Shopping Target's new fresh-food offerings

target overview

It's like Target, only ... more.

By Akum Norder

It's Supermarket Week on AOA -- a whole week of posts about shopping for food. Because we all have to eat.

Time was, if you were stuck having to pick up something for dinner at Target, that meant grabbing some bread and some mediocre cold cuts, or maybe chicken strips and frozen veggies.

Things have changed a bit over at the Colonie Target.

Changed how?

Changed like green curry with shrimp and sugar snap peas over jasmine rice, plus a green salad with cranberries, balsamic almonds and fresh tangerine slices.

That's what I made for dinner after going to Target earlier this week.

Target's food offerings have expanded. At the end of March, the Targets in Colonie and Wilton opened what they call "PFresh departments," an expanded grocery section with produce, meat and baked goods. Targets in Latham and East Greenbush will get PFresh departments this summer.

I went over to the Northway Mall Target to check it out.

target aisle

I've never really been a one-stop-shopping kind of girl. But when our daughters were born, we discovered there were only a limited number of in-and-outs of the car seats we could ask of them before the meltdowns hit. I came to respect that sometimes, when you need a new bath mat, a dog collar, socks, a birthday party gift, reading glasses, cereal, coffee, jam and juice, it can be easier just to have one place to get it.

So, drawn by convenience -- and, yes, price -- I shifted a good portion of my dry-goods shopping from Hannaford to Target: things like cereal, granola bars, crackers (God forbid we ever run out of crackers), raisins and nuts. In a pinch, juice and yogurt. If I send the husband up to the neighborhood Price Chopper for some produce, we can put off a real grocery run for a few days or more.

And now, Target grocery section's supposed to be bigger, badder, more convenient than ever. What's been going on behind that red construction wall? I wanted to find out.

From my weekly grocery list I made a smaller list, focusing on staples -- I wanted to see how well Target could cover the basics:

1. apples
2. bananas
3. oranges
4. carrots
5. celery
6. lettuce
7. green beans
8. ground turkey or chicken
9. shrimp
10. shredded cheese
11. tortillas
12. black beans
13. hummus
14. cereal
15. mac and cheese

And off I went.

One of the first things you'll notice is that an overpackaged, shipped-from-far-away vibe dominates in the produce aisle. Every item is sold per piece. That leads to silly things like individually bar-coded potatoes and shrink-wrapped broccoli crowns.

target potatoes

I got out my list.

For apples, the choices were to buy a 3-lb. bag -- more than we need -- or to pay per apple. I took a pass. It just seemed too silly to me buy fruit by the piece. But we really needed bananas, so I broke down and took three, at 24 cents per banana. Later on, I compared this with buying three bananas at Price Chopper, where they're selling right now for 69 cents a pound. My three Price Chopper bananas came to 75 cents. So hey. Maybe I'll reconsider this per-piece pricing.

target bananas

There was only one station of produce bags, which led to some momentary confusion near the bananas till I spotted them back over by the apples. Not like that's not four steps away.

Bagged oranges were sold out. Or perhaps they were just not stocked yet? There were multiple stockers working the section, and more than one empty shelf. Perhaps this is still a work in progress. However, a 3-lb. bag of clementines was on sale for $3.99, so I went with those. There were other fruits, too: berries, pineapple, cantaloupe, "personal watermelons." That was a new one for me, but Google says they're real, so it must be true. I want to find a way to work the phrase "personal watermelons" into conversation at every picnic I go to this summer.

target fruit

Carrots? Check. Lettuce? Okay, that'll do. Green beans? Nope, though it seems like they would be an easy enough vegetable to sell in bags. The only celery available was in a 14-oz. plastic, water-filled jar of ready-to-eat carrot and celery sticks that sold for $3.49. Nope.

Target had both ground turkey and ground chicken in the meat case. The freezer case had shrimp in various sizes, both raw and cooked.

The rest of my list I checked off easily. They even had Sabra hummus. Yum. And Annie's mac and cheese was on sale for $1 a box.

It's not just that Target has added produce and meat to its grocery options. They've also expanded the choices in the range of products they carried before. For example, they now have a 4 lb. bag of frozen strawberries, instead of just the skimpy 1 lb. bag they used to offer. (We use a lot of frozen strawberries. A lot a lot. My husband really likes strawberry smoothies.)

target badia

And they have some nice surprises, too: Cashew butter. Wonton wrappers. A selection of Badia brand spices. And yum: Jarlsberg and manchego, sopressata and prosciutto. My neighborhood Price Chopper doesn't even have sopressata. Adding to cart.

