We Went Bargain Hunting for the Groceries That Jumped in Price

We Went Bargain Hunting for the Groceries That Jumped in Price

These days, a grocery aisle feels like a gauntlet. You’re surrounded by products that cost way more than you remember.

It’s not just nostalgia for a simpler time (say, 2019). National inflation hitting 7.5% last month means the cost of living is rising at its fastest rate since 1982. On the West Coast, prices are climbing even faster—we should expect to pay 7.7% more this year for food, energy and housing compared to last year, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report.

The pain is especially acute at the checkout stand. We don’t blame you for snarling at the automated checker as your weekly grocery bill climbs above $200. But if you’re trying to keep your head above the soda water, here’s a tiny life raft: We’ve scoured the greater Portland area to round up the best deals on groceries and other necessities. It’s not as good as a COLA—you’ll have to take that one up with your boss—but hey: Cheap gas is cheap gas.

We also tracked down a few of the best bargains for eating out. Because it’s 2022, and you deserve a freaking treat.

GROCERIES AND NECESSITIES

A dozen eggs: Up 31.3% between January 2021 and January 2022

Best deal: Grocery Outlet, $1.99

Runners-up: WinCo, $2.29; Trader Joe’s, $2.49.

Among grocery items, eggs saw one of the sharpest price increases in the past year. These prices are for the cheapest eggs we could find—regardless of origin. If the cage-free distinction is important to you, your best bet is Fred Meyer, where a carton of organic, cage-free eggs costs $2.79.

Rib-eye steak: Up 19% (all steak, not just rib-eye) between January 2021 and January 2022

Best deal: WinCo, $11.88 a pound

Runners-up: Grocery Outlet, $11.99 a pound; Fred Meyer, $15.99 a pound ($9.77 for club card members during specials).

All meat prices are rising, but beef is going up like somebody strapped rocket boosters on a steer. It’s not necessarily the first grocery category most shoppers would want to cut corners on (maybe generic cereal instead?), but you can find bargains on good product—even a desirable cut like a rib-eye remains reasonable pretty at WinCo. And because stores need to sell red meat products fairly quickly, you can get screaming deals like the one we found for Fred Meyer cardholders, especially if you’re flexible about the cut of steak you want.

A gallon of gas: Up by 46.4% between January 2021 and January 2022

Best deal: Arco, $3.63 (cash), $3.69 (debit), 2714 NE 112th Ave., Vancouver, Wash.

Runners-up: Space Age Fuel, $3.95, 7912 NE Martin Luther King Jr. blvd.;

76, $3.99, 5305 N Lombard St.

You’re gonna have a hard time finding a gallon of gas in Portland under $4 right now. Across the city, the going rate for the first week of March 2022 hovered around $4.15, and prices at a couple of stations even rose above $5 a gallon (see “Gassed Up,” page 16).

But with a bit of hunting, the under-$4 unicorn does exist. A killer deal can be found across the Columbia River, especially if you pay in cash. Within Portland, try the 76 station in St. Johns and the Space Age Fuel just north of Woodland Park.

toilet paper: Up 15.6% between May 2020 and May 2021

Best deal: Grocery Outlet, 29 cents a roll (24 for $6.99)

Runners-up: WinCo, 36 cents a roll (12 for $4.38); Everyday Deals, 50 cents a roll (12 for $6).

The early pandemic days of TP rationing are over, which allows you to be choosy about how you wipe. It’s a very personal choice. But if you don’t have any strong feelings on the matter: Grocery Outlet offers the best price per roll. Do with that information what you will, and let’s not discuss it further.

A six-pack of IPA: Up 1.8% (all beer, not just IPA) between January 2021 and January 2022

Best deal: Trader Joe’s Boatswain Hazy IPA, $4.99

Runners-up: Grocery Outlet’s Silver Moon Catch and Release IPA, $7.99; WinCo’s McKenzie Brewing Winter IPA, $8.85 (plus a wide selection of other beer starting at $8.98).

In the grand tradition of its famous Two Buck Chuck wine, Trader Joe’s offers absurdly affordable booze options under its own name brand. If you’re not too discerning a drinker, it’s a cost-effective alternative. But if you’re looking for a wider-ranging selection, both Grocery Outlet and WinCo boast an enormous collection of Oregon-brewed beers for less than $9 a six-pack.

