At my house growing up, Sunday afternoon was often the time for "big shopping," otherwise known as the weekly trip to the grocery store to stock up. Even when I was a teenager, I usually chose to go on these expeditions, as they provided an opportunity to hang out with my mom away from our usual busy environment (cue the: awww!)
I sort of love grocery shopping all of out proportion to its actual fun quotient. Since I love to cook, my Sunday afternoon big shopping is filled with the potential for the delicious things I'm going to make. The trip to the store also provides me with a way to ease back into the business of the week, as I make sure I'll have everything I'll need for whatever is coming up.
Living in a big urban environment, however, I've had to carefully choose a grocery store that best supports my attempts to go green, doesn't bust my pocketbook, and is close to home.
While many greenies swear by specialty, natural markets like Whole Foods or Central Market, I find that even their regular items have been notched up in price. And because of the amount of travel I do, the farmer's market is more of a treat for me than an every week kind of thing (I admit, after a late flight on Friday night, I'm not going to rouse myself early on Saturday for kale).
Hence, I've come up with a list of a few things I want in a grocery store, that helped me choose where to do my big shopping. Maybe this list can help you evaluate your store. (At the end of the post, I'll share where I actually go).
1) Greener options for common products, positioned where you can find them
Sure, there's some greenwashing involved in the marketing of "green" cleaners, paper plates, etc. But I truly believe that greener lifestyle choices won't be adopted en masse if people need to go out of their way to choose them. For this reason, I like it when the options are right there, where anybody can find them even if they aren't looking. They may not be the "greenest" option, but until green is profitable and readily-available, "greener" seems like a good idea. And honestly, I don't feel like I should have to go to a special store to find recycled toilet paper.
2) A bulk section that's more than a candy aisle
What you're looking at, right here, is my favorite part of the store. Dried mango! Israeli couscous! Okay, so I don't buy most of that stuff on a regular basis, but I could and that's what I like. Shopping bulk is great in so many ways - less packaging; no marketing, hence lower prices; the ability to get exactly the amount you want. In particular, I'm a big fan of whole grains, and a good bulk section should provide you with all the bulgur you want. Unfortunately, bulk areas seem to be shrinking at many non-specialty grocery stores, so finding a good one at a reasonably-priced store can be tricky.
3) A selection of organic, fair trade, and vegetarian options for most items
Yes, I am a hippie chick who puts agave nectar in food instead of sugar. I like even my canned tomatoes to be organic if possible, because I don't like thinking that my pasta sauce is destroying the soil. I like to be able to buy coffee that is fair trade and organic, not have to choose between the two. In this day and age, where they can make yogurt that is designed to be frozen and "thaw by lunchtime", I don't think this is too much to ask.
4) Organic and local produce
I know that not everyone wants to pay a little bit more for blueberries grown without chemicals, but I do and I like a store where the organic and local produce is clearly marked and not relegated to a tiny little bin of sad-looking apples.
5) Friendly Folks
There is a store near my house that fits all of the above criteria. They have samples of cookies and even musicians playing during peak shopping hours. But I don't go there except for emergency runs because the people that work there are not friendly or helpful. They act as if, by buying things, you are inconveniencing them. I prefer to drive a little further and go to a store where the staff is kind and helpful and remembers me from week to week.
So, you may be wondering: Catfish, what is this magical place that meets your many desires?
Well, greenies, I usually do my big shopping at Randall's (the local name for Safeway). It has a reputation for being "expensive" but I'm not exactly sure why, and it's certainly cheaper than Whole Foods. (And for anyone familiar with Texas, who might be wondering why, oh why don't I shop at HEB, which is practically religion in the Lone Star state, I'll tell you: there is not an HEB near my house).
Where do you like to do your big shopping?