Food Shopping on Kaua’i – 4/13/2020

What was supposed to be our first “regular” food shopping trip on the island turned out to be anything but regular. I took YaYu along with me since she’s been complaining about not having snacks as well as some of her favorite foods. We ended up buying a few things for her that weren’t on our list, but I’m hoping those will last for a while.

We began at Costco, and as well as purchasing food we also picked up two non-food items while we were there: a new beach towel ($9.99) for YaYu to use as an exercise mat (she works out daily), and a memory foam mat ($14.99) to go in the kitchen so standing isn’t so uncomfortable while we wash dishes. Total spent at Costco: $168.81 ($161.31 + $7.50 tax). 

Our second stop was Safeway, mainly because it was located next to Costco and made for an easier trip. Safeway is the most expensive grocery store on the island, but they have an incredible selection and their stores are usually well-stocked – you can pretty much always find what you need there, and there’s almost always a lower-cost store brand. Also, their sale prices can be better than in other stores. For example, we found Breyer’s ice cream on sale for $4.99/package while at Big Save it’s currently $8.99. Total spent at Safeway was $59.00 ($56.34 + $2.66 tax).

Below are the items we bought this week. I would love to know how these prices compare with what you would pay for similar items.

Dairy: We bought a half-gallon of 1% milk ($3.99), and two packages of Breyer’s ice cream, lactose-free vanilla (for YaYu) and peach cobbler.

Pantry Items: Chicken broth ($3.49); sweet chili sauce ($3.99); rice vinegar ($3.19); stirfry sauce ($5.99); fettucini ($1.50); a small container of Parmesan cheese ($2.99); 1-pound box of sugar ($3.29); 5-pound bag of sushi rice ($4.99); case of 24 packages of Sapporo Ichiban ramen ($12.99). Everything except the ramen came from Safeway. Three of the very few items Safeway was out of or low on were flour, sugar, and yeast – people are baking!! The sweet chili sauce is a dip for wonton chips, and the stirfry sauce is made locally and doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup.

YaYu Things: Besides the Sapporo Ichiban noodles (her favorite), YaYu also picked out a tub of red pepper hummus ($6.99); a 4-pack of Portuguese sausages ($9.49); a container of kimchi ($6.99); and a bag of dried mango ($12.49) when we were at Costco.

Snack Items: A big bag of Kettle Himalayan salt potato chips ($5.99); a bag of wonton chips  ($9.99); roasted cashews ($15.49); a bag of manapua (steamed char siu pork buns) ($13.99); and a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake ($5.99). The potato chips and cashews are pretty much for Brett, the wonton chips are (mostly) mine, the manapua are for Brett and me, and coconut cake is for Brett’s birthday next week. Everything but the cake should last for two to three weeks. The manapua are made in Honolulu, and the “One Ton” wonton chips are made in Hilo, on the Big Island.

Beverages: One case of Diet Coke (my vice) ($11.29 + $1.44 deposit); Fever Tree ginger beer ($15.99 + $4 deposit) for Brett and YaYu; a bottle of pinot noir for Brett ($10.99), and Kirkland Pinot Grigio ($5.99) for me. We had bought the Kirkland pinot grigio in the box but discovered it takes up too much room in our small fridge so I switched back to regular bottles.

Produce: two jumbo yellow onions ($2.96), and a half-price container of celery sticks ($1.99). We don’t use much celery, so the sticks were a better value than buying a regular bundle of celery.

The refrigerator is still stuffed, so I have made a command decision that other than picking up our CSA bag next week there will be no food purchases (and we may go without the CSA bag as well). I had intended to buy a Costco meatloaf and mashed potatoes to have this week, but it is going to have to wait until there is more room in the fridge and I can justify spending the $$ on it. I feel like I really need to get a handle on our food spending here as it’s currently so out of whack. We did so well with our budget in Japan but are struggling with it here and now. I know we’ll get there, but for now it’s very frustrating.


