There's nothing quite like that first trip to the grocery store with mom and dad out of the picture. (Well, actually, they'll probably be buying your first round of food when you move in, but pretty soon you'll be on your own.) Downtown Charleston has three major grocery stores, plus some little ones, but you also might want to make trips off the peninsula if you're more comfortable with Publix, Bi-Lo, or Whole Foods.
This full-service grocery on the south end of the peninsula offers great deals — always keep an eye out for the two-for-ones, and don't forget your VIC card. There's a fresh deli with fairly priced Boar's Head meats and cheeses and cheaper options as well, plus a fresh bakery and sushi bar. Perhaps the best deal is the sub-makin' station with some of the cheapest heroes in Charleston. This place is open 24-7, and you'll often see college students there in the late night hours stocking up on drunk snacks or study aids.
Local since forever, Piggly Wiggly can cover your grocery list on the north peninsula. The PIG card gets you deals on food and alcohol and even gas points. Rack up enough points and you'll get special treats and discounts.
For people living on the northern end of downtown — like in North Central, Wagener Terrace, and Hampton Park Terrace — Food Lion is a stone's throw away compared to some of the other area grocery stores. It's not as modern as the Teet or the Pig, but it's a good place to go for quick staples.
Burbage's is a strictly neighborhood spot (and by neighborhood, we mean South of Broad), but it has a good amount of ready-made sandwiches and soups that you can also take home in bulk. This is the kind of place where you'll get to know the owner and anyone else who works there, and vice versa.
Ted's is an all-natural butcher counter with the usual options as well as some specialty cuts like lamb shanks, quail, and 13 different kinds of bacon. They also sell beer, wine, artisanal cheeses, and Rio Bertollini's pasta, and their sandwiches make a great to-go lunch.
Right off of the College of Charleston campus, this is a great deli with prepared options you can order for lunch or take home. There is a meat counter where you can make your own sandwich or get a half-pound of roast beef, and a coffee bar with breakfast bagels and fresh pastries.
Save your produce list for this place next to the Teet, where they've got all sorts of local produce for ridiculously low prices.
And off the peninsula:
Charleston rejoiced when Trader Joe's came to town, because it has some of the most competitive prices in town. Staples here are much cheaper than they are at many other stores, and they also have some of the best house brand options. Try out the frozen Indian food or dumplings and you won't be disappointed. And don't forget about their line of $3 wines — when you're old enough to buy it, that is.
Some may call it Whole Paycheck, but this place has got the organic-local-natural thing down pat. They have well-stocked meat and deli cases, hot and salad bars, and a restaurant's worth of pre-made options like chicken salad, pizza, couscous, and more. If you stick to sale items, you can sometimes make out pretty well.
With some of the freshest produce and organic products, this small Whole Foods-esque chain even has a "do not allow" list of unhealthy ingredients you won't find in their store. And if you're into holistic remedies, Earth Fare has them.
Publix is known for their customer service. They don't have a value card, which is good if you're forgetful, but their organic and natural store brand Greenwise is always reliable. And don't forget to pick up one of their coupon books at the front of the store.
You'll need a discount card to make the most out of any of their bright and shiny locations too, but Bi-Lo is a good suburban stop with a wine selection almost as cheap as Trader Joe's.