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
- Shop and Stop – grocery, bakery, seafood, meat, deli, produce, pharmacy, ready-prepared foods, general merchandise
- ShopRite – grocery, bakery, dairy, meat, deli, seafood, produce, a takeaway snack food bar, ready-prepared dishes, pharmacy and liquor.
- Kings – grocery, bakery, dairy, meat, deli, seafood, produce, gourmet food, ready-prepared dishes.
- A & P – grocery, bakery, dairy, meat, deli, seafood, produce, selected gourmet ready-prepared dishes and pharmacy.
- 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Look online for store or product coupons offering further discounts. America is the poster child for couponing and these certainly help lower grocery bills.
- 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?