Which store is cheaper, FreshDirect or Fairway?

Is there any fair way to pick between the two?

Both Fairway and FreshDirect are trying to change the way that New Yorkers do their grocery shopping, but in very different ways.  The Fairway in Red Hook opened in 2006 in an effort to duplicate the success of the original store, which is known for its large amount of produce, organic and locally sourced items, and imported specialties such as their large artisanal cheese section and varieties of olive oil. FreshDirect opened for business in 2002 betting that people would prefer to click through a virtual supermarket and have their food delivered rather than go to the supermarket themselves, and also prides itself on quality produce and gourmet items. In an effort to determine who lives up to their motto more—is Fairway really “like no other market” or is FreshDirect “the smartest way to shop for food”—I decided to put them to the test. I wrote up a shopping list and set off to see how I preferred to shop and who could fill my order for less.

The shopping list (lowest price for each in bold):

Gala Apples  $2.49/lb $1.75/lb
Green Peppers  $1.99/lb $1.29/lb
chicken drum sticks  $2.19/lb $1.99/lb
Smucker’s Raspberry Jam 12 oz.  $3.49  $3.69
Thomas’ English Muffins 6 pc $4.29 $3.89
Classico Pasta Sauce 24 oz $3.39 $3.59
Barilla Linguine 16 oz $1.49 $1.69
Spam 12 oz $4.19 $3.99
Organic Valley Monterey Jack 8 oz $5.29 $3.99
Skippy Peanut Butter 28 oz  $5.69 $6.29
Apple & Eve Apple Juice 64 oz  $3 $3.29
Wheat Thins 9.1 oz  $3.79 $4.59
Oreos 15.5 oz  $4.39 $4.79
Annie’s Mac and Cheese 6 oz  $1.79 $2.29
Brooklyn Brewery IPA 6 pack  $9.49 $9.49
Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza 2 pc $4.29 $4.29
Colgate Total Toothpaste 6 oz $4.99 $3.79
 Fage Total Greek Yogurt 35.3 oz  $8.49 $7.99
Cap’n Crunch PB Crunch 14 oz  $3.89 $4.79
Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream 14 oz  $3.00 $4.99
Food Total*  $81.62 $82.46*

* FreshDirect comes out cheaper on products, but it charges an additional $5.99 for delivery ($8.99 if the order is under $100 and you live in South Brooklyn, the boundary of which is mentioned nowhere on the site)

I should point out three things about how I came about these numbers in order to preserve the high scientific standards Brokelyn strives for:

1. I didn’t look for products on sale, but I didn’t avoid them either. (Some of these sales have since ended)
2. This study was of identical products at the two stores rather than looking for the cheapest box of pasta or jar of peanut butter each place had to offer.
3. Because I had to make a decision about how to tally produce and meat sold by weight, I used the price for one pound. This made the most sense even though FreshDirect sells apples in packs of four — which, according to them averages out to $1.75 a pound — since they can’t grab some apples and weigh them every time someone logs on for an exact price based on weight.


Via FiPS.

The downside of FreshDirect 
Because the price difference between the two stores could have gone either way with a few product substitutions, shopping at one or the other really comes down to how you like to buy your groceries. FreshDirect is nice because you can sit in the comfort of your home and do your shopping at two in the morning if you so please. However, it doesn’t have the broad selection you come to expect when you shop online: for the Skippy peanut butter, it only had chunky, there were very few flavors of Haagen-Dazs, and it didn’t have the pepperoni French bread pizza, which, in my opinion, is the only French bread pizza.

And finally, even though every person I have talked to who orders from FreshDirect has said the produce is excellent and if there ever is a problem, it’s easy to get a refund; I simply cannot get used to the idea of someone else choosing my apples for me.

Fairway: Force feeding for your pleasure since 2006. Via BK Paper.

At Fairway, I am free to pick the apples that I like, and boy do they have a mountain of them. The store is huge with plenty of options for different tastes and budgets. Yet this size works against them in some respects too. While walking around the store, I found no less than three separate sections containing pasta products, which would be fine if they all contained the same products, but they didn’t. One aisle had a couple of brands, the next had a few of the same and a few different, and a third had organic pastas and sauces. While I’m sure that there is some reasoning behind their layout, it wasn’t clear to a first timer and got aggravating at times.

Those who are truly budget savvy are likely to compare what products are cheaper where and divide their shopping list between the two, but I personally preferred Fairway of the two.

Yes, it’s a pain in the ass to get to Red Hook and spend time doing your own shopping, but I will take a brick and mortar supermarket over a digital one if the prices are similar, especially with that delivery fee lurking about. Also, I do my best shopping when I’m wandering around not specifically looking for something, a practice I couldn’t duplicate online no matter how hard I tried. So for now I’ll stick to the old fashion way of shopping, and enjoy roaming the aisles instead of surfing the internet.

Do you prefer Fairway or Fresh Direct? Tell us in the comments!

7 Comment

  • the design of fairway is: specialty goods separate from organic goods separate from conventional goods – that’s why you’ll find pasta 3x

  • Glad to see someone carrying the flame for Peanut Butter Crunch, the best Captain Crunch.

  • that foie gras sign is SO obnoxious. jesus…defensive much?

  • If you have 2 kids and you don’t live anywhere near Fairway, and you pay in advance for the anytime delivery service that FreshDirect offers, it makes far more sense to buy your groceries from FreshDirect because time=money. I love the fact that I can order everything using the app on my phone while out strolling with the kids. Grocery shopping takes 5 minutes! Take that, Fairway! Re: produce, the only thing I don’t trust FreshD on is fruit–more often than not they send unripened pears, bananas, etc. So I’ve stopped ordering fruit from them.

  • If you’re truly budget-savvy, I don’t think you shop at either of these stores. For instance, I feel like everything on this list is cheaper if you buy the store-brand version at Trader Joe’s.

  • i usually alternate between fairway and fresh direct, but that foie gras sign is pushing me to the Fresh Direct only camp. Once you order from Fresh Direct they send a lot of codes for free shipping on certain days, so that makes up the price difference. The delivery guys have always been awesome, even on Christmas day, and the website is really good about telling you what is in season.