Thursday, January 10, 2008

Where do I shop?

So the comments to my last post would indicate that people are interested in where I'm shopping for groceries. There also seems to be some assumption that local goodies can't be found in the everyday neighborhood supermarket. I'm here to tell you that that is where I shop, and I've been pleasantly surprised by some of what I've found. In fact, since I live in a location very central to many grocery stores (not sure why there are so many, but there you have it), I shop at about 4 of them, bouncing around between them, depending on my mood usually. I don't shop at Whole Foods for a couple of reasons, the primary one being that the closest one is just not close enough for me. Secondly, I've always found them to be just too expensive. Maybe that will change as I go forward with this way of life, but for now… The other option around here is PCC Natural Markets, a local chain of retail cooperative natural grocery stores. Again, too far away for me, but I really like the stores I've been to and how they get really involved in the community and such, so I might look into getting a membership there.

My favorite grocery store is the Central Market up in Mill Creek (about 5-7 miles from my apartment I think, it's the furthest one), part of Town & Country Markets whose stated pledge is "to nourish the quality of life." I love shopping there. Not only do I find wonderful food there, I always leave with smile because it's just such a pleasant place to shop. In fact, I can't go there when I'm in a hurry, because I get sucked into wandering and discovering. I'll admit that I also tend to spend more there. Some of their prices are a bit higher than the big chain stores (to be expected really, but the quality and the service is amazing), but they also just have such cool stuff that you want to try! For example, one weekend last summer the owner of a local handmade ice cream treat company (I'll have to look up the name of the company next time we're there) was handing out samples of her ice cream sandwiches - homemade lemon cookies sandwiching homemade honey/lavender ice cream. Well, on bite and we had to go buy a couple to take home! They are also really great about making local and organic produce and products available, and clearly marking where they come from.

Next favorite would probably be TOP Foods, part of the Haggen chain based in Bellingham, WA, and I believe they only have locations in the Northwest. I am always impressed with the produce selection. Lots of local and organic, clearly marked. Last week I bought some beautiful organic, Washington grown Jonagold apples as big as softballs, and delicious as well, and they were the cheapest apples in the store! I almost got the regular non-organic, local Jonagolds until I saw these beauties. Decent organic/natural product selection too, though it can be pricey.

When I'm really concerned about price, or I just have a lot of dry goods to buy, I usually head for Fred Meyer. Started in Oregon, the company now belongs to the huge Kroger chain (QFC, Ralph's, Kroger). They actually have a wonderful natural/organic products section. Their produce and meat sections don't usually impress me much, though I've heard differently about their Oregon stores. And I usually leave there feeling pretty grumpy and jangly due to crowds and sensory overload.

And finally, when I just need to pick up a few things and I don't want to deal with a large store, I go to our little downtown Bothell QFC. It's quiet and small enough that the cashiers actually know a lot of the customers by name. And for a big national chain, they do seem to make an effort on the local front. Just recently they've changed their deli chicken, all of it, over to a local, natural chicken producer (Draper Valley Farms in Mt. Vernon, WA). Good for them!


andrea said...

I was always really impressed with the amazing selection at a supermarket I went to a couple of times in Bellingham (Fairhaven). Then I went to Target and was similarly impressed by the non-food selection. There just isn't the same vast range of products north of the line that there is south. Now I'm dying to visit Trader Joe's. BTW what exactly is Trader Joe's?

Angela Rockett said...

Trader Joe's is a unique place. I actually worked for them for a while, until I realized the true meaning of carpel tunnel and had to quit. Started in California, and is now expanding to the rest of the country - very slowly. They started off as sort of a leftovers place. Ben & Jerry's would try a flavor, then TJ's would buy whatever didn't sell. Lots of snack foods and frozen foods and beer, in the beginning. Over the years they've expanded into everything, including fresh foods and beauty products and cleaning supplies, and a really nice selection of wine. TJ's buyers shop all over the world, and and almost everything I've tried there has been really good, and affordable too. Don't really know how they would do on the local front though. I shop there occasionally now (the closest TJs is kind of out of the way), but when I lived in California I used to shop there at least once a week, especially during the grocery store strike. Next time I get one of their flyers, I'll try to remember to send it to you.

tlc illustration said...

I'm still thinking through my desired approach to shopping, and right this second, I think I'm leaning more towards organic (and free-range - Trader Joe's always has good eggs for instance) over local if it must be a choice, but I'm hoping as I learn my options that I can find both most of the time.

Have you checked out yet? Type in your zip code and they list all kinds of farmer's markets, grocery stores and restaurants close to where you live that sell local foods. I discovered a cafe just down the street that serves Northern Italian cuisine made from Pacific Northwest ingredients. Assuming I meet my next deadline I am going to treat myself and check them out! (Want to come?)

I've heard good things about Central Market, but that's a bit far for me. PCC is closer, but just far enough that I don't go often. 'May have to amend my shopping ways. I have Trader Joes, Safeway, Albertsons, Fred Meyer and QFC all within a couple of miles (and used to have Larrys! I sure miss them!) so I have been spoiled and have not really explored other options much.

Looking forward to the adventure!