Where to Buy Food: A Guide to Grocery Stores in Boston


Over the past few years, there's been a growing trend to stay at houses or apartments as opposed to hotels. And overall, that makes sense – you save money, and you can cook for yourself. (I have to admit though that Boston restaurants have been on the up and up.) But the problem that I've found is that when you visit a new city, you have no idea what prices are reasonable at grocery stores. Some stores are notoriously expensive, while others are the complete opposite. Here, you'll find a list of what is good in the GBA (Greater Boston Area) and what places you should definitely avoid.

Star Market or Shaws
This is the run-of-the-mill grocer's. It's mid-range, and it's everywhere. Sometimes, they have really great deals, but most of the time, you can find both cheaper and more expensive. All I can do about these two chains is give a noncommittal shrug.

Market Basket
Also known as DeMoula's, Market Basket is cheap. The only thing that you have to keep in mind is the people. Lines can (and do) get crazy on the weekends, so if you're able, go on the weekdays during the mid-morning. You can get steaks at affordable prices, and canned goods are reasonably priced.

TJ's and Whole Foods
Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are all around the States, so if you're traveling from abroad, you'll need to know about these food markets wherever you go. Both TJ's and Whole Foods offer store-brand food like salsa, dumplings, flour, and so on. Really, the range is incredible, and so is the price.

TJ's is generally less expensive than Whole Foods, but both have their own merits. In the U.S., Whole Foods is considered the Saks Fifth Avenue of food (with its own extensive organic selection,) and TJ's is famous for Two-Buck Chuck (two-dollar wine.) You get the picture.

McKinnon's
McKinnon's is a Davis Square staple. It's been around for a few dozen years, and it has no plans on going anywhere. It's mostly a deli with limited veggies, but the meat selection is seriously boss. You can get anything meat-wise here, and it's not going to cost you your first or second child.

Broadway Marketplace
It's one of the few markets available near Harvard Square. However, it is very expensive. It contains a liquor section, and unlike TJ's and Whole Foods, they don't produce any of their own foods. Pro tip? Rent a Zip Car, get your GPS out, and go somewhere else.

Wegmans
Also available outside of Massachusetts, Wegmans is like the department store of grocery stores. It feels like the aisles continue for millenia. The two locations (near Worcester and near Chestnut Hill) sell liquor inside. It may seem intuitive for grocery stores to vend alcohol, but the blue laws in Mass are very, very strict. Only two stores with the same LLC can sell booze in the entire state. Bummer, I know.

HMart
Yes. So many times yes. HMart is brilliant. It's a Korean store, but it sells other traditional Asian foods as well. On the weekends, they have tastings, and they offer quick "how-tos" on cooking seemingly-scary ingredients. Also, the kimchi is always fresh, and the ramen and rice sections are never lacking. Really, this may be the most sensible shop if you're in the Greater Boston Area.

Natalia has lived in the Greater Boston Area for 20 years. She's written about the food and theater scene for the Culver City News, the Dig and Whisked Foodie.