31 thoughts on “Food Shopping on Kaua’i – 4/13/2020

    1. I figured both Alaska and California prices would be pretty similar – Portland’s too (we were shocked by how expensive things were there this summer). One of the big things driving the high costs here is not only the cost of shipping things over here, but the limited amount and high cost of storage on the islands. I imagine you might have more area for storage in Alaska, but the cost might be prohibitive there as well.


    1. We dealt with small refrigerators several times and adjusted quickly, but for some reason we’ve not been as fast here. I think it has to do with Costco having been so important in keeping our food costs down before, and when we got here we stocked right up again. I think we’ve learned our lesson though. Our oven is also a smaller size – Brett bought a lovely sheet pan the other day that doesn’t fit (it’s currently under the bathroom sink holding supplies). The 9×13 pan we got barely fits! The stove is nice, but we are going to have to invest in some smaller, toaster oven-sized bakeware.

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  1. I think maybe it’s a sign of the time we find ourselves in, that we are all facing inflated grocery costs. I have spent way more than I normally would, probably double my regular monthly bill. I put it down to being stuck at home all the time combined with the not wanting to go to the supermarket more than required. I’m hoping that spending levels off soon. I think those prices seem comparable to what we pay in San Diego. The only thing I noticed a real difference on what the chicken broth which I buy at Trader Joe’s for less than $3. If I buy elsewhere it’s normally in the $3.50-$4 range.


    1. Food costs definitely seem higher than they were when we lived here before, but I think our problem is primarily that we’ve been overbuying. I am frankly looking forward to staying away for the next two weeks, and then shopping a little bit smarter after that (with less buying at Costco). We need to get our spending under control!


  2. Long time reader—first time commenter here. My wife and I are retired in our mid 60s and live on the seacoast of New Hampshire. I LOVE grocery shopping (or at least I DID before Coronavirus) and I’m the “designated shopper” now. So, I know grocery prices in every supermarket around here. Compared to our prices yours are quite high! I just double checked and here are a few prices for a sampling of your items. (These are regular prices at a regional supermarket chain, not sale prices.)
    – Pepperidge Farm Coconut Cake = $2.99
    – 1 lb. sugar = .89
    – half gallon milk = 1.99
    – Breyer’s Ice Cream = 4.29
    – Chicken broth = 2.00
    – Rice vinegar = 1.49
    Anyway, you get the picture. I suppose I’m most surprised at the price of the sugar. I enjoy your blog. Relax and enjoy being “home” for awhile.


    1. It’s nice to hear from you, Don – I hope you’ll continue to comment!

      Your prices are amazing! Ours here reflect what’s called the “paradise tax” which includes the cost of shipping things over here plus the high cost of storage on the island. It took us a while to figure out how to shop here to save; we’ll get there again. One of the secrets is to shop local, i.e. shop the farmers’ market for produce and buy as much locally as possible. For example, beef cattle are raised on Kaua’i, and there are sources for picking up local grass-fed beef for less. If I had a big freezer I’d be stocking up now as restaurants are not buying.

      I could have had two of those coconut cakes at your local price! We’re not big milk drinkers (and our daughter is lactose intolerant) so buying milk at these prices is not so bad for us. Sugar prices are currently high because of supply and demand. There were only four boxes left of sugar on the shelf at Safeway when we got ours. We used to pay slightly over $1/pound for it when we left.


  3. Our grocery prices are all over the map like yours. Our milk is the same price, and so is the sale price for ice cream – but the Canadian dollar is worth 30% less, so it looks like I’m getting a deal! The Costco cashews are about $22 here, though. I didn’t know Fever Tree made ginger beer – now I need that 🙂


    1. Fever Tree was our go-to brand in England for tonic and ginger ale, so when we found the ginger beer here it was a must buy! Their products are superb.

      I’ve decided that frugal grocery shopping in Hawai’i is an art form. We were really great at it before we left, but our skills are pretty rusty now. We’ll get better as time goes along. But some things, no matter the price, are must haves.


