Grocery Stores

April 4, 2013

How do you go grocery shopping?

By Raleigh-Elizabeth. Image by Ave Bonar.

Once upon a time, in a land not far away, a very normal cook named Raleigh-Elizabeth went grocery shopping. It wasn’t for anything special, or any day special, or any feast special. No no, she just needed regular groceries for a regular week. A regular week in a regular family.

Nothing too hard here, she thought intrepidly. No big bad wolves or evil witches, just a girl and a grocery list. Four grocery stores later (and two trips to the same store), our food-loving heroine looked at her list and sighed. How could there still be outstanding items? Do you think Harris Teeter has that semolina flour I need? she texted her husband, desperate for him to offer to pick it up on his way home from work. Why are short ribs so hard to find today? And why doesn’t anyone carry heavy cream anymore?

At some point, sitting in traffic on the way to the grocery store, I realized that real life stories of grocery shopping sound better in fairytale form. In real life, I manage to delete my grocery list on my phone with my thumb, lose the scribbled preliminary list in the bottom of my pocket book, buy eight things I don’t need, and come home without eight things I do.

In fairytales, a magical foodie godmother can wave a grocery store wand and ta-da!, a one-stop shopping world would appear before me.

In real life, that place is called Wegmans. With locations in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Wegmans sells everything: Le Crueset, baked goods to rival your town’s most-beloved bakery, affordable drinkware, oysters shucked to order, all natural diapers, smelly cheeses from all over the globe, and normal things like Goya beans and Diet Cokes by the dozen. Whatever your culinary vice, they’re there to nurture, fuel, and sustain the habit. And they also have a really fabulous ready-made food market. (It’s the only grocery store where it pays to arrive hungry.)

A visit to Wegman’s is a mandatory part of any visit to my see my mother, who lives in Baltimore, but grocery stores are on my tourist to-do list whenever I travel. In Italy, I’m always amazed by the boxed cream you can get in the non-perishables aisles. In Belize, I fell in love with a brand of frozen arepas I still crave on a daily basis. In Connecticut, my heart was stolen by a singing cow at Stew Leonard’s (which is every bit Disney-meets-grocery, with really good dairy). Each visit teaches me a little bit more about food and a lot more about the area.

At home in North Carolina, the lesson I learn repeatedly is the more the merrier — at least when it comes to the number of grocery stores it will take to knock-out my grocery list for the week. We live an hour from the nearest town, and grocery shopping is a five-store effort (plus two more if you count the farmers’ market and the local dairy where I buy my eggs).

Even when I’m following all of Bon Appetit’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Grocery Shoppers, grocery shopping can be a Herculean experience. I make the list. I plot out the store. I organize my shopping with the best of them. But as I make my way to the last store on my list — or worse, back to the first store for the second time — I imagine I’m not the exhausted grocery shopper I am in real life, but rather a food fairytale heroine, mastering the maze of grocery stores, arriving at checkout with everything she needs, and only once in awhile clicking her heels and hoping that foodie godmother is coming. But really, she’s coming, right?

Tell me: Where do you do your grocery shopping? Do you have a great store you can’t live without? Do you have any tips for shopping more effectively?

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Grocery Stores
April 4, 2013 at 1:03 pm

{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

1 domonique @ a bowl full of simple April 4, 2013 at 8:11 am

great post. how is it that a planner like me still has items left on my list! i limit my shopping to 2 stores as much as possible for my sanity! totally appreciate this. meal planning is the real key.


2 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 8:34 am

I am so glad to know I’m not alone in this. I feel like such a failure every time I shop… and I am a planner! What goes wrong!


3 Emily April 4, 2013 at 8:27 am

I just moved away from California to the opposite side of the country, and was shocked at thepoor produce options and prices of the groceries in the stores in my neighborhood. Then, the Wegmans opened. Hallelujah! I could go on for days about the wonders of Wegmans.


4 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 8:35 am

I have never lived in California, and I’m scared if we ever get stationed there, I’ll fall madly in love with the produce and never leave. And then we’ll have to return to the East Coast eventually, and I’ll just start crying in the produce aisles.

Wegmans is a godsend – I’m so glad you have one too! (And their salads are delicious. YUM.)


