit higher than Shoprite, their stores are bright, clean, and organized. Plus, in Shoprite, I have OFTEN picked up produce and found mold growing on it. You have to search very carefully to find produce that is “somewhat” fresh.

    • Hi Deserie,
      Thanks for your comment. Funny that you mention it but I just purchased cheery tomatoes from ShopRite this week and they included a mouldy one in the middle of container that I didn’t see. These are meant to be fresh!!! You are so right about checking produce, and it is quite annoying when you pay so much for it in the first place!
      I would go to Whole Foods more often but their prices are rather high for my liking:(

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