Choosing a Supermarket in Israel

Choosing a Supermarket in Israel

Israel’s grocery stores can be divided into 3 groups: The small, privately owned neighbourhood stores (known as “Makolet” in Hebrew), the convenience  store chains (some of which are open around the clock), and the major supermarket chains, who often have a mix of big super-stores and small (and expensive!) neighbourhood stores.

  • Important Tip: Israel has a list of Regulated Price grocery items, which will cost the same everywhere, by law. To see the list – and prices – of these products, check out my Regulated Prices post.

If you’re looking for cheap prices (as you should!), you will usually have to go to the bigger chain-operated stores, and those are usually located outside the city center. Neighbourhood stores, while close to where you live, will cost you a premium.

But even among the so-called “cheap” super-stores, there are major differences in prices, and often you will find different prices even among stores belonging to the same chain – it all depends on the competition in the area where that specific branch is located. The major chains are:

1. Shufersal

  • Shufersal’s website (only in Hebrew)
  • Loyalty club: You need to register in advance and get the free loyalty card, which offers special sales and monthly coupons. They’ll try to convince you to get their credit card – you really don’t have to, and the added discounts are not all that impressive.

Israel’s largest grocery chain. In big cities, you’ll find one of their stores almost around every corner. However, they have three distinct store brands, dictated by the store’s size and location. Consequentially, the prices also differ – the big, super-stores are the cheapest, and the small inner-city stores are the most expensive. Their brands are:

Shufersal Deal – The cheapest brand, these large stores are usually in the outskirts of town and not near the center or in small neighbourhoods. You’ll find at least one “Shufersal Deal” in almost every city in Israel, and often more than one. The prices? Even though they’re the largest chain (which in Israel usually means “we can charge whatever price we want”), they try to be competitive with lots of special sales.

Shufersal Dead
Shufersal Deal in Tel Aviv

Shufersal Sheli – These are small to middle-sized stores, often found around city centers and in smaller neighbourhoods. That location, however, comes with a price – and in general, most of the prices are higher than at “Shufersal Deal” (sometimes the difference is minuscule, but sometimes they double the price for the exact same item!).

Shufersal Express – What’s smaller than small, and pricier than pricey? The “Express” brand. These are small stores, meant to mostly compete with the convenience store chains. Do yourself a favour – don’t buy there, unless you’re buying a regulated price item, or really have an emergency chocolate craving situation.

2. Mega

  • Mega’s Website (in Hebrew)
  • Loyalty Club: Their club, called “You” (don’t confuse it with their cheap stores brand, also called You) offers special discounts and monthly coupons. The regular club membership is free, but they’ll try to convince you to get their credit card. There’s really no need.

Mega used to be Israel’s second largest chain, but it’s been on the decline in recent years, mainly because of higher prices, and the apparent inability to compete with the cheaper chains. Currently they have 4(!) different brands:

You – Big stores, usually on the outskirts of town, they’re usually pretty cheap, but since this is a new brand for Mega, there are only a handful of stores at moment. If you have on near you – it’s worth a try. (And it’s no accident that “Mega” isn’t even mentioned in the name – they’re trying to distance this chain from the “expensive” brand that is Mega).

Mega Bool –  Used to be the “cheaper” brand (just like Shufersal Deal), with big stores on the outskirts of town. However, since their idea of “cheap” wasn’t all that cheap, they’ve decided to transition to the You brand. Some Mega Bool stores are still around though, and the prices will usually vary between cheap and mid-range.

Mega – Yet another brand – their mid-range one. The prices are usually higher when compared to the cheaper chains, but not as expensive as the inner-city branches.

Mega Bair – “Mega in The City”, the neighbourhood chain, consists of smaller stores inside the city. The prices are high, though they’ve been somewhat reduced in the past year due to the growing competition.

3. Rami Levy – Shivuk Hashikma

This chain (and the man who owns it – Rami Levy) is perhaps single-handedly responsible for most of the bigger chains’ headache in recent years, because of their low prices and constant pricing battles. You can find a Rami Levy super-store in a lot of cities in Israel – though not in all of them yet. Keep in mind that the cheap prices come with a price – the stores are often in a mess, with big queues and a mediocre customer service and experience.

And yet, if you’re looking for cheap prices – Rami Levi is usually your first bet.  Even there, don’t forget to compare prices – they’re usually cheaper than most overall, but not on everything.

4. AM-PM

am-pmA chain of small neighbourhood stores, mostly in the Gush Dan area (Tel Aviv and some of the surrounding towns). Most am-pm stores are open around the clock, though some close at 23:00. Most of their branches are open on Saturday, which is a plus, since most of the other grocery stores (and stores in general) are closed on Saturdays in Israel.

 

The convenient  opening hours come with a premium, however – and the prices are pretty high. If you’re missing something late at night, then go for it – but don’t be tempted to do your weekly grocery shopping there – it’ll cost you an arm and a leg.

5. Tiv Taam

Similar to am-pm, Tiv Taam’s stores are usually small, neighbourhood stores, with a few bigger stores here and there. The stores are open until the late hours of the night, though not around the clock, and they’re also open on Saturdays.

Their unique selling point – ham, bacon and other non-kosher products that are difficult to find in Israel, along with an assortment of imported food products that you won’t find elsewhere. Keep in mind though – they’re expensive. Try not to do your “regular” shopping there.

6. The Smaller Chains

There are several smaller grocery chains in Israel, with either cheap or mid-range prices. Some of them are:

Yeinot Bitan – Used to be pretty cheap, not so much these days.

Hazi Hinam – Mostly mid-priced, but at least you’ll enjoy BIG stores, bigger than most other chains’ stores.

Osher Ad – A “Haredi” (ultra-orthodox) chain, that caters to everyone due to low prices. However, keep in mind that you might not find all the regular brands there, because of either price considerations or special Kosher issues.

Cost365 – Low, competitive prices – but only a small number of stores at the moment.

  • Bottom Line: Your first choice should usually be Rami Levy. If you don’t have a branch nearby, Shufersal Deal would usually be the easiest to find, with ok prices.

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