5 Heidi April 4, 2013 at 8:40 am

We left Baltimore (and Wegmans!) and happily arrived in San Diego-lots of farmers markets, Whole Foods, Costco (we have 4 kids and entertain a lot) with the occasional trip to Trader Joes and Vons for basics like Skippy peanut butter. Now that we have a large crew to feed, I really try and stay away from the prepared food counter-it just gets too pricey. Back when I only had a few tiny kids, and my husband traveled a lot, I used to go to a really small chain in Baltimore called Eddie’s (shout out for their crab cakes and delicious capellini salad with sundried tomatoes, basil and grated parm).


6 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 8:49 am

I had that capellini salad for lunch on Christmas Eve day! I also love Graul’s. Balti-amore!


7 Zoe - SlowMama April 4, 2013 at 8:41 am

I can so relate to this — and I live in Baltimore! But we’re downtown and Wegman’s is out in the ‘burbs and I usually can’t get out there on any regular basis.

Our food comes from numerous places: I get almost all of my meats and eggs from local farmers (I started a local buyers’ club to bring local produce here to our neighborhood during winter months when farmers’ markets are closed). I also belong to a group that gets dairy and other products from an Amish farmer. I shop at WholeFoods once or twice a week for organic produce and other items. I make a trip to Trader Joe’s about every two weeks for certain things, and I stop at Shoppers Food Warehouse (the closest grocery store) once a month for things like toilet paper, paper towels, tissues.

Just writing this out makes me dizzy, but I just can’t find everything we need/want at one place. As you say, planning is key to keeping yourself a relatively sane shopper, but it would be nice to cut down on so many stops!


8 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 8:50 am

I think we’re all in the same boat. Maybe I just need to stop being so frustrated by the multi-store trips and accept them as normal! And more Baltimost love!


9 robin @ our semi organic life April 4, 2013 at 8:44 am

I hear ya! We used to love harris teeter & lowes back in NC. Now we go to Kroger, Martins and of course… Trader Joes! We go to TJ’s once a month since its kinda far away. Then we add in things like our salvage grocery store and the farmers market. Never been to wegmans…


10 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 8:51 am

So many stores! So little time!


11 Heather April 4, 2013 at 8:48 am

I am in central NJ, and ten years ago, we had just a small expensive local grocery store and a Stop and Shop. Within the last ten years, a Wegman’s opened up, a Whole Foods, and most recently a Trader Joe’s. I feel like I am in grocery store nirvana. I hit Wegman’s once a month and stock up on all the staples and parmesean, and chorizo, Trader’s Joe’s twice a month because it is small and grocery shopping there takes thirty minutes and my kids love the stickers, and I love their prices, and quinoa, and frozen fish, and then go to Whole Foods at least once a month for those chocolate truffles and millet and some strange fruit or vegetable I’ve never seen before, and the Seven Stars yogurt which for some reason is half the price it is anywhere else. I would grocery shop more often for pleasure if I didn’t have to bring my children with me. And it is also one of my favorite things to do when I travel. My suitcase is always full of strange mustards and cookies when I come home.


12 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 8:52 am

Oooh! I love the idea of buying mustards abroad. I always get nervous bringing food home – but I think it’s time to get over it. Yum!


13 Wendy April 4, 2013 at 11:18 am

So funny, I too am in Central NJ and I have pretty much the same routine as Heather. I don’t get to travel much but strangely enough my purse is often filled with cookies when I get home…


14 Mary April 4, 2013 at 9:13 am

Love Wegman’s. We are finally getting more here in the Boston area. I have friends who drive 30-45 minutes to their store now. I can’t quite do that. I’m a meal planner, and I try try try to stick to one trip/week, and I stock up at Costco every couple months (paper goods, black beans, frozen veggies…). Oh and in the summer: every Saturday morning is a trip to the farmer’s market. Oh and we have a community farm where I get eggs and greens and maple syrup.


15 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 9:25 am

I meal plan too, but clearly I’m not getting it done… I need to pick up on your idea. One trip a week!


16 Kristen E April 4, 2013 at 9:22 am

When we lived in California, I had to go to three stores every week to get all our staples and whatever else we needed. Trader Joe’s for whatever we could get there, since it was all so cheap, Safeway for most of the rest, and Whole Foods for anything else, like fresh almond butter. When we moved to Indiana, my routine had to change a lot! No Trader Joe’s, no Whole Foods, so initially I did all my grocery shopping at Meijer. Then, I figured out that the local family-owned grocery store chain has almost everything I want or need, at good prices if you do it right. I still need to go to the farmer’s market sometimes, or the natural food store, but I do everything else at Martin’s! Bonus: every single person who works there is helpful and friendly. I’ve NEVER had a bad experience with any employee there! That alone has made me a dedicated Martin’s shopper!


