Strategy for buying the best groceries on Maui at the best price

Aloha! When I first walk into any Maui grocery store, I am in sticker shock over the price of a gallon of milk, butter, yoghurt and bread. However, a little experience goes a long way and I don’t think I spend much more on food on Maui than on the mainland because I employ the shopping techniques listed below. Also, since the weather is warm, I eat differently than back on the Mainland and don’t need so much of the high priced imports!

1. Don’t buy what you don’t need. Take a look around the condo before you make your list. You might find a few things in the kitchen that folks have left behind. Also, we generously stock the hall closet with paper products and have a drawer in the bathroom with various items. We do this so you don’t have to spend $6 for four rolls of T.P. at Foodland! We also prefer you use our supply of laundry detergent. It is the right kind for the washer.

2. Take a few minutes to comb the sale flyers on the Internet for Foodland, Safeway and the Times Market. Start your grocery list based on what’s on sale at a couple different stores. If you will be here for a week or more, you might consider a Costco run…especially if you want alcohol and/or fish. Local fish can be VERY expensive… $25 per pound when I last checked the local market called Eskimo Candy. It’s about half that at Costco and much of it is wild caught in Hawaiian waters.

3. Before heading out, grab the cooler, ice packs from the freezer and cloth bags from the hall closet. (Maui banned plastic bags in 2010.)

4. The nearest “farmer’s market”(which is really a family owned produce stand) by the Aloha Outdoor Market is just past Foodland on the Makai (water side) of the street. It’s open daily, but has different operators and therefore different produce on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Regardless of the day of week, this is by far, the cheapest and most local produce around. Go there first and put your produce in the cooler before you proceed to the grocery store. Then, go to your other two stores knowing in general, Safeway has the best sale prices. I find Safeway is large enough so that one brand of just about anything I need is on sale.

5. If you go to Foodland, take the door key with the Makai card attached in order to get the sale price. The Time Market does not require a card. Safeway does, but we don’t supply one. (I think they will give you one if you ask. Lots of people already have one.)

6. Avoid buying drinks in small containers. Maui has a five cent container deposit which is difficult to retrieve. On an early trip to Maui we bought a Costco 48 pack of small bottled waters. Ouch. (Also see next item.)

7. There is no need to buy bottled water (also imported from the Mainland). Maui gets its water from the local mountains and it tastes fine. There are four plastic water bottles in the cabinet opposite the freezer.

8. Check out the local products at Long Drugs. I had been in that store a dozen times before I realized it has organic grass fed Maui beef in the refrigerator in the back, local produce just across the aisle from the beef and Hawaiian ice-cream in the freezer case near Checkout Stand #2. Be daring and try the Melona bars (actually Korean). Much like a  healthy fruit popsicle with a dash of sweet cream. While you’re up front, check out the bread products by Checkout Stand #1. The sale price and quality is often hard to beat.

If you’re willing to do a little planning and be flexible, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on food to eat really well. Aloha!

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