New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Skip Whole Foods and try these more affordable alternatives

As a college student, grocery shopping without breaking the bank can be quite the struggle. Here are some options that won’t have you signing up for a meal plan again.

With restaurants on every corner, the temptation to eat out for every meal in New York City is certainly strong, but one look at your dinner bill will have you setting up shop in your kitchen in no time. However, with the high price of groceries nowadays, cooking for yourself is only sustainable if you know where to look for cheap ingredients. Whether you’re new to the city or finally giving up on your meal plan, here are some relatively affordable grocery stores to try out around campus.

The exterior of Trader Joe’s during the nighttime, located on 400 Grand St.
(​​Matthew Petres for WSN)

Trader Joe’s | Multiple Locations

With cheap produce and frozen meals, Trader Joe’s will always be convenient and affordable. The pork or chicken soup dumplings make for the perfect late-night freezer bite. With a variety of pre-prepared foods and seasonal delights like the Non-Dairy Pumpkin Oat Beverage, TJ’s is the go-to for a wide selection of delicious eats. In addition to the wide array of frozen foods, the affordable produce section is a great choice for balanced meals. While there are multiple TJs located downtown, the Union Square location is a short walk for those living at Palladium residence hall, Carlyle Court and University Hall. The only downfalls are the checkout line traffic and making the trek back home with a hundred pounds of groceries. Be sure to shop here on weekdays, so you can avoid being squished by the weekend horde.

The exterior of East Village Farm and Grocery with bikes racked by it. The store sign is blue and white, and there are people standing on the two sides of the store.
(Nathan Jung for WSN)

East Village Farm & Grocery | 69 Second Ave.

While you might find yourself squeezing in between the tightly-packed aisles of this Ninth Street corner store, East Village Farm & Grocery maximizes its space with a wide selection of options. Most pasta boxes are between $2 and $5, with large enough quantities to last you the whole week. A gallon of milk and a pack of eggs here each run for $4. If you don’t like the $5 ice cream on the north side of the store, you can head over to the south side of the wall for even more options. Despite its odd layout, this place gets the job done.

The exterior of Lime Tree Market. Several produce items are on display in a glass case behind a patch of pumpkins for sale.
(Julia Smerling for WSN)

Lime Tree Market | 146 First Ave.

After purchasing a pack of Roma tomatoes here for only 99 cents, I kept this corner market in the back of my mind. However, I recommend only sticking to the fresh produce here because no one wants to spend $9 on half a gallon of milk. Their produce variety makes up for their daring dairy prices, with about six different kinds of tomatoes all under $5 a pound, four apple varieties under $4 a pound, $2 lettuce heads, and cheap peaches, nectarines and plums. If you ever find yourself craving Italian sausages, Lime Tree sells them in packs of four for the bargain price of $5.50. While you might not be able to buy any dry goods or dairy products here without spending your entire paycheck, Lime Tree’s produce and meat selections are worth an extra stop on your grocery run.

A man dressed in a white shirt with red shorts and black shoes walks down the middle of rows of grocery items, including chips, straws, and toys.
(Simon Tan for WSN)

USA Super Stores | 46 Third Ave.

With a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs each going for $4 — comparable to East Village Farm — this place is a money saver. I’d recommend coming here for dry goods, such as ramen, granola bars and fruit snacks.  Although the refrigerated selections are slim, they’re not a bad option if you’re on a budget. If you suddenly need a pack of 111 water balloons, the SuperStore has them for just $3! And, if you happen to also need to grab sunglasses, mittens, bedding, blankets, a hair dryer, summer sundresses or vases on your grocery run, this place is your one-stop shop.

Rows of boxed food items including popcorn, cookies, and crackers.
(Kiran Komanduri for WSN)

Target | Multiple Locations

Like Trader Joe’s, Target is a dependable classic with little-to-no surprises. The prices are mid-range, and its variety of products is good enough for a college meal. It also consistently has deals on its groceries, such as 20% off select frozen dishes or $4 fall comfort foods. A quick trip to Target’s website shows it currently has over 10 sales on select grocery items, making it an appealing option. Target is a great option to not break the bank — especially if you use the college student discount — unless you take a detour into the home decor section. 

The front entrance of a single-story Morton Williams supermarket. Above the entrance is black awning with the text “THE FRESH MARKETPLACE.”
(Natalia Kempthorne-Curiel for WSN)

Morton Williams Supermarket | Multiple Locations

While it’s not the cheapest option out there, the location and options at Morton Williams Supermarkets makes them a solid choice for grocery shopping. Like Target, the weekly sales and coupon booklets are the best way to shop here. With deals like $4 Simply Juices or 2-for-$7 on peanut butter, there are decent deals across their 13 locations. The closest Morton Williams to campus is located at 130 Bleecker St., near the Paulson Center. With a wide selection of produce, dairy and meat, Morton Williams is great to stop at on the way home from class. 

When grocery shopping on a budget in the city, you need to get a little creative. Countless corner markets have great cheap options, and taking advantage of the sales in your neighborhood is key. It’s time to venture beyond dining hall cuisine and take advantage of the affordable food options near campus.

Contact Jules Hasler at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Julia Smerling
Julia Smerling, Photo Editor
Julia Smerling is a first-year studying photography and imaging, and is one of WSN’s Photo Editors. She is from West Palm Beach, Florida, and you can find her writing poetry, overly obsessing about films, painting art on jeans and always having her headphones on. Also, she’s secretly Peter Parker. You can reach her on Instagram @juliasmerling or her art account @jul3sarchive (where mostly her mom hypes her up and likes her posts so please give it a look — it's becoming embarrassing at this point.)
Matt Petres
Matt Petres, Photo Editor
Matt Petres is a first-year studying Economics. He is from Chicago, Illinois and likes to bike and kayak. You can contact him on Instagram @matt.petres

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  • A

    Alan J. Gerson, former CouncilmemberSep 26, 2023 at 1:01 am

    The Morton Williams is in jeopardy, becasue of NYU’s administration failed to include it in the new Mercer Street building as it had promised the community. The only option left is to keep the supermarket serving students and community where it presently sits and for NYU to locate the proposed school for that site in one of its underutilized new buildings in NoHo or elsewhere. NYU could link the school to its Steinhardt School of Education, which would be great for NYU students and faculty and the public school, while NYU continues to receive rent for the supermarket. A win-win-win. Come to the SOS, Save our Supermarket Rally, gathering in front of the supermarket on Bleecker & LaGuardia at 3:30; marching to Bobst by 4:00 PM.