17 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 9:26 am

What a wonderful thing… all the groceries and getting to support a local, family-owned store. Hooray!


18 Giulia April 4, 2013 at 9:22 am

I grew up in a small town in Switzerland where you buy your groceries for the meal you make that day. You shop for what you need. I then moved to a bigger city and also shopped according to my daily needs since I did not want to carry really heavy bags home once a week. This resulted in buying only what I need, wasting less food and having fresh bread,produce,etc. from the local cheese monger, baker, butcher.
I know live in Canada with two kids and shop once a week at a grocery store and once every two weeks at Costco. I plan meals for the whole week and buy what I need. In summer I get a CSA basket and that sets the direction for the weekly meals and shopping trip.
I miss walkable food shopping.


19 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 9:28 am

I lived in NYC for twelve years, and I relied on walkable food shopping there, too. I always had some delicious staples in my cabinets, but mostly I shopped each day for that night’s dinner, tomorrow’s breakfast, and tomorrow’s lunch.

It was incredibly easy – and a total delight.


20 Alana Henry April 4, 2013 at 9:33 am

I love to tour a grocery store when ever we travel, everywhere we go too. In Australia the eggs are on a shelf, not refrigerated. So much fun.


21 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 9:49 am

Every time I forget the eggs in the car (so, every other week) I take great comfort in this. In fact, I kept ours out at room temperature in a basket for awhile because it was really cute… only then I realized that being inherently clumsy + having fresh eggs on the counter is very conducive to having to mop on a day you didn’t intend to.


22 Sally from Little Hiccups April 4, 2013 at 10:24 am

I’m an Australian living in California and I still find it weird that eggs are kept refrigerated in the supermarkets here! My German friends living here find it odd too. The thing that really freaks me out about eggs here though is that they’re white! So incredibly white – like Hollywood teeth!


23 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:36 pm

It is a little weird. I’m now weirded out by the eggs in my fridge. I’m just seeing teeth. White white hollywood teeth.


24 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Wait – let’s do a little talking about the egg thing. How long can you keep eggs out of the fridge? I thought we fridged them because they have all been sitting out for so long before arriving to the store – anyone want to weigh in here? To fridge, or not to fridge?


25 gail April 4, 2013 at 2:49 pm

I’m not completely sure but I think the deal is that once they’ve been refrigerated, they need to continue to be refrigerated. If they’ve been held at room temperature since being gathered, then there’s no problem with continuing to hold them at room temperature for some time–many months? I know sailors, in times past and maybe still in this day, used to bring dozens of room temperature eggs when crossing the ocean, enough to last them for the passage.

26 Anita Knapp April 6, 2013 at 12:20 am

If the eggs are from the store – fridge. They have been sitting out for a long time already. Plus, store-bought eggs have been washed (and bleached!), which removes the egg’s natural keep-it-fresh barrier. Eggshells are porous, so once they are washed, nasties can start getting in.

If the eggs are farm-fresh (and usually unwashed), then you don’t need to worry about keeping them cold as much.

I’m on the fresh egg wagon – we just bought chicks! Very excited, as my family of ten goes through 5 or 6 dozen eggs in a week.

27 monique April 10, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Eggs in the UK and Australia haven’t been washed three times like American eggs. When eggs are laid by the chicken there is a protective layer on them, which preserves them without refrigeration. I read an article recently called something like “why American eggs would be illegal in the UK, and vice versa” which had all this info but as a backyard chicken keeper I had learned through my research .

28 Kacie April 4, 2013 at 9:37 am

I’m SO GLAD I am not the only one obsessed with Wegmans. It’s one of the only parts of Upstate NY I miss!


29 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:40 pm

But a wegman’s parking lot in an Upstate NY snowstorm: not as covetable.


30 Susan April 4, 2013 at 9:44 am

FYI- Our Trader Joe’s now has heavy cream on the shelf!


31 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 9:48 am

MOST RELEVANT COMMENT. Has anyone else noticed how it’s impossible to find all of a sudden? I realize we’re all trying to be healthier… but I’m still trying to get my hands on some heavy cream.


