It’s getting harder and harder for Manhattanites to cling to the pretense that they reside in the Chosen Borough. Still, it’s not every day you hear one admit to making regular trips across the East River to score things their island doesn’t offer. So when a woman I know who’s skilled at budget living told me she makes weekly food-shopping expeditions to Brooklyn — from Hell’s Kitchen, no less — it caught my ear.
Sahadi’s? The Red Hook Fairway? A Trader Joe’s less jammed than the one by Union Square? Nope, nope and nope. Her destination: Target, which isn’t exactly flying under the radar as a friend to the frugal, but is better known for budget housewares and baby clothes than, say, crushed tomatoes. Granted, $1.09 cans of the latter don’t set the Brokavore’s heart pounding like a great $2 falafel or five-for-a-buck dumplings. But clearly an investigation was in order.
So I headed for the Atlantic Terminal (where to my mild surprise, the piped-in music was Elvis Costello’s “Get Happy”—a rare point in the mall’s favor). Prowling the uncrowded grocery section on the store’s bottom floor, I checked prices on a shopping list’s worth of items heavy on staples like butter, eggs and saltines. Then I compared them to those at my neighborhood supermarket, either matching name brands or comparing house labels, of which Target has two, the no-frills Market Pantry, and its boutique cousin Archer Farms, for more high fallutin’ items like organic marinara sauce and cranberry trail mix.
The verdict: Target did pretty damn well. Out of 18 items, it only lost on one, a box of 100 tea bags that was five cents more than its Krasdale equivalent. And it stomped in quite a few categories – butter at $2.04 a pound (vs. $3.79), a box of Special K for $3.04 (vs. $5.49), a pint of Ben and Jerry’s for $3.59 (vs. $4.99). All told, the same list came to $68.88 at the supermarket, and $49.03 at Target – an impressive $20 spread.
And a small, unscientific sampling of Target-brand items—including the baked salt-and-pepper potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and fancy-ass imported Italian blood orange soda—yielded nary a dud. In fact, planning to take just a taste for research purposes, I scarfed a third of the box of cookies. But at $1.99 a box, that only came to 67 cents.
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Target Atlantic Center, 139 Flatbush Ave., (718) 290-1109
Target Flatbush Junction, 1598 Flatbush Ave., (718) 637-5005