  4. Food is much higher here as well. I am not going to different stores because I am scared about the virus. I went to Walmart, and bought 4 lbs sugar for $2.14, ferret food for my kid’s pet for $6.98, long grain rice 2 lbs for $1.26, eggs have tripled in price to a dozen for $2.50, Beyers ice cream is still under $3.00 here, grits were $1.92, I bought canned greens for backup $1.54 for 27 oz, dried black eyed peas were $1.84 for lb, Diet coke is $2.50 for six bottles in pack, $1.48 for 2 lbs dried pinto beans, chicken thighs were 99 cent a lb, Quaker old fashioned oats were 18 oz for$2.34, baking powder was $1.00 for 8.1 oz., canned carrots were 50 cents, roasted almonds were 4.98 for 14 oz., canned beets were 58 cents, for 15 oz, sweet onions were 85 cents lb., gouda cheese was $1.74 for 8 oz, butter was $2.98 lb, cherub tomatoes were$4.48 for 18 oz.,can of chickpeas were 58 cents.Like I said, everything is high everywhere and I live in one of the more economically depressed regions of the U.S. Gas ranges from $1.50 in larger towns to $1.60 in smaller towns.


    1. I think a dozen eggs here are around $2.50 now but otherwise your prices are much, much lower than ours. I would die for Gouda cheese at $1.75 for a half pound! Cheese is expensive here no matter what you find. Diet Coke goes on sale here from time to time – we stock up when it does as I have one every day.


  5. We are spending probably 50% more per month on grocery shopping right now. My wife got up at 5:30am to take advantage of senior time at Walmart. We normally shop together but decided to keep one of us away from any possible problems.

    She said the store was pretty well stocked and not many shoppers. She did find toilet paper for the first time in a month (!). Our pantry, freezer and frig are now jammed. We agree: no food shopping except for milk for at least 3 weeks.


    1. That’s where I feel we are right now, about 50% higher than where we should be. It may or may not come down, or at least not for a while.

      Only one store here, Foodland, has early morning senior hours. We haven’t used them though as they’re the next most expensive grocery store on the island.

      We have been able to find a few 12-packs of toilet paper when we’ve stopped for something else, so our supply is good for a couple of months. I have yet to see any toilet paper at Costco, and we’ve been in there several times since we arrived. Apparently it arrives once a week, and sells out in just a few minutes.

      I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to not going to the grocery store for a couple of weeks! There’s a farm stand just down the road from us so we’re going to use them for fruit and other produce, but otherwise nothing! Maybe not even milk (coffee is the only thing I would go into a store for now).


  6. Ha! Brett and my DH could snack together – those are DH’s two favorites with the Costco pistachios a close third. Kettle Chips are $4.59 at our Costco and the Cashews are $14.59. At our favorite grocer, a half gallon of milk is $3.29 and our local ice cream is normally $5.49/half gallon, but there are sales of $3.50 or $4.00 regularly. The chicken broth is $1.89 and I just bought some fettuccini for $1.29.

    Lately, I’ve been shopping about once/week, which is new for me, as I often have stopped at the grocery for a few things while on other errands. I’m planning better and baking more while I’m home, so I’ll have to see if that saves money over time. I stocked up at first, which gave me a few hefty grocery bills. If I go at the right time, I can hit Costco, the big grocer, and our local health food store in about an hour and a half. And amazingly, there aren’t that many people at certain times of day.


    1. Oh, Brett loves the pistachios too!

      The $1 more on our prices vs. mainland prices is what we found when we arrived here back in 2014 – the “paradise tax.” $4.99 for ice cream here is a steal – it’s a very expensive commodity here. Maybe we need to invest in an ice cream maker? The $1.50 for the fettucine was for store brand on sale – everything else was too expensive. At least Safeway had pasta available – it’s been hard to find at other stores, including Costco. Same for the ramen – they had just put it out at Costco so we felt very lucky to get a case. Shelves are bare of it in most of the regular stores. And rice! Hard to find and expensive here.