32 Sally from Little Hiccups April 4, 2013 at 10:31 am

Our Trader Joe’s has heavy cream on the shelf too which comes in handy for keeping in the pantry when you need it unexpectedly. What I struggle to find though is just regular thickened cream. I mean really thick. The kind that you just scoop out of the carton and dollop onto scones and it stays put. No whipping required. Maybe it’s a cultural thing and it just doesn’t exist in America (I’m Australian). Maybe it just doesn’t exist in California as it’s pretty fattening ;)


33 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:35 pm

How do I live by the only TJ’s that doesn’t stock this awesome cream?!? And Sally, I have *never* seen that cream in America. You can get it in Italy… but I wonder if Amazon might not be able to help us out here? Who cares about fattening… all things in moderation. : )


34 Jillian L April 4, 2013 at 6:03 pm

Oh, clotted cream! How I love you! I’ve had it in the UK, and I believe I’ve seen it in a grocery store or two here in the US:

35 Sharon @ Discovering Blog April 4, 2013 at 9:52 am

I love Wegmans, EXCEPT for the fact that I feel like I’m going to knock things over constantly! And then when you add in 2 kids, you just always feel like you are in someone’s way.
I have been splitting my shopping between Trader Joe’s, which I can go to on my lunch break, and then a quick trip to Shoprite or Stop n Shop. And I HATE when I forget something, but I typically do – only to realize it on a Sunday morning when I’m getting ready to make the food for the week. And the last thing I want to do is waste the time to go to a store then.


36 ashley@marriedlane April 4, 2013 at 11:31 am

It’s true – I think because Wegmans is so popular, they’re always busy! Not an easy place to shop with kids!


37 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Or pregnant. I always have my arms out in front of me, trying to keep the crazies with carts at bay.


38 geri justinger April 4, 2013 at 9:56 am

I live in “rural” Wisconsin – we have NO shortage of heavy cream…even convenience stores carry it ;) We have a GREAT salvage grocery store just down the road which is a real budget saver, but I generally drive 45 minutes to do the bulk of my shopping (Woodman’s) and try to support local farmers/producers as much as possible. Flexibility is key – I re-plan my meals quite often based on lack of ingredient availability – I find it’s made me a more creative and frugal cook :)
Thanks for the great article!


39 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Thanks for sharing, Geri! And I need all tips on being a more frugal cook: I so easily succumb to the displays of figs or whatever the newest, most expensive fruit is… it’s terrible. Delicious, but terrible.


40 Abby April 4, 2013 at 10:31 am

Hallelujah to TJ’s heavy cream! Chicago is a rough spot for grocery shopping; our produce is notoriously bruised and overpriced. My husband and I took to ordering produce from a local organic farm until a new grocery chain, Mariano’s, opened a few locations recently. They have wonderful fresh meat and all of the hard-to-find baking items I can’t get anywhere else. Aside from the constant Mariano’s traffic (we are definitely not the only ones who know about it), my grocery-induced stress has been lowered significantly. Bonus: they have a live piano player at the front of the store. Hello, enjoyable.


41 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:47 pm

I would like live musical entertainment at my grocery store too please.


42 melissa walsh April 4, 2013 at 10:33 am

Wegman’s and Costco are my favorite places to shop! But, admittedly, I’m terrible at grocery shopping and in a dream world, I would love to shop, just once without counting every penny I have to spend. Now, that would be truly wonderful!


43 engquist@see what i sea designs April 4, 2013 at 10:35 am

My husband and I just moved back to the States from nearly two years abroad. When we were in Cyprus, grocery shopping was a well-choreographed dance for me. My main shop was Lidl, a German store that sold nothing but the basics but at really good prices. I would go there for most of my shopping then hit a local supermarket for fillers like special cheese and more American staples. I really tried to consolidate the trips as much as possible due to us sharing a car, crazy traffic, and stores being really hard to navigate. When we were in Germany, I was introduced to the wonders of Aldi and I’m looking forward to trying it on for size again.


44 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Your adventures sound so exciting! Maybe foreign grocery stores just sound more fun than American ones because there’s that added charm of “foreign”?


45 Leanne April 4, 2013 at 10:43 am

We just moved to France 8 months ago so I am still navigating the grocery shopping scene. To be honest, I really don’t like doing it. In fact I don’t even like cooking but I want my family to eat well so I put in the time. I do love the markets here though. I will do as much of my shopping there as I can because I think the only thing that causes me stress in my life are the shopping carts here. All four wheels move in all directions so that when you try to round a tight corner (which they all are) you have to make a wide sweeping turn and this gets progressively more difficult the heavier your cart becomes. The only thing that calms me down is picking up a fresh croissant from the boulangerie on the way home!


