About two years ago, I approached my husband about my stress over our mountain of debt. “Something has to happen, we have to pay off this debt! It’s keeping me up nights!” I told him. We resolved to start paying them off, one by one, and living on a strict budget. Among the many changes the budget has called for is that we’ve really cut back on eating out and have made a significant effort to buy groceries at a discount and use coupons whenever possible.
I’ll be the first person to admit, discount shopping is not fun. There are the lines at every turn—at the deli, at the bakery, and especially at the register—not to mention the warehouse feeling and exhausting general hubbub from fighting through the masses for a good two hours. I love a quiet, high-end grocery store full of specialty items where I don’t have to stand in line for an hour and all the employees tell you “my pleasure!” after helping you with everything.
But at the register, there’s no denying that shopping at a store like this can cost nearly twice as much. So it was great hearing that FoodMaxx, the no-frills discount supermarket owned by the same family that operates Save Mart and a host of other stores around the West, was opening a store location in my neck of the woods in Sparks. So last Monday, at about 5:30 p.m. (prime shopping time), I took my daughter over to Food Maxx to grab some essentials for the week.
The advertising blitz the store has been doing has certainly worked—the parking lot was full. I took a deep breath and did a gut-check as I pulled out my list of 12 items, held my daughter’s hand across the parking lot, then grabbed a shopping cart.
Though its ads insist it’s not a warehouse, the initial vibe in FoodMaxx is warehousey. I mean, let’s just put it out there, it’s a no-frills store with concrete floors, and it feels very like a Costco or Winco, at least upon entry. But soon the store opens up and the wide aisles feel less crowded and intimidating than your typical warehouse store, and you won’t find boxes piled to the ceiling or any requirements to buy in bulk. It’s clean, which is great. And, of course, there’s no membership fee—also a plus.
The produce selection didn’t feel warehousey, either—I was impressed with the selection of fresh produce, which included honey crisp apples for only $1.47 a pound and some of my favorite bagged salads that I typically have only found at Raley’s or other high-end stores.
This became a theme that surprised me:
I found numerous top brands on the FoodMaxx shelves. Unlike a lot of discount stores, which tend to carry off brands and generics, or only offer selections of two or three brands rather than six or eight, FoodMaxx carried many of the brands I prefer, so I didn’t feel like I was skimping. I loved seeing Panera-brand soups in the dairy case (a brand that just doesn’t exist elsewhere in Northern Nevada, much to my dismay) and high-end Napa wines in the liquor aisles. I also was pleased to find half an aisle dedicated entirely to gluten-free and other diet-sensitive items, including a brand of sweets called Enjoy Life that I’ve up until now only found at Whole Foods (their gluten-free, vegan dark chocolate bars are to die for, and I’m not even a vegan).
Not that there aren’t some generic or low-cost brands available here too, because there definitely are. My favorite find (can you tell where my head is this holiday season?) was the selection of Fox Brook wines, all of which were $2.47 a bottle. HELLO?? A bottle of wine for under $3? Yes, please! I picked up about four of those, and I will be going back for more.
The prices are definitely lower than a Raley’s or a Safeway might be, but I also did feel a bit like I was sacrificing a little on selection. Take, for instance, my search for a decent block of parmesan cheese. I’m married to an Italian man, and in our house we eat real parmesan cheese, grated off the block, and we eat pasta about twice a week. But I couldn’t find a block of parmesan in the store. I did find an enormous bag of grated BelGioioso parmesan for $7.99 that I decided to go with. For several items I needed, I didn’t find much selection—my daughter needed a new toothbrush and toothpaste, but there was very little to choose from in that area for kids. And on some items, I didn’t see much of a price difference. One of my must-have purchases is Vitamin Water, and usually I’m able to find it for about $1 a bottle or even less at other stores, though here it was $1.49 a bottle. So while the prices here were good in general, the discounts are inconsistent and not necessarily across the board.
And then there are the lines, which, I won’t lie, are very warehouse-store-like: long, wrapped around the aisles, full of people with baskets full to the brim. This, honestly, was the worst part of the experience, because waiting in line took as long as the entire shopping trip, and we were hungry for dinner. What definitely helped was the friendly cashier (Donna, according to my receipt), who smiled and chatted with my daughter in a friendly manner as she checked us out all out quickly to keep the line moving and joking with customers, while I was occupied bagging my groceries. In the end, I had purchased 29 items (more than double what I’d planned to buy) for the low price of $84.87.
Ultimately, I recommend shopping at FoodMaxx, particularly in off-peak hours to avoid those long lines. You’ll find some gem items here, and some real steals (I’m telling you, that wine was a find), and the people are certainly helpful. In fact, at least two employees approached me while I was shopping to ask if I needed help finding anything. Plus, if I’m going to do a discount shopping trip, I’d rather support a smaller, family-owned business from California than a Walmart any day. Know going in that you may not be able to find every item on your list, especially if you have your heart set on a specialty item (like my cheese) or a special brand. But for the money and the selection of daily essentials, you can’t go wrong at FoodMaxx.
This post is sponsored by FoodMaxx.