      Stores are not crowded here (because it’s just locals here now, but I hate the driving around too to find what we need). Masks are now required going into all stores. I don’t mind them if a store is air-conditioned, but in the hot, humid air they are miserable.


  7. Commissary here….but our prices are within pennies of Walmart. Eggs- $1.89, Milk- $1.99, Shredded cheese $2.05, Onions .89, sugar 3 lbs $2.20 (smaller containers are actually more expensive), Beyers is normally about $3. but have started buying local and it is $9 a quart! I shop weekly- on Wednesdays–the designated senior day for base.
    Haven’t been to Costco since 15 Mar. One is in Wilmington (the only hot spot In our state). The other is in Maryland, and we cannot cross state lines……


    1. Oh, to be able to shop at a commissary again. We couldn’t get over how low the prices were when we were in Japan, and how much better stocked they are now then they were back when Brett was on active duty.

      Costco is a life saver here on the island as far as prices go, but we are no longer able to store such huge amounts of food so shopping there is going to be for just a few things and done strategically.

      There is nothing but 1-pound boxes of sugar to be found on the island; that is, if you can find it. There is absolutely no flour of any kind to be found. I got two tiny one-pound bags of white whole wheat when we arrived but haven’t seen any flour since. As I said, people are baking!!


      1. I just came home from the commissary–both milk and eggs are up a dollar each since last Wednesday. Cheese is up to $2.70. Ground beef is close to $6. a pound (yes, I buy the 92% stuff). Our poultry factory was closed on Saturday….It is going to get interesting quickly if processing plants are closed. Seems the supply chain is slowly breaking out here.

        I heard Japan is having a rough go of round two. Have you heard if it is hitting a different age group? Ours still seems to be more people over 100 dying then under 40, but we all are scared to death anyway.


      2. If commissary prices are climbing that means that suppliers’ prices are going up, and/or the supply line is stretched to the limit. That’s sort of scary, actually. Beef processing plants are going down in Colorado and other areas, and now chicken plants as well. Chicken can be hard to find here. We are going to stop at a local market we know week after next and see if we can pick up some local beef there (fingers crossed). We still have lots of pork and chicken, and thankfully we love tofu! We should always be able to get produce here on the island as well as fish.

        Not sure what’s going on in Japan right now other than we’re glad our son and family can all be at home, and that we were able to get out when we did. The move has been expensive, but it was the right thing to do. Kaua’i is still hanging in there with only 21 cases (only 7 still active, and no one in the hospital). We now are required to wear masks when we go out anywhere.


  8. I absolutely do not purchase anything you do. But, the 2 pack of Diet Coke was $8.48 here. I bought four pounds of sugar for $2. —AL


    1. We were paying $2.50 for a 12-pack at the commissary in Japan, so the price for Diet Coke here was something of a shock (I think we paid $9.99 for 35 cans when we were in Portland last December). I just hope the supply here holds out . . . at any price! I love my Diet Coke!


  9. I’ve always enjoyed seeing what people buy at the grocery store, weird maybe but it helps motivate me and sometimes to try new things! However I never really enjoyed being in the store and it was always a chore. I have been spending more for sure because I feel anxious and rushed when I am in the store and have only gone to the larger chain grocery one time in the last month. I have been using the small independent grocery and food co-op in my small town and am immensely grateful for both of these. I’ll reveal a little bit about myself, i live in Shelburne falls, Ma. And the film Labor day was filmed here. It’s a Kate Winslett/Josh brolin movie( not very good actually). Anyway our market was used quite a bit in that film, tho made to look somewhat different of course.

    I also feel like I will never get back to trader joes ever again! Right now it is totally not worth the wait to get in there! Now when I’m out it just feels like there is a huge cloud of anxiety hanging over everything and I can’t wait to get back home. Which is mostly where we stay. We also go for walks and drives to break the insanity.

    I didn’t comment on your last post but I am in awe with how well and how much you have been able to accomplish during this pandemic. There was so much you needed to do and you did it!
    Also how great is it that there was this home available for you to find and set up in?
    Anon in mass


    1. I have always been a shopping cart voyeur – I love to see what others are buying, and like you, sometimes I discover something new that maybe I should try. I have always loved food shopping too – one of the few shopping experiences I’ve consistently enjoyed.