46 Sally from Little Hiccups April 4, 2013 at 11:07 am

I live above a Trader Joe’s which makes grocery shopping pretty easy ;) I find myself down there buying something almost everyday which is fine as we have a pretty small kitchen with not much storage. Trader Joe’s is kind of like out pantry! That said, there are an awful lot of regular, everyday things that Trader Joe’s don’t sell (cling wrap, baking soda, diapers, cleaning products that work) so I find myself going to our local Safeway supermarket once a week as well. I don’t have a car so I have to limit the amount of products I buy from Safeway – which becomes a little tricky when you’re required to buy at least two of everything to get the sale price! I also try to buy produce from a local market. The produce is pretty cheap at Trader Joe’s but I don’t like that everything comes in a tonne of plastic. Plus it doesn’t tend to last as long as produce bought at a market.
As Trader Joe’s is pretty cheap I find myself buying lots of ready made meals for our family. It makes me feel super lazy but quite often it’s much cheaper than buying all of the required ingredients and it saves a lot of time. Plus a lot of it tastes really good :)

I’m originally from Australia and back home I used to do one large grocery shop a week. I’d try my best to plan out meals for the week and only buy what I needed. I say “try” because it never really worked! I always found myself buying more than I needed but I had plenty of space for it so it was ok. It did lead to a lot more wastage than I would like to admit though. In Australia I never bought meat or fruit and vegetables from the supermarket. Supermarkets tend to be in shopping centres where there is usually also a green grocer for fruit and veg, a bakery, a butcher, a fish shop and a chicken shop. I could’ve bought everything from the supermarket but the quality was much better from the individual stores.
I never bought ready made meals in Australia – apart from chicken products from a great chain of chicken stores. All food in Australia is expensive so it’s a lot more cost effective to make everything yourself. I cooked a lot and would make a few meals at once which I could keep in my deep freezer. Not having the kitchen space here makes that tricky, plus food in America is so incredibly cheap that it’s not really required.

Thirteen years ago I spent a year living in Switzerland. There I found myself pretty much just buying food for the day. My apartment was tiny with just a mini fridge so I couldn’t buy much food even if I wanted to. I found that I saved so much more money this way and we never really wasted food. I could walk easily to all of the shops I needed to go to which was great. I just had to get used to the fact that they all closed for lunch!


47 ashley@marriedlane April 4, 2013 at 11:30 am

We are blessed enough to have not one, but two new wegmans stores within about 20 minutes of us. Definitely a dream come true! We always say Wegmans is like a Whole Foods with the prices you’d find at Giant (and sometimes better!). Now if wegmans had the same kid-friendly carts as target (the car-cart things just never work for me!) and the scan-as-you-go capabilities of Giant, it would really be perfection!


48 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Amen on all fronts.


49 Marija April 4, 2013 at 11:40 am

Just be aware that nonperishable boxed cream in Italy may not be made out of real milk! We have it here in Serbia as well and if you read label it says made from vegetable oil!! Kinda like margarine


50 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

Honestly, it was so magical in my pasta that I wouldn’t mind if you told me it was made from discarded crayons. So, so delicious. Hello Serbia!


51 Sarah April 4, 2013 at 12:08 pm

in texas we have an AMAZING grocery store called central market – ask any texan you meet and they will agree. they don’t have everything though – no diet coke, or stuff like that. but that’s ok with me.

and i am so familiar with the store that i write my shopping list around what i think they will have – if they don’t have it, i improvise. i love shopping there…


52 Deborah April 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I love Wegmans! When I first moved to Pennsylvania, I would ask my parents to pick up specialty items in NJ to bring to me when they would visit. Things in the area were very PA dutch. (Salt, Pepper, butter and celery salt are the main seasonings.) So mom would bring out true sweet italian sausage, Peak Freen cookies, pesto sauce and the like. Then came Wegmans! It’s a 30 minute drive, but then so is everything from our work in progress farmhouse renovation- but so worth the trip. I go once a week and make great use of the freezer. I love the produce at Wegmans, and the organic section. I have to agree that it hard to get through the isles due to lots of extra displays but worth the hummus, pesto, real parmesan, etc.


53 Cathy Lane April 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Love your Wegmans comments. What my kids (even the grown ones) remember best about a visit to my Sis in Princeton was seeing truffles at Wegmans. We had to make repeat visits to the store as other guests arrived just to marvel and see that someone had bought some of the truffle even at the unbelievable price. I do long for something that “foodie”.