I was glad to see coconut milk and jars of curry paste in both red and green. I can't get green at the Madison Price Chopper or the Central Ave. Hannaford, only red. A coconut-milk curry is a quick go-to dinner in our house, so it'll be good to know I can rely on Target if I need to.

And that's how I felt about the Target PFresh department overall: It's nice to have the expanded options. Sometimes it could be convenient. It's not going to replace the grocery store, and it's not going to win any awards on the local-sustainable-organic front. But it could get you through dinner. And it's got a few surprises to boot.

One final note: Checkout isn't well suited to bringing your own bags -- the lane is too short to give much bagging area for do-it-yourselfers, and when I've tried it in the past it's just confused the cashiers. I'll keep trying, though.

Find It

1440 Central Ave.
Colonie, NY 12205


This sounds like its a great thing for college students. I am currently residing in my college dorm, and whenever I do go out to go grocery shopping I tend to buy too much for myself and things tend to spoil. With pay per item, I will be able to spend less money and waste less food.

I'm sure I'm just not thinking this late in the day but I don't understand the P before the Fresh part of Target PFresh Department. Anyone want to clue me in?

There was a piece about the Target "PFresh" sections in the TU this past weekend...As Harper commented above, I was wondering about the name.

I mean, who wants to shop for food in a department that sounds like "PeeFresh". Really?

@Susan, Harper: A Target spokesperson told the Palm Beach Post last year that PFresh stands for "Prototype Fresh."

But, yeah, the name is weird.

They have manchego?!? The same Spanish cheese that's something like $18/lb. at Hannaford? I may have to check that out. But I'll stick to Hannaford or Price Chopper for most of my grocery shopping.

@Ellen - Not all manchego is created equal. That said, you might enjoy getting a brick of quince paste and buying samples from Target, Hannaford, and the HWFC to see whose cheese reigns supreme.

Maybe some marcona almonds on the side. A Spanish red. Some crusty bread. And some greens simply dressed with olive oil and salt, and you have a worthy feast on your hands.

How are they going to move the perishable proteins fast enough? Raw shrimp in particular has me very worried.

I think about Aldi's when I hear about gourmet non-perishables. One stop shopping will be handy in a pinch, but something about individually wrapped broccoli crowns just creeps me out.

I was UBER excited to experience the new grocery section at Target. My boyfriend and I made an appearance during the "grand opening" of the newly remodeled store. (The whole place looks really REALLY nice! It should also be mentioned, that along with the groceries, they've acquired a nice little Starbucks Cafe) We happened to be one of the lucky few that were given a Target bag of swag: A lunch size re-usable Target bag, coupons and goodies galore!

It was quite humorous to see the body language and expressions on people's faces as they approached the new section of the store. Most just kind of stood there in awe for several seconds before slowly making their way through this foreign territory.

The groceries... @ Leah@NoshingConfessions; the shrimp are frozen, not refrigerated, and they aren't half bad to be quite honest. (We prefer frozen raw vs. frozen cooked because you don't have to deal with the potential for easily overcooking the shrimp)

The newly expanded section is quite impressive... who knew that Archer Farms made a Cocoa Mole sauce?! (Moh-lay; I can't find my fancy "e") They also have a nice variety of BBQ sauces I found.

Upon our excursion, I found a nice bag of Roma Tomatoes for $3.99. It had about 8 tomatoes which I found to be a pretty good deal, considering you pay that amount at a regular grocery for 4-5. They tasted delish as well.

It really is a great form of convenience- You were always able to buy milk or even eggs if you needed them and didn't feel like stopping anywhere on the way home, but now there are definitely many MANY more options for those "extra" items you may need... and, as been stated, many you don't- both of which are nice and a treat.

One of the few things I miss about the South is Super Target, so I'm glad to see them testing the idea up here...but I am *not* happy about no more Target popcorn. That is the most addictive stuff in the world. And only 300 calories, unlike movie theater popcorn. I have stopped in just to get some, and now I'm told Colonie doesn't have it anymore. Heartbreaking...

But, yes, if we get proper Super Target, including the flatbread I can't find anywhere else, I will be a mostly happy camper.

I bought a "personal watermelon" somewhere last summer just because of the name. :)

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