      I would love to be able to shop at Trader Joe’s again too, but Kaua’i would be one of the very last places in the U.S. one would ever show up. Thankfully I have friends back on the mainland who would ship me things or bring them when they visit (I especially miss the red Thai simmer sauce).

      Today was the last day we had to go out and do something – make a trip to the laundromat. Our washer and dryer still haven’t arrived at Home Depot. Our upstairs neighbors though told us to use theirs instead of paying so much to do it.

      I am looking forward to staying home tomorrow for the first time in ages. We are finally caught up with everything!


  10. These are CAD prices in NE Alberta. The local Co-op store offers good sales and products for the most part. I typically have a well-stocked pantry/freezer and buy on sale as much as possible. The closest big-box stores are 1.5-2 hrs away. I won’t be accessing them during this shutdown. I find the best bargains there are on paper products and fresh fruits/veggies.
    800gm (1.6lbs) store brand mozzarella cheese – $12.79 (sale price)
    800gm store brand cheddar cheese – $9.89 (sale price)
    store brand butter – $4.48/lb
    2L whole milk – $3.99
    cantaloupe – $2.99
    10kg (22lbs) store brand flour – $8.48 ($2.59/lb)
    bananas – $1.74/kg (.79/lb)
    18 store brand eggs – $4.78 ($3.18/doz)
    10kg sugar – $13.98 (.63/lb)


    1. Your prices are much better than ours here (although I think just about everyone’s prices are better than what we pay here). Costco for us is a 15-minute drive away, and their prices are comparable to mainland prices, maybe $1 more or so. We had a freezer when we were here before so could buy and store bulk items, but not this time. Our refrigerator is smaller as is the freezer, so I am going to have to retrain myself not to go crazy when we shop there. We get most of our produce from local farmers, but occasionally we find good prices on produce at Costco. Local grocery store prices for produce are ridiculous. I am especially looking forward to getting mainland-grown peaches at Costco this summer (stone fruit doesn’t/can’t grow here).


  11. 1/2 gallon 1% milk $1.49 and the Breyers icecream $3.44 in Arizona.
    Glad you made it back to beautiful Kauai safely.


    1. Go ahead, Lori – rub it in! $4.99 for Breyers is the best we’ve found here.

      We are so happy to be back and settling in again. We are also loving being on the south shore versus on the east side of the island as we were in the past. Lots more to do there, but I think the weather is nicer down here, and we’re close to Koloa, Kalaheo and Kukuiula Market in Poipu.


  12. Aloha! So fun to see how you’re doing. We spent all of our April grocery budget by the 10th of month, so we are going FAR over our normal budget. A few reasons:
    1) We are now eating many more meals at home (previously lunch, breakfast & snacks free at work)
    2) We are not price matching or going to multiple places. We buy what is available, even if it’s a much more expensive option & they are out of the generic, sale item, etc.
    3) We stocked up when we could find things. It took a month to find chicken, so when we found it, we bought enough to last for another month
    4) The prices are just generally higher right now. I’m assuming stores aren’t running sales (makes sense), so there are no “good deals” to be found
    5) Two hungry teen boys


    1. It seems that everyone’s food budget has fallen apart recently – prices are up, supplies can be limited, and just being stuck inside is having an effect on what people are buying. I don’t feel so bad now after reading that others are going through the same thing, but we are still going to avoid shopping for the next week and a half and see if we can get things better under control, budget-wise. We are concerned here about the supply lines being interrupted, but we should always be able to get produce here, and beef is raised on the island and should be available along with fish, especially since restaurants are currently not buying. I think we’ll be OK.

      Hope you are all managing OK at home. It was a big adjustment for our son and DIL to have the kids home all day, but they’ve got it under control now. We are so glad we were able to help out with that for a while.

      So happy I found a way to comment once again on your (and others’) blog(s)!


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