Grocery shopping on a college budget

Courtesy of SOFYA FREYMAN The price of produce such as strawberries is higher at Eddie’s Market.

Courtesy of SOFYA FREYMAN
The price of produce such as strawberries is higher at Eddie’s Market.

By JACQUI NEBER

News & Features Editor

Students have the option to shop at a variety of grocery stores to best fit their budgets and tastes. Popular choices include the Charles Street Market (CharMar), Eddie’s Market and the Giant grocery store. However, the pricing and quality of the three stores are not equal.

CharMar is the University’s own market and eatery. Students can use their Dining Dollars to purchase produce and shelved foods, as well as eat from the Crêpe Studio, a sandwich station, a Bamboo Café sushi station and a Meals in a Minute station. Because it is located so close to campus, students often cite CharMar as the convenient choice.

Giant is located minutes away from Homewood at 601 E. 33rd St. Out of the three options, it is the largest and the only chain grocery store. It offers a wide variety of food and personal goods.

Eddie’s Market on St. Paul Street is a closer alternative to Giant, smaller and more similar to a Trader Joe’s than a chain grocery store. Eddie’s offers several artisanal and organic options.

The prices of 15 common student purchases, such as Nutella, Colgate toothpaste and a carton of strawberries, were compared among the three stores. Giant was consistently the cheapest option. Eddie’s and CharMar carried similarly priced items, but CharMar is often seen  as the most expensive place to shop.

Director of Dining Programs Bill Connor explained the University’s

rationale behind CharMar prices and said Dining is conscious that pricing is important to students.

“Hopkins Dining is aware that pricing is a sensitive issue for students when providing grocery items in a collegiate convenience store like Charles Street Market. The approach that we take is to offer a selection of products that students demand and to be competitively priced,” Connor wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “There are occasions where we are not able to be competitive due to constraints or pricing from suppliers and vendors. The Hopkins Dining Team works very hard to order from suppliers and vendors that provide the best pricing and savings that we can pass along to the students.”

The table above compares the differences in price of common items bought at CharMar, Eddie’s and Giant.

The table above compares the differences in price of common items bought at CharMar, Eddie’s and Giant.

Connor also described the process the University uses to contextualize CharMar prices.

“Every semester Hopkins Dining completes a competitive shopping basket to compare our pricing to that of local establishments in the neighborhood,” he wrote. “We often find we are close in pricing and in some places lower. We will actively display this in Charles Street Market soon.”

Prices were generally more expensive at CharMar, where Oreos are sold for $6.99 as compared to $3.49 at Giant.  Out of 13 comparable items, nine were most expensive at the market. However, Eddie’s sells eggs and strawberries at $3.49 and $5.99 respectively, representing a steep price jump over  similar CharMar items.

Although CharMar’s location is convenient, students like sophomore Carolina Chu do not think that this justifies its high prices.

“I believe CharMar food is overpriced. I remember Andy Kim posting a picture of pancake mix from CharMar that was more than double [the price of] what they sell at the generic grocery store,” Chu wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Sophomore Victoria Gramuglia said that while she doesn’t shop for fresh groceries at CharMar, she thinks its meals, including crêpes and flatbreads, are too expensive for everyday consumption.

“I don’t really go to Eddie’s or Giant so I wouldn’t know how to compare, but from what I know at home, CharMar is expensive,” she said. “I mostly get meals at CharMar. I haven’t gotten too many groceries — I kind of let my parents do that when they come.”

While many students seem to think CharMar’s food is too expensive for its quality, sophomore Mia Berman said that a potential perk in the market’s offerings was that the store accepts students’ Dining Dollars, which saves her money.

Senior Drew D’Avino explained his typical grocery shopping process in the context of CharMar prices. He lumps CharMar and Eddie’s in the same price range, but does say that for an upperclassmen living in the neighborhood, Eddie’s is convenient because of its St. Paul Street location.

“I haven’t been in CharMar since my sophomore year,” D’Avino wrote in an email to The News-Letter. “It is hilariously expensive. Eddie’s is also expensive, but I end up there sometimes because it’s on my way home. Their meat prices are absurd, you’d think they raised the chickens themselves. I go to Giant for actual grocery shopping and occasionally even go to Costco.”

Sam Fossum contributed  reporting.

One response to “Grocery shopping on a college budget

  1. Softball article, JACQUI NEBER. Spending Dining dollars do not save students money as students must pay for them up front! Additionally, when students are spending dining dollars (DD$) there’s a premium. It costs USD 1674 to buy DD$ 350 dining dollars. Ask Ms. Pasternack for some help with dimensional analysis to convert the those dining dollar prices to US$ equivalent. It’s not a valid comparison! You should further analyze what % of volume is purchased with DD$ and adjust the prices accordingly!

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