Guest Post: Where to Buy Food: MIT Groceries Guide by Erick P. '17
Because eating textbooks gets expensive.
Image courtesy of greggavedon.com
The following is a guest entry by Elaine L. ’18
This entry was originally published on Elaine’s blog Food Parsed on August 31, 2015.
Buying your own groceries can be intimidating, so I have put together a complete guide of all groceries near MIT.
General Advice for Grocery Shopping
- Bring an empty backpack.
You should always bring an empty backpack when going grocery shopping because it’s much easier to carry groceries on your back than in your arms. When loading groceries into your backpack, make sure to put more durable items in first and to put fragile items on top. When I’m not careful about this step, I always end up squishing all of the bananas, and it’s very sad.
- Make a grocery list.
Before buying more groceries, you should know what foods you already have. Then, you should plan out what to buy so that you can save time and money in the grocery store.
- Know how much food costs.
Items marked sale are not necessarily on sale. If you buy groceries enough, you will get a sense of how much things cost. If you’re new to buying groceries, here is a reference for food prices. In general, to see how expensive an unfamiliar grocery store is, check how much they charge for a few benchmark items, such as bananas, eggs, and milk. To learn how to cook on a budget, I recommend the food blog Budget Bytes.
Where to Buy Groceries
- La Verde’s, Campus Convenience
Generic college convenience stores
You should not do your primary grocery shopping at these locations because of the significantly higher prices. Good for a last minute gift or a quick ice cream fix.
- Stata Market
Located in the Gates Lobby of the Stata Center, the market is open Tuesdays from 10 am to 4 pm. Cash only – there are ATMs in the Stata Center. Also sells pita bread! I buy most of my produce here. Since I live in East Campus, I have enough time in between classes to buy groceries and go back to the dorm. If you live on west campus, you can take the Tech Shuttle.
- Trader Joe’s
I love Trader Joe’s because it has a huge variety of snacks. However, shopping here can get expensive if you’re not carefully tracking your spending. Best prices for frozen vegetables, fancy pants foods, such as cheese and macarons, and some pantry staples, such as olive oil and a pound of chocolate. There are two locations near campus.
- Trader Joe’s on Memorial Drive
Closer to west campus – 1 mile walk from Next House. You can also get here by the Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods shuttle. If you plan on using a car service, going to this location would probably be cheaper because it is located on a main road.
- Trader Joe’s on Boylston Street
Closer to east campus – 1 mile walk across the bridge. I stop by here whenever I’m in Boston.
- Trader Joe’s on Memorial Drive
- Whole Foods
Way too expensive grocery
I don’t shop here because it’s far away from campus and too expensive. I went here once to get some freshly baked bread. There are bulk bins for grains, but the prices are cheaper at the Harvest Co-op.
- Star Market
Best prices for meat. I buy meat from the discount meat section and freeze it for later. The store is rather hidden, and you end up having to go up an escalator. Very close to Random Hall and Toscanini’s.
Reasonable prices for produce. Good for Asian snacks or groceries. I buy napa cabbage, miso, tofu, seaweed, and dumpling skins here.
- Harvest Co-Op
Reasonable prices for produce. I really like their bulk bins for grains and spices. You should buy spices in bulk because it’s cheaper than buying containers of spices and you can buy small amounts of spices for recipes. Spices cost a lot per pound, but you only use a small amount when you cook.
Here’s a map of all the locations.
The grocery stores listed are all within walking distance of campus. I always bring a backpack so I can carry my groceries back to campus. If the groceries are too heavy, seek alternative transportation.
You can carry groceries in your backpack or in a basket when riding a bike. However, you may not be able to carry as many groceries.
From the Kendall/MIT subway station, you can take the red line to Central if you want to go to HMart or the Harvest Co-op. The other grocery stores are not easily accessible by subway.
- Campus Shuttles
MIT has free grocery shuttles on the weekends. You might be able to catch the EZRide to the Trader Joe’s in Boylston or the Saferide to Star Market. I generally avoid the shuttles because the scheduled times tend to be inaccurate. I sometimes take the grocery shuttle when going back to campus so I don’t have to walk with groceries.
- Car Services
Car services, such as Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, cost more than the other modes of transportation.You can split the cost of the ride if you’re getting groceries with friends.
You can order groceries online using Instacart. However, you should be careful because Instacart marks up some of the prices.
I used Instacart a lot in the winter when it was too cold to go outside. I like to get bulk eggs, yogurt, and oatmeal from Costco, and I usually order with my friends to use up the bulk items.
I hope that this guide helps you decide where to buy groceries at MIT. Have any specific questions about stores? Feel free to comment below or contact me at askelaine [at] mit [dot] edu. I’ll be writing another guide on what groceries to buy and how to make them delicious.