The 99 Cent Banana

IMG_0861CHIEF AMONG THE THINGS I MISS about living in Brooklyn are Sahadi’s, the Middle Eastern food emporium on Atlantic Avenue, Trader Joe’s, and Fairway. Not just the selection, but the prices.

Here in the Humptons, as blogger Michael Daly likes to call them, finding reasonably priced sustenance is an ongoing challenge. Yesterday I paid 99 cents for a single banana (not even a big one) at the Springs General Store. There seems to be a “we’re here in a resort community at the ends of the earth, so factor in extra shipping charges and expect to be ripped off” approach to pricing.

So, full-time resident that I now am, and frugal to boot, I embarked on an informal survey of  prices at Citarella, the upscale Manhattan chain that now has several stores on the South Fork, one conveniently located on my way home from anywhere; the Amagansett Farmer’s Market, now owned by Eli Zabar (it’s like the Upper West Side around here in a number of ways); and the IGA supermarket on North Main Street in East Hampton, which you would THINK would be more down-to-earth.

It seems that prices on the items in “Cara’s Market Basket” — the groceries I, creature of habit, typically buy — are best at Citarella (though not across the board), and that’s where I gravitate. They have top-quality cheeses, olives, and produce. Their house brand of French Roast coffee is wonderful at $7.49/pound.

The food is generally impeccable but prices are outrageous at the AFM, though I like to go there for the beautiful picnic grounds. Sometimes I fall into a what-the-hell-it’s-a-resort-community mentality myself. But I cringe at paying $7.99 for a can of tuna — a brand called American, ‘pole caught’ and delicious, but still.

The IGA, where the produce is disgusting, has some of the most bizarre grocery prices I ever encountered. Total 0% yogurt – the large size – is $7.49! Still, I go there for basics like spring water, seltzer, milk, and canned beans. For paper goods, it’s CVS all the way.

Just check this little table of mine, below, for price comparisons between Citarella, a relative pleasure palace of quality and service, and the IGA, so depressing you might as well be anywhere but here.


ITEM                                                                                    CITARELLA                 IGA

Tuscan Milk –  quart                                                          1.79                                .95

Total Yogurt – large size                                                    6.49                              7.49

Carr’s Table Water Biscuits                                              3.49                              4.29

Hero Preserves                                                                    3.99                              4.79

Genova Tuna                                                                        3.99                              2.19

13 thoughts on “The 99 Cent Banana

  1. The voice of your mother (all in good humor):
    “Look it…you wanted to live there…”…said with all the button-pushing tones and implications only a NYJM of yesteryear could muster.

    Actually, your entry today made me laugh…and yes I’m up at nearly 2 AM…old age insomnia?

    Listen, I can’t believe you don’t miss “the Co-op”!!! I guess you never managed to join in all the years. Hhhh… Listen, join now, do your 2 1/2 hour shift per month, shop like crazy when you do your shift (parking is cheap in the garage up the street when you’re a coop member or you might manage to find street parkin) and you’ll love it. We have members from everywhere. People commute in from PA for God’s sake, so you, on the East End, you should be able to join…it would kill you? Such nice people at the Co-op. (should be dot-org but apparently the dot-org was taken before the PSFC got it together to create a web presence…)

    If I told my 91 year old aunt (I’m the primary caregiver…ah, yes) I’m bringing her bananas at 99-cents each she’d give me one of her ear-piercing “Wahhhh?” through the phone. You know what I’m talking about.

    Listen, with those prices, I’m almost tempted to send you a care-package.

  2. You’re kidding, right, BG? I should travel all the way to Bklyn for a food co-op in Park Slope, when I never even wanted to travel there from Cobble Hill? (For Costco, I’d travel!)
    It’s alright, I’ll just restrict myself to one banana at a time, cut up into small pieces to make it last…

  3. I love this morning’s blog post! I grew up going to my mom’s house in East Hampton (an old farmhouse that’s been added onto with beautiful english gardens- very laid back and certainly NOT south of the highway) and was married in her garden. When we visit, it is a vacation for us, so we usually bite the bullet and spend what may be the equivalent to out tots college education at Round Swamp Farm. The produce and prepared foods are pricey but amazingly delicious and I love the fact that it has been in the same family pre-revolutionary war. Fresh Direct delivers there now, though they did flatten my mom’s mailbox with last time they delivered to us (they paid for a replacement) and there is a food coop out there, though I don’t know anything about it except that a friend’s mother is a member. Anyway, I think it is so classic that Citarella is cheaper than IGA! Going to keep that in mind now that we are about to go into contract in our own (first ever, yay!) home in East Hampton!

  4. hey Em, good to hear from you – and congratulations on the house!!!! Is it an old one? (if so, I shall be jealous!) And where, roughly? (no need to give the exact address) My friend calls Round Swamp Farm the ‘robber barons’ – but yes, everything I’ve had from there is good. And yet, in the twisted way of the Hamptons, I noted that their price on a small Chobani yogurt – you can tell I eat a lot of Greek yogurt – is normal (2.39), whereas
    at Damark’s ‘ordinary’ deli up Three Mile Harbor Road, the same item is an exhorbitant $3.29. Anyway, good luck on the house purchase – see you in the grocery line!

  5. I guess the Round Swamp vs Damark deli is the same situation as Citarella vs IGA- you pay a premium for gourmet items and fresh (but it really is fresh, local, etc.) produce but the standard items are priced normally at the fancier places. Go figure. Of course it is an old house! But that is all I want to say at this point. Thank you for the good luck wishes : )

  6. Cara, don’t forget to put your cooler in your car when you come to Brooklyn next week. In fact, maybe you better take my larger one so you can stock up on 0% yogurt at $4.39 for the large one at Trader Joe’s and bananas at 19 cents a piece!

  7. Outrageous!! I wonder if the prices will go down off season??? Next time I come I will bring a Trader Joe’s care package. It would help if you had a frig……..

  8. A bag of chips is $5.00 at the Eli’s farmers market (a small bag of chips)!

  9. Insane! And I just paid $5.50 for a box of Celestial Seasonings tea at Second Nature, the health food store in East Hampton.

  10. My grandson Jeremy, the lawyer, paid $1.89 for a quart of 2% milk at d’Agostino’s at 84th Street when he decided he could finally get away from his big deal job and see his grandmother for the first time since March — and I told him he should get the milk at Gristedes because they’re having a sale for $1.19.

    But he doesn’t listen.

    Trader Joe’s–isn’t that a Polynesian bar and grill? My husband Hank and I used to go there when they opened the first one in New York years ago.

  11. Oy, another Jewish mother — grandmother, rather. Why should Jeremy listen? He can afford the extra 70 cents. Thanks for weighing in, Irene. You’re thinking of Trader Vic’s, by the way. In the Plaza Hotel. With the paper parasols in the drinks.

  12. What’s all the fuss? I regularly pay $3.09 (2.09 + 1.00 deposit) for a quart of Ronnybrook whole milk in a genuine glass bottle. ‘course that’s the real stuff, utterly delicious. I can’t imagine how much that’d be in Dean and DeLuca (where Ronnybrook butter is nearly double what it is up here in the Hudson R Valley).

  13. Hi, Cara. Ah, yes, Round Swamp, home of the $25 pie, that is a bargain at twice the price! Not to mention those $20 cinamin buns, also worth the splurge! Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ;-p

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