A loaf of sourdough bread: Up 0.6% between January 2021 and January 2022

Best deal: Grocery Outlet, $1.99

Runners-up: WinCo, $3.08; Trader Joe’s, $3.49.

The price of bread, at least, has remained fairly stable across the country. Keep in mind that each of these is a sliced ​​and wrapped sourdough loaf. For a fresh, crusty loaf of bread baked on site, prices start at $3.99 at both WinCo and Fred Meyer.

EATING OUT

An ice cream sundae

Our pick: Angel Donuts and Ice Cream, $4.45 for a sundae, $5.45 for a double sundae, 18340 SE Stark St.

The focus of this unassuming, old-school doughnut shop is, well, donuts. But it also offers more than a dozen flavors of ice cream, and customers can choose between classic single, double or triple scoop cones, or treat themselves to a reasonably priced sundae. Dairy Queen might be cheaper, but Angel brings panache and ganache.

Street tacos

Our pick: Su Casa Taqueria cart, $1.50 each, 145 SE 82nd Ave.

Also try: Taqueria Market, $1.99 each, 11505 NE Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver, Wash.

A taco from a food truck just hits different, and this well-reviewed gem off East Burnside Street is priced right. Diners can pick from pollo, pastor, carnitas and chorizo ​​for $1.50 apiece, though some meat options—asada, lengua, pescado—will cost a few cents more.

Another delicious, affordable option is the Taqueria Market along Vancouver’s multicultural Fourth Plain corridor. This Mexican bakery and market features a grill in its parking lot where you can get a killer plate of tacos to go. If you’re looking for something a little heartier, the burritos won’t disappoint, either.

Pizza

Our pick: Life of Pie, $7 Margherita pizza during happy hour 11 am-6 pm, 1765 NW 23rd Ave.

Technically, this is a happy hour deal. But when happy hour is a full seven hours long, does that distinguish really even matter? Life of Pie’s Margherita pizza is the platonic ideal of a Margherita pizza: crackly crust, melty cheese, and topped with just enough restraint that you can still taste each specific ingredient. The pizza makes a meal for one, but for two or more, it’s a light snack. For best results, share over wine.

A latte

Our pick: Bennett Urban Farm Store, $3, 276 E Main St., Hillsboro.

Also try: Nossa Familia Coffee, $4, 1350 NW Lovejoy St. |

First of all, we know: If you’re not already there, Hillsboro is a haul. But come on—it’s a $3 latte! In 2022! We even reached out to the owner directly to confirm, because you’d be hard-pressed to find a comparably priced 12-ounce latte anywhere else. But it’s true. Owner Mark Bennett adds that he roasts all the beans himself, in addition to owning and operating the little market.

For a shorter detour from your daily commute, Nossa Familia Coffee offers highly rated lattes for a reasonable $4 at its three locations across Portland. Similar shops tend to cost around $4.50 (Good Coffee) or $4.75 (Deadstock).

Methodology

To hunt down the cheapest prices in the city, we pulled from a variety of sources.

For gas, we looked for service stations that listed their prices online or were consistently rated as “cheap” or “affordable” in reviews. We reached out to the stations to confirm those prices with staff to ensure they were up to date, and then drove around the Portland metro area to compare those with the gas prices of about a dozen other stations scattered in different neighborhoods.

To find the best grocery bargains, we hit up five affordable to midrange grocers. Four out of the five are chains, and while we can’t speak for prices across all locations, they’re likely consistent with what we found at these specific stores:

• WinCo Foods, 1950 NE 122nd Ave.

• Everyday Deals Grocery Liquidators, 600 SE 146th Ave.

• Grocery Outlet, 4420 NE Hancock St.

• Trader Joe’s, 2122 NW Glisan St.

• Fred Meyer, 1111 NE 102nd Ave.

Eating out is a little more subjective (we could track down a $3 pizza, but you probably wouldn’t want to eat it). We decided to forgo the flat-out cheapest price in favor of the best bang for your buck, though the experience of dining out is particular to individual tastes. We scoured online reviews, Reddit threads and past media coverage; we crowdsourced from friends and drew from our own past experiences. All of the prices are in the single-digit range, and are items you’ll actually enjoy consuming.

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