NYC is like a huge movie theater with ridiculously expensive candy

New York City is like a huge movie theater with ridiculously expensive candy that you just gotta have anyway.

That’s the epiphany I had this evening on my umpteenth visit to New York (though my first in over four years): This city is insanely expensive.


Now, I know we’ve all heard about the cost of buying a place in NYC. (Want a one bedroom? For you, very special price of only $1 million.) But I never fully realized how much it costs just to live day-to-day here.

I’m staying at my friend Kevin’s place in Chelsea. He’s out of town until tomorrow, so I went downstairs to the Gristedes grocery store (supposedly not nearly as expensive as the local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods), and holy cow.

Gallon of milk: $5.50
Half dozen eggs: $1.99
Brownie mix: $3.50 to $5.00

And I thought DC was expensive. (A gallon of milk in DC costs me around $3.90; while mom pays $1.75 – $2.25 back in Chicago. And the “good” brownie mix is like $2.25.)

sasha-redIn other news, Sasha (my 10 pound Yorkie-Bichon) was none-too-thrilled at my departure. She’s in the able hands of her Uncle Damian, who, unbeknownst to him, is about to be visited in bed around 2am by a cute little black button nose that’s going to demand he pet her a few moments, then arrange her blanket for her just so.

But she’ll survive. I’m only here until Tuesday, then back to the land of “only” $4 milk.

Let’s hope Damian survives 48 hours of insistent and utter adorableness.



CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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30 Responses to “NYC is like a huge movie theater with ridiculously expensive candy”

  1. Houndentenor says:

    I had a sweet deal on an apt in Brooklyn so the difference between rent here and rent there doesn’t even cover the extra I pay in car expenses vs. the subway. Food was a bit more expensive but I learned where to go for bargains (especially the ethnic neighborhoods where great food can be had for reasonable prices if you go out to eat well rather than be seen at trendy places in Manhattan). The reason I left was that the jobs I had relied on to pay the bills in between singing gigs were growing scarcer and paying less every year. I don’t think that’s getting any better or will any time soon.

  2. That’s really interesting, glad to hear there are better bargains outside.

  3. andrea952AndreaREliasandrea952 says:

    my Aunty Eva got an almost new Nissan Maxima from only workin part-time on a pc at home…read …….>> -> START FREELANCING!!! <-

  4. OtterQueen says:

    It was insane. I was not prepared.

  5. BigGuy says:

    Wow. So Hawaii can be more expensive for groceries than midtown Manhattan. That’s a lot.

  6. OtterQueen says:

    Actually, we stayed at the Hale Koa, which is a military resort so we mostly shopped at the PX which was relatively reasonable. The purchases I referenced were at regular grocery stores on the outskirts of Hono.

  7. BigGuy says:

    You must have been shopping at the convenience store in the hotel.

  8. BigGuy says:

    You’re in Chelsea. Below 96th Street in Manhattan, most people reside in census tracts where per capita income exceeds $50,000 and household income exceeds $200,000. Most all the white collar professionals get free coffee at work. Those working for big law and accounting firms pay about $7 for a Sodexho Marriot corporate cafetaria lunch that would cost over $25 in a restaurant. The hot shot engineers at Google and Bloomberg get very high quality free meals.

    Generally, the wealthier you are in Manhattan, the more likely you can get your meals for free. Pretending to be wealthy by dressing formally can work well, too. Midweek in Midtown, the luxury hotel dining rooms are filled with men in nice suits at investor conferences obtaining a free lunch — that’s really their only business. Middle aged people with large inheritances are treated at fancy restaurants about twice a month by brokers hoping to get their business.

    Manhattan consumers compare prices only to the other places a short walk from where they live, not to what things cost in the suburbs. That’s how take out sushi and a soda from a supermarket for $9 can seem a bargain compared to $14 including tax and tip at the Japanese take out place and $28 in a sit down Japanese restaurant.

    In Forest Hills in Queens, a gallon of milk is $2.99 on sale at a bodega, a dozen large eggs are on sale for $1.99 at Key Food, and Brownie mix is on sale for $1.49 at a dollar store.

    On Sunday, I saw Kinsey Sicks at Baruch’s theater and checked out a local Dagastinos where there was ONE sale comparable to what’s in the boros every day. Progresso Soup was on sale — 4 cans for $5. I didn’t buy the soup there, because there’s a comparable sale nearby where I live. The sale prices for the week in the brochure were all about a dollar more than here in Queens and about $2 more than in the suburbs.

    Midwestern tourists can go into shock going into Manhattan supermarkets below 96th Street. They are used to buying Breyers 1.5 quart packages on sale at Sam’s Club for $1.88. Seeing a regular price, not on sale, at Gristidees of $7.49 for the same thing is disconcerting, to say the least.

  9. Get out.

  10. evodevo says:

    They’re now charging $5.50 a gallon for milk at the convenience stores here in Ky, so New Yawk isn’t so off target.

  11. rmthunter says:

    I’ll stick with Chicago, thank you. I can deal with New York for about five days, then I have to get back to some place where I can see the sky through my window, instead of someone’s living room. And everything is cheaper, except on the Gold Coast and Streeterville.

  12. caphillprof says:

    Islands are always more expensive.

  13. OtterQueen says:

    Pfffft. We just went to Hawaii, and a gallon of milk there was over $10. On one shopping trip, we got a loaf of bread, a small packet of turkey lunchmeat and a small packet of ham, and it was $29.28.

