About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,

Julie

Monday, May 25, 2009

Super King Market


Before I went to that diner and ate an illegal pancake yesterday, I went to Super King Market. A colleague from work had suggested it to me, so I decided to try it out. Super King has 3 locations in Los Angeles, and one was quite close to me. Still, it required a 10 minute drive on the 2 freeway and was therefore only a convenient location because I had a car. Taking a bus there would have been quite a pain, I am sure.

With a car, though, it was really worth the trip. I would classify Super King as a cross between a neighborhood ethnic market and a chain grocery store. Certainly not in the realm of Farmer's Market, as there was not a single Organic item in sight. The prices were insanely low, and the produce selection really too wasn't bad. Many fruits and vegetables were priced at or below $0.99. I felt like I was in the 99-Cent-Only store, except that there were tons of options. For the most part the cheap produce was of medium to high quality. There was a huge box of mangoes which were essentially all putrid and soft - I could feel that the fruit had turned to liquid inside of the skin - but even in that case I was able to root around to eventually find two decent mangoes. Mind you, I had to eat one right away this morning to keep it from going bad, but I wasn't complaining. What a great and exotic fruit. Haven't been able to afford one since I started this project!

Below is a list of what I bought at Super King with some price comparisons. Note the generally low prices, and also note that I was able to afford some fantastic things such as asparagus and blackberries:
  • 1 Italian eggplant: 1.38 lb at $0.99/lb = $1.37
  • Lemons: 5 for $0.99 = $0.99 * Got 1 lemon for $0.19 at Save-a-Lot, almost the same
  • 1 lb bag of Carrots at 3 bags for $0.99 = $0.33
  • Navel oranges: 2.58 lb at $0.39/lb = $1.01 * Same oranges were $0.33/lb at Save-a-Lot, and pesticide-free oranges at the Farmer's Market cost me $0.60/lb
  • Mangoes: 2 for $0.99 = $0.99
  • Green beans: 1.3 lb at $0.99/lb = $1.29
  • Broccoli crowns: 2.08 lb at $0.99/2 lb = $1.03 * $0.79/lb at A Grocery Warehouse
  • Cluster tomatoes: 0.99 lb at $0.79/lb = $0.78
  • Avocados: 2 at $0.99/each = $1.98 *Same price as Save-a-Lot
  • Persian Cucumbers: 1.34 at $0.39/lb = $0.52 * The picture above shows the mob of people crowded around this bin on Persian Cucumbers. I have never eaten a Persian Cucumber before, and I am not sure what makes it different or special. But, when I saw that everyone was going insane for these things I jumped in. I guess I just wanted to see what the fuss was all about. Will report back on that one. This site gave me a few ideas for how to cook them.
  • Asparagus: 1 bunch for $0.99 = $0.99
  • Granny smith apples: 0.68 lb at $0.69/lb = $0.47 * I eat an apple every day, and they are on the Dirty Dozen list, so I really want to start buying them Organic. At Trader Joe's, I can get 1 fantastic Organic apple for $0.69. Here, I got 2 non-organic Granny Smiths for $0.47. I could also get the same apples at Save-a-Lot for $0.89/lb.
  • Brown onions: 1.72 lb (or 2 onions) at $0.99/5 lb = $0.34 * The bin of onions was pretty gross. Some of them were very dirty and even looked like they had fungus. I had to search out a few good ones and fight other shoppers to get to them *$1/lb at the Farmer's Market, but those were pesticide free. 1 Onion at A Grocery Warehouse was $0.19
  • 3 Grapefruit: 3 for $0.99 = $0.99 * Only got 2 for $0.99 at Save-a-Lot
  • Two "yellow" bananas that probably won't be ripe until next week: 0.73 lb at $0.99/3lb = $0.24 * Bananas at A Grocery Warehouse were more expensive- $0.73/1 lb
  • Carton of grape tomatoes (can't believe I was able to have these. They are going to be fantastic as part of a quicker lunch this week. Hell yes!): $0.99
  • Produce (not sure what this is... just listed as "Produce" on my receipt): $0.99
  • Small bag of pinto beans (32 ounces): $1.99 * Super King price calculates to bet about $0.062 per ounce, and the same beans bought from the dry bulk bin at Save-a-Lot cost only slightly less - $0.055 per ounce
  • 24 ounce bottle of Perrier Sparkling Water: 1 at "Special Offer" = $0.99 (That was awesome. I felt like a princess drinking that and taking it out of my food budget.) There was also another charge that I am confused about right below the $0.99 charge for the bottle: CVR Beverage $0.10. ???
  • 24 ounce bag of Zergut whole wheat: $1.89 I am not sure what to do with this, but it seems like a good grain. I will check it out and report back.
  • 16 ounce bag of Yellow Split Peas: $0.69 * A 16 ounce bag of lentils at the 99-Cents-Only store costs... $0.99
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (total luxury to buy a new "spice" but I could afford it so I jumped at the chance) : $2.99
  • Zaitoon blackberries: $1.59 * totally enhanced my oatmeal this morning, and will again tomorrow I am sure
  • Value pack of frozen peas (64 ounce bag) : $3.99 *16 ounces of frozen peas at Trader Joe's cost me $0.69, so these were actually more expensive. If you do the division, 16 ounces from this "Value" bag still costs me $0.99. When I bought this bag, I couldn't wait to race home and see how much I'd saved by buying frozen peas in bulk. Turns out it actually cost me more than a small package would have. Lesson #5: Value/Bulk packaging certainly makes you think you're getting a sweet deal, but check the price per ounce. It might not always be cheaper.
Total: $29.63
Remaining this week: $1.37

