Everybody’s trying to sell food these days, Mike Nutley said. The owner of Ed’s Way Food Mart said the industry has become so competitive that he recently saw groceries for sale at Menards, the home improvement chain.

“It’s a tough business,” said Nutley, who co-owns the Forest Park grocery store with his father, Edward. “It’s harder now than it’s ever been.”

That’s likely why there are not too many family owned groceries stores anymore. But the Nutley’s have been running their shop for 20 years now, located at 946 Beloit Ave.

Yes, business has “taken a beating” with the economy, as costs continue to rise. But customers are feeling the pains of the recession, too, and even though many may be counting their pennies now, price doesn’t seem to matter to them: Ed’s Way is the way.

All the locals shop at Ed’s, said Sue Bothie, a Forest Park resident for 44 years.

One of those locals is Kathy Tulipani. She has been browsing the diagonal aisles at the cozy market just about ever since it opened. She doesn’t mind paying a slightly higher price because “the people are fantastic” at Ed’s, she said.

“This is our spot,” said the 67-year-old who lives on Desplaines Ave. “If they don’t have something, they will go out and get it for you.”

Price comparison

Nutley acknowledged that larger stores can buy products in higher volumes, and thus offer lower prices.

“Realistically, I’ll never get the pricing that Walmart or Target has, but you do the best you can and hope for the best,” he said.

The Review recently took a grocery list to a couple of area supermarkets to see a snapshot of how prices compare. Based on a dozen items, Jewel’s total was the cheapest, narrowly $1 cheaper than Ultra Food. Ed’s total was the most expensive, $7.38 higher than Jewel. Peapod, a home delivery service, offered a total price that was $1.67 below Ed’s, but there is an extra delivery fee to consider into the cost. Prices were recorded at whatever the customer would have paid that day, meaning sale prices were used.

The Review’s list was entirely random and narrowed down by what products were offered at each one of the stores, Ultra Food at 7520 W. Roosevelt Rd. in Forest Park, Jewel at 7525 Lake St. in River Forest, Ed’s Way and also Peapod.

Overall, it’s difficult to make direct comparisons. First of all, the stores have to carry the same brand and same size, which is not always available across all the stores. Places like Walmart and Aldi, for example, rely heavily on their own store brand to keep costs down, according to Michelle Chang, a grocery analyst with Morningstar.

Another factor is that supermarkets run sales and specials frequently. For example, Coke may be full price one week while Pepsi is half off, and then the two flip the following week.

For Shannon Elston, Peapod – which she previously used while living in Chicago – was worth the extra delivery fees because of the convenience.

“You save money on gas and you wouldn’t hear a five-year-old’s mouth: ‘Mommy, can we go? Mommy, can I get that candy?'” Elston, 32, said.

Elston, a Forest Parker, currently shops at Aldi in Maywood, though.

“If I have to drive somewhere and put in the extra effort to go grocery shopping, then I want it as inexpensive as possible,” she said.

At the same time, Marsha Robinet, who has lived in Forest Park for eights years, usually goes to Jewel in River Forest, coupons in hand, because “it’s designed nicely and the prices are pretty good.”

“Basically, it’s all about giving consumers the choice,” Chang said. “For those who go shop based on the lowest prices and those who shop for other reasons.”

Ultra Jewel Peapod Ed’s Way
JIF peanut butter, 18 oz $2.29* 2 / $4* $2.50 $2.99
Barilla spaghetti, 1 lb 10/$10* $1.79 $1.25 $1.79
Lay’s potatoe chips, 11 oz $2.99 $1.99 * $3.99 $3.99
Cheerios, 8.9 oz $2.99 * $3.29 $1.85 * $3.99
Gold Medal flour, 5 lb $1.99 * $1.49 * $3.29 $3.49
Kraft shredded cheese, 8 oz $2.39 * $2.59* $3.99 $4.29
Dean’s skim milk, 1 gal $3.69 $3.99 $3.99 $2.59 *
Coke, 12-pack 3 for $11 * 3 for $12 * $4 * $4.99
Pepperidge Farm whole wheat $3.69 $4.19 $4.19 $3.69
Oreos, 16.6 oz $3.29 2.99* $3.99 $3.69
Dole orange juice, 64 oz $2.99 $3.39 $3.39 $2.99
Tombstone pizza $4.79 * 3 / $9 * $3.99 * 3 for $11
TOTAL $35.70 $34.71 $40.42 $42.09
* Item on sale