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Supermarket Showdown: How Does Roche Bros Compare to Other Markets?

We price tested seven supermarkets in the eight Boston neighborhoods Patch serves. The result? Trader Joe's is cheapest (though you won't find rotisserie chicken there.)

 

Supermarkets — they're big news in Boston. Last year's controversy in JP when a Whole Foods replaced a Latino market led to arrests. This year, Charlestown is embroiled in a debate about Whole Foods taking over Johnnie's Foodmaster.

In West Roxbury, there hasn't been a "supermarket debate" in a long time as folks seem to be happy with and .

At the heart of these discussions is whether we, as Bostonians, will have access to affordable food.

To test prices, the Boston Patch editors each went out to various supermarkets in our respective neighborhoods on Thursday, Sept. 6. Here's our shopping list:

  • MacIntosh Apples (price per pound)
  • Bananas (price per pound)
  • Zucchini (price per pound)
  • Corn (price per pound)
  • 2% Milk (gallon)
  • Large eggs (dozen)
  • Whole rotisserie chicken
  • Box of cereal
  • Can of chicken noodle soup
  • White bread (loaf)
  • Toilet paper (six pack)

In some cases, prices had to be approximated due to some stores not carrying a specific item (in the case of Macintosh apples) or because some stores sold certain goods by the pound while other sold it by the piece.

To keep it apples-to-apples, we sought ought the cheapest available option in each store. So, yes, that excludes some of the higher-end, higher-quality organic products.

Here is the list of the supermarkets, from costliest to cheapest. Please note we had to exclude the whole rotisserie chicken because it isn't sold at Trader Joe's. If you include that item, Whole Foods becomes the most expensive store:

  1. , South End — $24.84
  2. Whole Foods, Cambridge Street, West End — $24.05
  3. , West Roxbury — $23.64
  4. , JP — $21.76
  5. , Charlestown — $20.79
  6. Shaw's Landmark Center, Fenway — $20.61
  7. , Back Bay — $18.06

 


Fenway Shaws Charlestown Foodmaster West End Whole Foods W. Rox Roche Brothers Back Bay Trader Joe's JP Stop & Shop South End Foodie's AVERAGE MacIntosh Apples (lb.) $1.89 $1.99 $1.99 $1.99 $1.49 $1.99 $1.79 $1.88 Bananas (lb.) $0.74 $0.79 $0.79 $0.79 $0.51 $0.69 $0.79 $0.73 Zucchini (lb.) $1.99 $1.99 $2.49 $1.99 $1.84 $1.99 $1.49 $1.97 Corn (lb.) $0.50 $0.42 $0.63 $0.63 $0.63 $0.75 $0.49 $0.58 2% Milk (gallon) $3.49 $2.79 $3.59 $3.99 $3.39 $1.69 $4.39 $3.33 Large eggs (dozen) $2.99 $1.99 $2.89 $2.49 $1.99 $2.59 $1.99 $2.42 Whole rotisserie chicken $7.99 $6.99 $9.99 $5.00

Not sold

$7.99 $8.73 $6.67 Box of cereal $3.59 $2.39 $2.50 $2.69 $1.99 $2.99 $3.89 $2.86 Can of chicken noodle soup $1.99 $0.75 $2.79 $1.99 $1.49 $2.69 $1.83 $1.93 White bread (loaf) $1.39 $2.99 $2.99 $2.39 $2.49 $1.39 $4.49 $2.59 Toilet paper (six pack) $2.04 $4.69 $3.39 $4.69 $2.24 $4.99 $3.69 $3.68 TOTAL $28.60 $27.78 $34.04 $28.64 $18.06 $29.75 $33.57 $28.63
Fenway Shaws Charlestown Foodmaster West End Whole Foods W. Rox Roche Brothers Back Bay Trader Joe's Jamaica Plain Stop & Shop South End Foodie's AVERAGE Without Prepared Chicken $20.61 $20.79 $24.05 $23.64 $18.06 21.76 $24.84 $21.96 Produce Total $5.12 $5.19 $5.90 $5.40 $4.47 5.42 $4.56 $5.15 Processed and Prepared Total $13.57 $10.13 $15.28 $9.68 $3.48 13.67 $14.45 $11.47 Milk, Eggs, Bread $7.87 $7.77 $9.47 $8.87 $7.87 5.67 $10.87 $8.34
Gary Chase September 12, 2012 at 12:31 PM
No surprise that Rochies is one of the most expensive. They blow away everyone else for excellent customer service, but you do end up paying for it. However, the generosity of the Roche family in what they give back to the community more than makes up for it.
Kimm Bonner September 12, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Actually, any other day of the week, Roche Bros would come out leading the pack - the as most expensive. Roche Bros runs the "$5 cluck" on Rotisserie chicken on Thursdays. Its $2-3 more every other day of the week. Just FYI. However, the quality of their produce, and exceptional customer service make it worth it. I use their online shopping service (similar to Peapod). One time I had an order of about $105 that had 3 mistakes in it. They not only credited me for the items that were incorrect, they gave me the ENTIRE order free! That's taking their responsibilities to the customer seriously. It made me a customer for life!!
David Ertischek (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Thank you, Kimm, for the excellent observation. I have always appreciated Roche Bros customer service, too. They have also always been considerate and helpful to me as a journalist.
Susann Low September 12, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Roche's absolutely has the corner market on community generosity bar none. The staff is pleasant and plentiful but when I need technical advice (doing a dinner or party for 50-200 people, I gotta go with my neighborhood catering-on-a-budget posse for all things 'good cooking but economical'... Shaw's uber-butcher "Chuck" and produce professionals "Carol" and "Corey". They can tell you what to that will 'wow' your guests where they feel like they're "getting their own baby chicken on their own baby plate with a side endive salad" but it's not going to cost. When we can do a full fall harvest dinner for ~$2.10 a person shopping at Shaw's, I gotta go with the deals (with an edge on 'da-lish') in this economy.
Steve Hurl September 12, 2012 at 03:20 PM
I like the balance of price and quality found at Roche Bros, and I like that my food $$ goes to a locally-based corporation. Cheaper, higher quality diets involve shopping carefully for good ingredients and cooking your own meals, whenever time and space permits. I wish that Roche Bros. had a COMMUNITY NOTICE BOARD outside or inside their W. Rox location.
David Ertischek (Editor) September 12, 2012 at 03:28 PM
That's a great point, too, Steve. I can't count on 20 hands how many times Roche Bros has donated food and $$ to neighborhood events, organizations and more. I'm more likely to support a business that supports the community they are in. The community notice board is a good idea, too.
tom scanlan September 12, 2012 at 07:37 PM
i remeber when the jp stop and shop opened,they got a good deal on the real estate to get them into the community,their prices are higher than other stop and shops and quality lower,could it be because many use their EBT cards there because its next to a project and the shoppers can't compare prices as easily.?Also roche bros can afford to be generous to the community,they are non union .
Robin September 22, 2012 at 01:07 PM
Consider getting your produce at local mom/pop stores like Baysweets in West Roxbury limited amount of produce but variety of Middle Eastern product and great sandwiches -cookies-desserts. Doubi brothers in Roslindale square. Produce at 1/2 the price at the large supermarkets. Variety changes. They also carry different Middle Eastern products. Also try the Greek Market on Washington St. in WR.

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