I am finding it is really important to have a little bit of money left over after the week's big shopping trip in case I need to balance out a meal later in the week. I am a little worried I only have $1.37 left this week. What if I get to Friday and only have 1 potato and 1 onion left or something? I suppose I still have $3 left from last week after the breakfast yesterday, so at least that helps.

Overall, my experience in Super King Market was great. I got lots of produce for very cheap. However, there are some major drawbacks to this store that must be mentioned. To begin with, it was absolutely mobbed. Everyone had huge shopping carts and the produce section was worse than a traffic jam on the 405 freeway at 5pm on a Friday. No one seemed aware of other people around them. A few times I politely asked someone to move their cart over and over again and they didn't seem to even notice me. I got really frustrated and parked my cart far away from the craziness, but that meant I had to keep going back to it each time I found something I wanted to buy.

I also mentioned that some of the produce bins contained overly ripe or nearly rotted fruits and vegetables. For the most part the selection was fine, but I felt the need to carefully inspect each piece of fruit before I bought it. Think about this for a second. When I shop at Whole Foods, I barely even look at the produce before I put it in my bin because 99.9% of the time it is spotless and perfect. I'd be hard pressed to find a bruised apple on display at Whole Foods. Not the case at Super King. As I described with the onions and the mangoes, I really had to take the time to inspect everything and had to compete with fellow shoppers to get to the good stuff in the produce bins. Most bins were lined with people inspecting and discarding fruit, and I usually had to elbow my way in to get any.

There were also no Organic options at all, and very little labeling about where the food came from. Nothing told me if the tomatoes I bought were grown in California or Mexico or Argentina, so it was nearly impossible to focus on local purchasing. This market was all about cheap produce, which I appreciate. But, it was by no means perfect, and it was actually downright stressful at some points.

4 comments:

  1. the $0.10 CVR charge would probably be the bottle redemption charge for the bottle of Perrier. anytime you buy a bottled beverage you get charged something, usually around $0.05 and $0.10.

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  2. It's CRV "California Refund Value" - redeeming the same container at a recycling facility will get you back the deposit (unit price only paid on small quantities - large quantities paid by the pound)
    www.conservation.ca.gov/dor/Pages/Index.aspx

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  3. Re: Persian cucumbers... they are less watery and have less of that cucumbery aftertaste than traditional big American cucumbers. They're more like English cukes. I only buy Persians or English because they do not make me burp -- unlike the American ones.
    There's both local produce and imported produce at Super King (just as at supermarket). Also, the freshness depends on when you go. I find that you have to go with what's in season (as that is more likely to be local, obviously) and just use a discerning eye before buying anything. Sometimes their greens are amazing and sometimes they are brown...when they're brown, you just don't buy 'em.

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