54 hairyshoefairy April 4, 2013 at 1:28 pm

When I lived in Oakland, CA I discovered Berkeley Bowl and my life was forever changed by their massive produce department with things I never even knew existed. It was a bit out of the way for me but I still made the drive every week (preferably on a weekday because weekends were ridiculously crowded) because they had the best produce for the best prices. When friends came to visit it’s one of the places I always took them (most of my family and friends are foodies) and my husband teased me every time because he (not being a foodie) couldn’t imagine what was so great about a grocery store. I haven’t lived in Oakland for over 5 years but still, every week when I go shopping I miss Berkeley Bowl.


55 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:52 pm

The next time I’m out in CA, I’m going to make a trip to Berkeley Bowl. It sounds DELICIOUS! Thanks for sharing!


56 Alyssa April 5, 2013 at 10:44 am

Yes! Berkeley Bowl is amazing – produce heaven. If you ever get to go, try the newer one on Heinz Ave.


57 Lynn April 4, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I love Wegmans! Later this year one will open about 10 minutes from us but for the last few years, I have traveled about 25 minutes every few weeks to shop there!! It is also a great spot to grab lunch when one is traveling….so we’ve found them in several other places on the east coast! Trader Joes is another favorite place….but Wegmans is the BEST.


58 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

I couldn’t live without TJ’s, I admit. But Wegmans is just… Wegmans. It’s the pinnacle. : )


59 Megan A April 4, 2013 at 2:14 pm

In Ohio we would go to our local grocery store for meat and eggs (since it came from farms nearby) and produce in the winter, a chain store for non perishables, and our favorite farmers market or farmstand for produce in the summer, and occasionally pick your own farms or even amish produce auctions (and several years, just went out and picked fruits and vegetables from our own garden!). I’m eager to move back, especially since where we live in Utah is lacking in that!


60 Alie April 4, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Sprouts, and occasionally Whole Foods if I’m feeling rich that day. ;)

And I can’t live without our Saturday farmer’s market – thank goodness we have it year-round here in the Bay area. Ever since we started eating a plant-based diet (mostly vegan, & cheat if we have to when we go out) our grocery bill has gone way down. We really try to choose high-quality, local ingredients whenever possible. Huge chain grocery stores just don’t do it for me – I don’t know how people can buy from them!


61 Lauren April 4, 2013 at 3:26 pm

I shop at BI-LO weekly and Trader Joe’s once a month. April-September, I also visit a produce stand that is, thankfully, on the way to my regular grocery store.
I don’t love grocery shopping, but do love to check out fancy grocery stores for fun- sometimes my husband and I can spend an afternoon at Whole Foods, just looking around and sampling things :)


62 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I am all for this – especially the sampling. I’m not sure why, but we always called them “tastes” in my family (I think I get this from my french stepmother – I wonder if it’s a translation thing?) but let’s be clear: The very best part of grocery shopping, after you age out of the free-cookie-from-the-bakery age, is tastes. Tastes are the most brilliant grocery invention ever.


63 Design Mom April 4, 2013 at 3:41 pm

Your mention of Stew Leonards made me so homesick for New York! There’s a huge Stew Leonards in Yonkers, just North of the Bronx, and we would shop there every week. When my kids think of New York, one of the things they remember is French Toast Bagels from Stew Leonards. (And the dancing Chiquita banana, obviously.) We would buy those bagels two dozen at a time. And they would last about 10 minutes at our house.


64 Mary Ann April 4, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Great topic! Love your homage to Wegman’s. Whenever we are traveling through the northeast and see one, we stop. Here in Florida our can’t-live-without is Publix, but we make regular multi-store treks which include a Costa Rican market and a middle eastern bakery.


65 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm

PUBLIX deserves its own ode all by itself. Their sweet tea! Their pumpkin pie! Their sandwiches!

Publix, like Wegman’s, isn’t a grocery store. It’s a way of life.


66 Weggies Weggies Weggies April 4, 2013 at 5:02 pm

Wegmans! (Spoken in reverent terms.) I’ve been wishing that my foodie godmother would waive her grocery wand and presto! Those magic-making cooks at Wegmans would begin hosting cooking lessons. If Sur la Table and all that crew can do, shouldn’t Wegmans get on that band wagon. Drum roll, please!


