To qualify for the maximum food stamp allotment of $352 per month, a family of four must make no more than $12,000 per year. To find out how much a family can actually buy with this allotment, The Times conducted a price comparison at two middle-income neighborhood Boys markets in the Crenshaw area, and at the Boys Market in Compton, where some of the participants shop for food. The prices at both stores were then compared to Lucky stores, which claims to have the lowest prices of any major retail grocery chain.
The problem is most food stamp recipients don't have the luxury of comparison shopping. For a customer living in South Central, the nearest Lucky is in Huntington Park, three miles from Watts. No other major supermarket chain, other than Boys, is willing to do business in South Central.
The market basket of items was selected based on advice from nutrition education assistant Peggy Favors and from an EFNEP participant's grocery list. On some items, the Boys prices overall were about the same as Lucky's. But the inner-city store had higher prices--especially on cleansers such as dishwashing liquid and bleach. For example, a 22-ounce bottle of Dawn dishwashing liquid costs $1.69 at Lucky, whereas Boys Crenshaw charges $1.89 and Boys Compton charges $2.05. A gallon of Clorox bleach costs $1.15 at Lucky. At Boys Crenshaw the same jug costs $1.29, in Compton the price is $1.39. Boys explains that higher operating costs force higher prices.
Although Favors suggests that low-income families purchase ground turkey as a low-fat alternative to ground beef, at the Compton Boys Louis Rich brand ground turkey costs 30 cents more per pound than at the Crenshaw-area stores. It is 50 cents less at Lucky.
On the other hand, The Times discovered that the inner-city Boys does make some inexpensive items available to its shoppers. It has a small selection of high-end specialty items, such as oat bran bread, but it offers a huge assortment of 59-cent white and wheat bread. Also, Boys sells ethnic vegetables, seasonings and meats at low prices, whereas these "specialty" items command a higher price at Lucky.
Favors has advice for shoppers on limited grocery budgets who are faced with such high food prices. "Get together with a friend and split the cost of gas so you can compare prices at different stores." And, she says only consider stores that may be on your way somewhere else: "Don't go out of your way."
She says consumers should be wary of double coupons and buy generic brands over national brands unless the coupon reduces the national brand price. Remember, she says, "coupons are usually for items you don't need."
Consumers should avoid buying large quantities of sale items, unless they will be used before they spoil and if space isn't a problem. She encourages homemakers to cook from scratch more often and to check the unit price; some large packages contain the same amount of food as the small ones.
SUPERMARKET COST COMPARISON
Lucky The Boys The Boys Compton ABC Food Item Generic green beans (16 ounces) .49 .49 .49 Welch's grape jelly (32 ounces) 2.05 2.23 2.39 Campbell's cream of mushroom soup (11 1/4 ounces) 53 .75 .75 Star Kist tuna (6 ounces) .63 .50 .59 Pinto beans (1 pound) .61 .69 .69 Ronzoni lasagna noodles (1 pound) 1.27 1.55 1.55 C & H granulated sugar (5 pounds) 1.79 2.19 2.25 Medium eggs (1 dozen) 1.75 1.89 1.89 Homogenized milk (1 gallon) 2.49 2.49 2.53 Philadelphia cream cheese (8 ounces) 1.48 1.59 1.59 Jell-O gelatin (6-ounces) .87 .95 .95 Pillsbury cinnamon rolls (9.5 ounces) 1.57 1.65 1.69 Fresh broccoli (1 pound) .79 .79 .69 Collard greens (1 bunch) .79 .39 .39 Head green cabbage (1 pound) .29 .33 .33 D'Anjou pears (1 pound) .69 .49 .49 Beef liver (1 pound) 1.29 .99 .99 Whole chickens (1 pound) .79 .59 .59 Turkey wings (1 pound) .99 .49 .49 Louis Rich ground turkey (1 pound) 1.29 1.49 1.79 Generic frozen orangejuice concentrate (12 ounces) .79 .99 1.19 Tree Top Apple Juice (1 gal- lon) 4.19 4.65 4.85 Roman Meal bread (24 ounces) 1.97 1.99 1.99 Kellogg's corn flakes cereal (24 ounces) 2.29 2.29 2.29 Jiffy corn muffin mix (7 ounces) .31 .33 .33 Cheer detergent (42 ounces) 4.59 4.59 4.69 Clorox bleach (1 gallon) 1.15 1.29 1.39 Dawn dishwashing liquid (22 ounces) 1.69 1.85 2.05
Source: Grocery stores