Comparative pricing at the area foodstores can be great fun: you'll quickly discover that the prices of different goods vary greatly between stores. In the Square, grocery prices border on the outrageous, but sometimes the convenience is a big temptation. There are several comparatively cheaper stores within a mile of the Square, so if you've got the time and the wheels, the pennies saved could add up
There is no reason to shop at the Store 24 (in the Square next to the Harvard Square Theatre)--unless you happen to be into shopping at 3 a.m. or some other freakish hour. Then, at least, you probably are getting the best bargains of any stores open. The atmosphere at Store 24 is, well, different from most grocery stores. From the street you expect to hear Indian snake charmers music--but what do you want at 3 a.m.?
In the end, the other stores in the Square area are just about as expensive, though more traditional that Store 24. Cardullo's Gourmet Shop (4 Boylston St.) and Sage's (60 Church St.) are worth a visit for those who like fancy foods.
Cahaly's (47 Mt. Auburn St.) is the best small grocery near the Square. The people are friendly and the prices are high but generally lower than those in the rest of the Square. Farther away from the Square, up Mass Ave toward Arlington, are several good little grocery stores. Montrose Spa (1646 Mass Ave) carries the same items as Store 24, but is generally a better place to shop. Cambridge Coffee, Tea and Spice House (1759 Mass Ave) has a wide selection of cheeses, teas, spices and other palatable paraphernalia.
The best places for all-out grocery shopping are Broadway Super Market (468 Broadway St.), Johnnie's Foodmaster (730 Broadway in Somerville) and Star Market (in Porter Sq. and on Beacon St.). Broadway Super Market is the closest and the smallest of the three. Johnnie's is farther away, but has some excellent sale prices on specified items each week. Star Market is open until midnight, provides a very convenient check cashing service and has the best prices.
For vegetarians and health food nuts who like paying prices at specialty stores. Cambridge Health Foods (1642 Mass Ave), The Spa (O Brattle St.) and Europa Biocosmetic (1875 Mass Ave) are nearby.
Any way you cut it, you're going to spend more money than your budget probably allows for food if you're cooking for yourself. But take heart, you can't possibly top the $30 a week the University charges.