67 Jennifer April 4, 2013 at 5:13 pm

Thank you so much for this post today. I read it as I sat down after my own grocery shopping this morning. The only difference was I live about 30 minutes from the store, and I lugged along 3 children under the age of 6 with me. We too came home with a few unnecessary things (bouncy balls and fruit by the foot). But I also found the Dutch chocolate I was looking for. Right now I shop at winco. It’s not fancy by any means but it has most of what we need. If I could, I’d shop more at trader joes but that’s an hour away. They have the shelf stable cream you mentioned. Thanks again for the wonderful post you made my week!


68 Raleigh-Elizabeth April 4, 2013 at 5:16 pm

blush blush blush! i’m so excited you enjoyed it! and happy shopping at winco – anyplace where you can get through with three children under the age of six is a winner in my book.


69 Kriste April 4, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I’m another Texan singing the praises of Central Market. It is one if my favorite places. I go about once a month to peruse their bulk section, pick up fresh guacamole, and something from the cheese aisle. For daily staples, we shop at Aldi, and I also make a monthly stop at Costco. We have five boys, so we go through tons of food, as you can imagine. The last time I was at Costco the checkout lady asked if I was having a party! I also participate in Bountiful Baskets, a weekly produce co-op where I also stock up on organic multigrain bread to put in the freezer. I have never lived near a Wegmans, but I have heard they are wonderful!


70 Jillian L April 4, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Wegmans is THE BEST!!!!! I moved to FL from VA, and I have to say Publix just doesn’t cut it. Nothing like the selection, friendly people, and eat-in buffet food quality & selection (mmm, Indian!) at Wegmans. Some Whole Foods are comparable however :) And I will say that a 2 story Publix is pretty neat (there’s one in Sarasota)- they have an escalator that takes your cart up & down!


71 Colleen April 4, 2013 at 6:48 pm

I have a Wegman’s less than 5 minutes away (Northern VA)… I had no idea it was something special! I ran in there once because it was on my way home and I just needed a few basics (milk, pancake mix, stamps). I was so frustrated because it was so huge I couldn’t find anything! It was also raining and I just wanted to get home. I will have to go back when I have more time so I can appreciate it!


72 Elizabeth N. April 5, 2013 at 1:59 am

In Hawaii I can’t live without Costco. In California I couldn’t live with Trader Joe’s (I miss it so much.) In Virginia it was Harris Teeters, though I do loveeee Wegmans. I was never able to find everything I needed (and I am talking about basic things, not something off the wall) at Wegmans despite its size and selection but overall they are great for picking up a quick and delicious dinner/lunch, organic and whole foods, great produce, and yummy cheese.


73 Rebecca Snyder April 5, 2013 at 8:37 am

I love love Central Market. It is part of the HEB family and only available in Texas, but it is the best. I went to the store on a visit to Austin and it was part of the reason I ended up moving to Texas a year later. I like to tell people that it’s my happy place. I even wrote a blog post all about it:


74 The Prudent Homemaker April 5, 2013 at 10:25 am

My favorite grocery store was in downtown Geneva, Switzerland. They had an amazing deli, too, that was always busy at lunchtime, with foccacia, bruschetta, and so much more. I remember the cheese section of the store with the large wheels, and a man cutting pieces for people.

The store was connected to a large department store; the groceries were on the bottom and several floors above it were the rest of a wonderful department store.

I loved this store so much that 14 years later I dream about it every few months; I always dream I’m in Geneva and I am trying to find this store, and I can’t . . .

It’s within walking distance to Lake Geneva. If anyone know where it is, or what it’s called, please tell me; I want to find it on a map!


75 Jillian in Italy April 5, 2013 at 10:50 am

Whenever I visit anywhere in the world one of my first stops is the local grocery store. It baffles my kids and husband but there is nothing I love more than browsing through every aisle and studying every new product I see. And I have to say Japan was my favorite. Just the packaging alone was a sight to behold.

I can go to one grocery shop here in Italy and get everything I need. Including organic veggies and bio meat. The Italian mamas don’t settle for anything but the best.

And I also use that boxed cream on a regular basis. Now off to check the ingredient list to see if it is indeed dairy!


76 Shannon April 5, 2013 at 7:24 pm

Oh my gosh. This post reminds me to appreciate Wegmans a little more than I normally do. I am from Upstate NY and in every stateside place I have ever lived – Midwest, West Coast – when I’ve met fellow Upstate NY natives, we instantly bond and reminisce over Wegmans and compare it to the substandard and pricey regional groceries we are currently suffering through. Our collective yearning for Wegmans can dominate a conversation and bore outsiders to tears. I have since relocated back to Upstate NY and have been taking Wegmans for granted a little lately. (It is *everywhere* here.) Thanks for reminding me what a gift it is each Saturday to sample fresh squeezed blood orange juice and ancient grains bread with organic preserves while browsing for Piave cheese. Long live Danny Wegman! (May he rest in peace.)


