Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Grocery Shopping in St Thomas!

Where to shop for food and other items on St Thomas?

Living on St Thomas is much different when it comes to grocery shopping. Gone are the nice clean grocery stores with bountiful produce and fresh foods, and reasonable prices! Instead you will find that it is not unusual to go to two or three different stores to find what you are looking for.  Sometimes, when you go stateside you find yourself coming back with a hockey bag or bribing a guest coming to bring  an extra suit case full of those items that are hard to find here, like light salad dressing (not only is salad dressing here $4.50 a bottle, but no one seems to carry the light dressings) and items that are just too much to justify buying, ie: a box of Triscuits which costs $2.50 stateside is only $4.50 here, same with cereal, expect to pay $6 a box unless of course you are fan of Corn Flakes. This lack of variety, availability and cost is probably due to our location some 1300 miles SE of Miami and most shipments make a stop in Puerto Rico. Some of it may be cultural too.

I have made a map of the stores I am going to discuss here.

(click to enlarge)

1.       Pueblo Markets – Two locations. One by the Airport and Crown Bay and the other across from Yacht Haven Grande. This is a Puerto Rico based grocery outlet . It is pretty dirty on the inside and has a pretty good selection of foods. What is sad is the stores in Puerto Rico more resemble a store stateside, why I don’t know. I don’t shop here often as both locations are inconvenient both for parking and the intersections they are at.
2.       Pueblo
3.       Cost U Less and Home Depot.  Cost U Less is better known to me as Cost U More. It resembles or wants to be a Costco, but it isn’t. Here you will find an array of a mix between a grocery store and Costco theme. There is no membership charges and if you join their club and spend so much a quarter they mail you a $35 off coupon. Here they have good produce, frozen foods, meats, soda, condiments, bread, household and beauty items, beer, wine, liquor. Cost U More is right in the same parking lot as the movie theater, a 6 plex believe it or not. Right down the access road is Home Depot. Home Depot is our store to feel like you are stateside again. I really can’t say anything is much different here than what you would find at your neighborhood Home Depot.

4.       TuTu Plaza – We have a ton of different stores here. New is Walgreens, but I have yet to venture there as since their grand opening a few weeks ago I have heard that their shelves are empty and we have drugstore.com ship here for free? There is an Office Max there that is just like stateside. McDonalds, Domino’s Pizza and Subway and it has my favorite Chinese food place in the food court. There is a mall here, if you can call it a mall with 50% vacancy. Ah yes, Kmart or KFart. Yes our Kmart stores here are just as bad as the ones in the states, how they are in business stateside is beyond me. They do have a Little Caesar’s Pizza now though. There is also an Advanced Auto Parts store. And my favorite, Plaza Extra! Or Plaza Minus. This dirty gem is our go to for normal grocery shopping. You too will find the old freezer cases that leak water onto the floors with paper towels left to mop it up your favorite too! Here you will find decent produce, oj, eggs, bread, canned goods, beer, wine and liquor. They have the best price on bottled water at the registers. Oh and speaking of registers, you cannot get your shopping cart through the check out registers, nope, they have a bagger with a cart that will take it to your car for a tip!

 (mmmm, Warm Cream?)

(not only is it leaking but the lights are burned out)

5.       Food Center – I think this place reminds me the most of a stateside grocery store, but the prices here do not. This place is very clean and organized, but due to the prices being as much as a third higher than Plaza, I will take the dirt.

6.       KFart or Kmart – This one is even dingier than the one in TuTu and is even on two floors.  Across the street is Fruit Bowl, which is a nice and clean place with some good produce and meats, I just can’t handle that parking lot with no available parking spaces and the trouble getting in and out of there. There is also a McDonalds there.

7.       Price Smart or Price Dumb – This is as close as a Costco we get here (owners were former founders I think of Costco). Membership is $15 a year. It is a large warehouse type store, very similar to Costco. They have some Kirkland products like the dog food. I go here for wine, beer, milk, cheese, cold cuts, cereal, spaghetti sauce, condiments and dish soaps, etc. They have some great bakery items like hoagie rolls and other breads for a great price.  My favorite here is the rotisserie chicken for only $7. This is by far my favorite for shopping.

There is also Gourmet Gallery at Crown Bay Marina and Havensight. This is a smaller scale, high end grocery store, but the prices there just don’t fit our budget.

My normal routine for shopping is Plaza Minus, Price Stupid and Cost U More. Yes it takes three stores to usually complete my bi-weekly shopping experience. And don’t be surprised that about 10-20% of the items on your list will be out of stock and sometimes you may see it the next time, 6 months or never again. This leads to a hoarding behavior found here. Another note of caution, anything like breads or other fresh items here do not survive well in our tropical climate, so it is not unusual to look in a local’s refrigerator to see a box of Triscuits, loaf of bread and a box of cereal in there.

Also be forewarned, that if you pay by credit card, be ready to show ID with it. Same when leaving the stores, you need to show them a receipt so that person can sign their autograph on there.

I hope I covered that topic now? It could be worse, I could live in St John with only the Dolphin Market? I wonder if people from St John dream of coming to St Thomas to shop? I am still dreaming of a stateside trip to Costco and a Whole Foods! 


  1. OK, when did Cost U More raise the "quarterly coupon" to $35.????? I shop all da stores except "food center" to far away for me and have to say sometime Gourmet (gouge) Gallery is less expensive & better quality then Pueblo. Yes shopping in Paradise is an experience I think every tourist should experience at least 2x ☺ and the showing ID w/your credit card...funny after they (especially at Pueblo ~ who now gives back $5 w/every $500 spent) swipe your store card & your name comes up, still ask for ID:) God I Love it Here!!!!

  2. I love going to Food Center and shopping for the "special today" items which are 1/3 of the regular cost....so does that make the standard mark-up 300%?

  3. HAHAHA, we live on st john and have to make a trip to St Thomas about every other month. We get all our stores mapped out and act like crazy people on a mission... and yes, things are frequently out of stock or are, lets face it, past their expiration date... by the way, if something is on sale... check the expiration date... it's probably already bad.

    I would also like to point out, even though st Thomas has some stateside restaurants like McD's, Wendy's etc... they are not even close to stateside 'quality' for those stores.... you will wait in line at McD's for 20 minutes only to be addressed by someone who is staring past you, doesn't want to talk to you and they are out of something... there is also no ice tea, mcflurries or iced coffee drinks of any kind in these places. The USVI's may be state owned... but they are not state operated...


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