  14. usagi says:

    Just so. He’s owned a condo there since the late 90s. 2B/2B, two parking spaces under the building, about 1300 sq ft with a (rather dark) balcony along most of the unit. Part of what was pushing him was he’s coming up on the “I’ve got to update” point to keep value in the unit (the kitchen is totally functional but straight out of the late 80s). He didn’t want to go to the expense and trouble if he was going to move.

  15. AnitaMann says:

    That’s really saying something. Because W Hollywood and large parts of LA have become Manhattanized. Tiny one bedrooms in new buildings – not under rent control – are going for up to 3K.

  16. Tatts says:

    The best fresh-squeezed orange juice in the world is at every little corner bodega in Manhattan in plain rectangular plastic bottles with orange caps, usually sitting out front in ice.

    I don’t know where it comes from, but it is the absolute best in the world and it seems to be the same at all of those stores. So good and so sweet.

  17. usagi says:

    I have a friend in West Hollywood who’s a NYC boy at heart. He was seriously wanting to move back, then he crunched the numbers. To live as he does now in LA would cost about $150,000 more per year. He decided to stay in LA, visit NYC every two months, stay at a nice hotel, substitute Europe on one trip, and come out a hundred thousand ahead.

  18. judybrowni says:

    The only friends I have left who are still living in Manhattan have managed to hang in for 30 years (or more!) in their one-room studio.

  19. heimaey says:

    NYC is getting a bit too ridiculous. Even rich people are complaining about the real estate prices which are getting out of hand. Also all the new towers they’re building are just foreign investment luxury crap – no one lives in them. It’s killing the city.

  20. AnitaMann says:

    Step away from the candy counter.

  21. judybrowni says:

    i lived in New York (Manhattan) in the ’70s, when it was dirty and dangerous — but affordable.
    First two apartments, were old tenement bathtub in the kitchen (although on the Upper East Side!)
    Then I found a rent-controlled apartment in Stuyvestant Town for the rest of my stay (bathtup in the bathroom, and everything!).
    When I left New York in 1982, I was paying $325 for a one-bedroom — back in New York ten years ago it had gone up to $3,500 dollars.
    Lord knows what it would cost now.
    Yup, all of Manhattan now is a suburb for the fabulously wealthy — and tourists.

  22. 2karmanot says:

    Sasha always saves the day! What a cutie.

  23. therling says:

    I lived in NY State until two years ago when I relocated to Eugene, OR. I’m amazed at how far my measly income goes compared to living within 100 of NYC. At the end of every month there’s actually more money in my checking account.

    I think that in NYC, and to a certain extent, Upstate NY (particular that part in the vicinity of NYC), you have a phenomenon I call “compound corruption.” Like this: the guy who repairs your car has to charge you more because the electrician billed him more and the electrician has to charge your mechanic more because he got ripped off by the plumber…and on and on.

    There’s also stuff like this: I recall that at my mother’s house on Long Island, she got trash pickup three times a week. Three times a week! There’s no way even a family can generate that much trash. But it triples the price of trash pickup. I’m sure the trash haulers made out on that because they gave the town “an offer they couldn’t refuse.”

  24. nicho says:

    You are in the middle of one of the country’s famous playgrounds for the rich. Enjoy!

  25. emjayay says:

    Nothing wrong with Trader Joe’s dairy products. The milk is non-rBST.

  26. emjayay says:

    Actually they very radically from location to location. The West Village ones are even worse than Chelsea but the theater district one is all spiffy. But they are all owned by that fat guy who spends millions running for mayor all the time even though no one ever votes for him.

  27. emjayay says:

    Try the spiffier D’Agastino supermarkets for even higher prices on everything. But Trader Joe’s is right there in the middle of Chelsea at 21st and 6th Ave and has low prices on dairy products. Go there when most people are at work or from 9 to 10 pm. Fairway is at 25th.

    You are also confusing New York City with the middle of Manhattan. New York City is composed of five boroughs. Local small supermarkets in my Brooklyn neighborhood normally have milk for $3.99 a gallon. This week at one of them Eggland’s Best large eggs are $1.99 a dozen. Last week I paid $2 there for a dozen Land O Lakes All-Natural brown eggs.

  28. Indigo says:

    Go for a walk, go around the corner, over to 7th Ave and maybe 35th or so. To shop is to look around like a sensible gayboi and compare prices. Take your time, enough with the Alpha-Gay snap-it-up-now pose.

  29. keirmeister says:

    My main takeaway from your post: You bought food at Gristedes? Eeew. :)

  30. Houndentenor says:

    Never stop posting and tweeting pics of Sasha. Especially consider doing so on bad news days when a little doggie cuteness helps make everything better.

    As for Chelsea…it’s been a few years since I left nyc and I moved out of Chelsea in 2000 because I was paying way too much for way too small an apartment, but your problem was location. You couldn’t get away with such prices in DC because most people have cars and drive to buy groceries. In NYC it’s a major pain to buy groceries far away from where you live just to save a few dollars so people just pay the extra high prices. Groceries in the outer boroughs are still expensive but not insanely so.

    About milk in NYC, most chains stock what my friends and I used to call “mafia milk”. There are a few different brand names but it all tastes the same (gag). The only place to get the better milk (without paying through the nose for some organic brand) is at the Korean delis who seem to have different distributors. Check them out. Is Pine Tree deli still there? That was always my stop off from the late night snack on the way home from singing at City Opera (which is all but defunct now).

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