77 Diane April 5, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Shannon, you may be thinking of Danny Wegman’s father, Robert, when you say “May he rest in peace,” as Danny is still very much alive and is the CEO, while Robert passed away in 2006. Here is a fun story about Wegmans — I had heard that it is the Wegman family’s tradition to visit each store sometime in December, to walk around and personally wish the employees a happy holiday. One December day I happened to be shopping in my local Rochester area store when the Wegmans were doing just that – with no big fuss or attention, just individually greeting employees. I continued on with my shopping and was on the other side of the store when three men walked down the paper-goods isle towards me. Upon observing that I was trying to find a certain product, the man in the middle asked if he could help. I then realized it was Danny Wegman. He helped me locate the toilet paper that I was looking for and went on his way. Thinking of that moment always makes me chuckle. What more can I say about my personal experience with Wegman’s customer service then when the CEO helped me find toilet paper.


78 Kathryn April 5, 2013 at 10:03 pm

We moved to Connecticut three years ago and quickly became acquainted with Stew Leonard’s. We only go there occasionally but it is a real treat. We are Costco people and go to multiple other stores here, depending on what mood strikes, I guess!


79 Cheyenne April 6, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I live in Austin, TX and I would miss HEB and Central Maret terribly if we ever move away! My nearby HEB stocks many of the great Central Marker brands so I can get everything I need in one trip usually. I love them!


80 Eliza April 6, 2013 at 6:39 pm

When my husband’s job was transferred to Connecticut, two of the big reasons we chose to stay in upstate NY were Wegmans and living close to grandparents. I visited every grocery store the new area had to offer (including Stew Leonards) and they were all depressing compared to my local Wegmans.


81 Starr April 7, 2013 at 4:23 am

Ah, Wegmans. Just about the only really outstanding thing (besides friends) that I miss from living in central New Jersey. Food fairy land, indeed. But you didn’t mention the very best thing: KID PLAYLAND! My daughter would ASK to come grocery shopping so she could go play…and then be so upset when it was time to go.


82 Marie April 7, 2013 at 5:20 am

Living all my life in the birthplace of wegman’s I am surely spoiled. Fun surprise to be reading about them on design mom…..BTW there is a Wegmans App to try but you sound much more organized at shopping than me. I do just about all my shopping there, with trips to wholesale stores sam’s or bj’s for the common bulk stuff we use a lot….we have other chains, and rochester just got a Trader Joe’s (finally) but I’m a one place shopper if possible.


83 Sarah April 8, 2013 at 3:42 pm

We recently re located AWAY from the Wegman filled state of MD. SAD! But were pleased to find Publix their catch phrase is “where shopping is a pleasure” and yes, it really is. It’s no Wegmans mind you, but it’s WAAAAAAAY better than the only other thing in our new town….it’s a big box store that rhymes with Sprawlmart. My shopping trick? I go to a club store like BJ or Costco and get all the “basics” every couple weeks then our local Publix for the “i forgot” items or the “i don’t need 5 gallons of katsup” items, or when we’re out of milk inbetween stock ups.


84 Tracy April 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm

My husband and I decided to move away from the DC area about five years ago. We moved overseas and got to enjoy daily trips to the markets and stores. I loved that I could pick things up on the way home from work. Or we ate a lot, but it was so affordable to do that because we were in Kosovo. Now we live in ruraly West Virginia. There is a Walmart and a Kroger. I prefer to shop at Kroger and have really started to buy locally with local farms for meats, dairy, jams, and fruits/veggies.

However, I must admit, whenever we go home to visit family we go to Wegmens. I love it and miss it dearly. It really is an experience and I think worth visiting for tourists…they should atleast drop in for lunch!


85 Jennifer April 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm

I love in the pacific northwest, and we don’t have the same stores over here as on the east coast. We have the common Winco, Costco and Safeway stores that we frequent. Of course we cannot forget the WalMart superstores that are never a joy to shop at. We live outside of a larger town so when we do our shopping we usually are doing a large amount at once so we don’t have to go out of our way to pick up last minute ingredients.


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