Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rethinking shopping

I admit it, I am a grocery shopping addict.  A real fiend.  It is my go to excuse when I need to get out of the house, which we chose in part because it was across the street from the local A&P.  I love perusing the produce and imagining the possibilities in the spice section.  There is something so hopeful about the whole expedition; when I am at the market I can envision making anything.  In my mind while seeking flour, I can assemble tall cakes in a single bound.  When the farmer's markets open, I am shopping for truth, justice, and the American way.

My preferences include smaller, local/regional stores, which are in abundance here in Hoboken. It is not uncommon to find me gazing at apples around 9 am, then at another store for fish at noon, and back to market again after dinner for staples.  It is not that I am unorganized about shopping, I just like to buy different things at different places.  The store with the best strawberries may not have a seafood counter or carry toilet paper. And if my daughter comes along, they better have the right band aids or it is going to be a loooong afternoon.

That being said, I am rethinking shopping.  The uptick of coops, CSA's, online stores,and other mechanisms are pushing me in this direction, and there are distinct advantages to buying food like this, including:
  • Quality: It seems like I am getting higher quality food.  My meat, poultry, and eggs are grass fed and pasture raised.  The produce is beyond organic, with local farms adhering to higher and less costly standards.
  • Safety: I know exactly where my food originates from; it hasn't been centralized or merged or anything that would make it difficult to track.  It also comforts me knowing how close I am to the source, as opposed to the supermarkets, where there is a little too much mystery behind the cellophane.
  • Convenience: I really like having things delivered to the house. It's very retro and makes me want to put on pearls and a circle pin. When the eggs and cheese arrive, they go right in the fridge, with no crappy check out aisle or customer card.  And while I was skeptical of the whole meat in the mail concept, it has turned out to be one of the best choices I have ever made. 
  • Efficiency: There is something to be said about buying in bulk.  Obviously there are cost savings involved, but more important is the time.  I use chick peas two or three times a week; buying a five pound bag of them means that I only have to shop for them once a in a blue moon.  
Then there is the whole locavore argument; I am torn here, because on the one hand, my food is largely local.  I get my eggs and cheese from a farm in PA.  Our CSA will provide me with fruits and vegetables from an in state farm from June - October.  And even though my meat is delivered, it originates from farms within 90 miles of my house.  But this means less business for local businesses here in my little city, and that is a problem.  They do not have all the products I want, but on the other hand do have a store front here in town that pays taxes and is part of the community. It is an urban dilemma, and I don't see any full reconciliation of these issues until the products sold through alternative markets become more in demand, more mainstream.  

So for now, I will continue with my CSA and coops and online sources.  But I am still shopping locally for things that are best found around the corner, like bread, flowers, and Superman band-aids. 

How about you?  Have you changed your grocery shopping ways?  Leave a comment below and tell me about it.

Image: Suat Eman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. You know I've changed my ways! Nice article, Julie, and such a good point about the unnecessary tension between the two types of local shopping. Since we get so much of our produce, meat and dairy from CSAs and our paper goods, etc. from big box stores, I sometimes end up with a lot of picture frames and low-budged artisan jewelry to assuage my guilt about the local boutiques.

  2. Low-budget, that is. Although I wonder what low-budged means....