Ralph’s Food Cheap!(er)

img_1522After supermarket food prices rose sharply in 2008, today I noticed a huge number of items on sale at my local Ralph’s.  There were yellow sale tags on everything from strawberries to eggs to Lay’s potato chips.  This was very dangerous for me, as I have just gotten over a three-day stomach virus during which I ate almost nothing, and now have all kinds of new food cravings (although I’m not quite ready to think about that Hot Dog Death March).

So, what’s going on at Ralph’s?  Has business dropped off, requiring it to slash prices?  Obviously, in the midst of a severe economic recession, the prices of many things, from houses to cars, have plummeted.  Restaurants and other businesses are offering all kinds of deals to hold onto business.  But, since food is a staple, I would have thought that supermarkets like Ralph’s were immune to  downturns.   In fact, I thought Ralph’s would do better, as people eat at home more during the recession. 

What else could it be?  Are area consumers downgrading their Ralph’s and Pavillion’s supermarket food shopping to Albertson’s, Trader Joe’s, and Costco?   Did last winter’s sharp drop in gasoline prices (note, however, that they’re now climbing back big time) cause a plunge in trucking costs that, months later, has found its way to the supermarket shelves?

Or maybe I have it totally backwards.  Maybe the neighborhood isn’t feeling the recession at all, and the Whole Foods that opened a couple of miles North on Lincoln Boulevard last fall is taking away Ralph’s business.  After all, at Whole Foods, $60 buys you one whole bag of groceries.  If you’re lucky.

9 thoughts on “Ralph’s Food Cheap!(er)”

  1. Check out

    They quote the LAT about Albertson’s reducing a lot of their prices (and note that Ralph’s is much larger, volume-wise)…perhaps Ralph’s is making sure they stay #1. What I find funny about Albertson’s is that they closed a lot of medium sized stores (like the one in Highland Park, which is now a Superior Grocery Warehouse/nonunion store) and haven’t opened any new ones that I’ve seen.
    For myself, my choice is Super King but they have only three locations, Anaheim, Los Angeles (San Fernando Rd near the 2 Fwy) and the newest, in Altadena. http://www.superkingmarket.com. Their sales are often on specialty/ethnic items, but their produce is often a very good value and great deli & meat markets.
    There’s a new Fresh & Easy opening soon in Pasadena (S. Lake at California, where the old Wild Oats used to be) so all the ‘regular’ markets are getting competition from all over.
    I think maybe Ralph’s is taking a look and making a move now, rather than later. Another chain to check out for diversity and good produce (& prices) is Jon’s…www.jonsmarketplace.com.
    I check out all the sales online then plan…I still check Ralph’s and Albertson’s….but one great buy WITH card isn’t worth the trip when everything else costs more.

  2. I was at Albertson’s the other day, and I can totally confirm the above – they’re running a recession/depression special.

  3. Evan: I stand corrected on the spelling for Ralphs.
    Matt Mason: Jon’s Markets has cherries on sale for 99 cents a pound if you want them from a store.

  4. Food prices are linked to the cost of their commodities (the main ingeditents)like corn, wheat, and dairy, and the cost of fuel to transport the groceries to your supermarket. Commodities are volatile because their price is based on demand and exchange trading. The price of commodities have been coming down drastically due to a reduce in demand at the manufacturing and consumer level brought about by the severe economic downturn. The Consumer Price Index reports that food prices have plunged by 0.8 percent in the first three months of 2009.

    In short, consumers are buying less food and, in turn, farmers and manufacturers are putting less and less product into the marketplace; it’s a vicious merry-go-round, really. If the price declines become widespread and profound, then deflation sets in and we’re really screwed.

  5. There is always a lot of food on sale after a big BBQ weekend (like Memorial Day). Fresh & Easy had a huge multi-pack of 4 sausages + 4 hamburger patties + 8 chicken pieces on sale for $5.

    See y’all at the supermarket on July 5th!

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