Be sure to check out our previous installments of this Grocery Shopping mini-series:
Where to Shop?
Safeway. Health food store. Sketchy corner shop. Bulk foods. There are so many different kinds of grocery stores, it can be daunting to try to choose one as your “go-to” place to shop. That’s why I recommend that you have multiple stores that you frequent! Each grocery store is very valuable in its own way.
Large chain stores: The nearest big chain store to me is Safeway. I guess I should feel like a sell-out, encouraging people to go to these big stores, but there’s good reason for why they’re so popular! These stores have a lot of variety in a clean environment. The food is fresh, the aisles are big, and the lighting is bright. These places are sometimes more expensive than the smaller stores, but they often have deals and promotions (such as club cards or week-long sales), and their products are generally of very good quality. These stores also tend to have organic sections if you’re so inclined. This is typically my go-to store for all of my basic needs.
Smaller corner stores: The products are liable to carry a layer of dust on them, but you can come here for herbs, spices, and fresh fruit when you need it. Plus, these are usually open at different hours from the larger chain stores, which is advantageous if you’re crunched for time. There may be several near your house closer than the larger chain stores (I have one at the end of my street), so you should absolutely maximize your use of that. The other plus to smaller corner stores is that when you buy from these places, you’re supporting the local economy!
Health food stores and local bakeries: I adore these stores the most. I have a few that I wander into on a regular basis; the people who work at these places know that I’m liable to spend half an hour perusing the aisles just for the fun of it. Here is where you’ll find all of those obscure items that you don’t get at any other store. These sell healthier versions of things like vegetable bouillon cubes, as well as many products for special dietary needs. I found tons of different kinds of flour and oat flakes here; these stores are also where I purchase my nutritional yeast, protein powder (usually far better ingredients than the protein powders from any other store), and my bread. Always buy fresh bakery bread! Commercial bread at the stores is full of ingredient lists a mile long. You don’t want that crap going into your body. Freshly baked bread made with local ingredients is also so delicious that you’ll never want commercial bread again. If you don’t bake your own, buy bakery bread. I cannot stress this enough. The extra dollar or two is absolutely without question completely worth it.
Drugstores: Probably the only place where you can buy “real” food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you work a night shift and you’re clean out of eggs, drugstores like Shopper’s Drug Mart are your place to go! I don’t get much of my food from drugstores but it’s nice to have the option. This is where I buy my calcium/magnesium powder. I also enjoy looking at the wonderful displays of chocolate
Bulk food stores: I adore bulk food stores. Seriously adore. Where else can you come across a blend of 15 different kinds of beans all in one big tub? Or vegan and gluten-free pastas? The spice and herb selection is amazing, and you also have a huge choice of flour, nuts, and dried fruit. The Bulk Barn that I go to also sells different kinds of nut butter. Find a bulk barn near you and you’ll never look back.
Gas stations and cafes: The 7-11 across the street from my work has saved me countless times when I’ve been on the hunger prowl: they sell gigantic apples, oranges, and bananas. I’d never dream of buying anything else from there- even the sandwiches are full of horrible things- but when you need a piece of fruit, it’s fantastic. Cafes (both small local ones and larger chain ones like Starbucks) also often sell fruit or salads. I wouldn’t recommend getting the sandwiches unless you know what’s in there, but in a pinch, these places can be useful.
Online: The only thing I really order online is PB2. I can’t get enough of my powdered peanut butter. It’s an addiction and I can’t quite kick the habit. But there are many other wonderful products which you can only buy online. If grocery shopping is difficult to fit into your day, doing it online might be a really good option for you.
Can I really get to all of these stores?
Not all in one day, silly! The idea here is that you have to scope around and find out where these stores are in relation to where you live and where you work. That way you’ll be prepared for when you’re running low on something. You’ll know exactly where it is that you need to shop! The other nice thing about having a variety of stores to shop at is that if one is closed, or if it doesn’t have the product that you’re looking for, it’s ten to one that another store on this list is open and does have the product you want. Be aware of the places around you to make the best grocery shopping choices.
Next up is Part Five: Grocery Shopping on a Budget!