Monday, April 12, 2010

Grocery Shopping

When I moved into my first apartment, grocery shopping was exciting.  My roommate and I would drive to the store at midnight because we'd suddenly decided we needed blueberries, or cereal, or microwave popcorn ASAP.  I enjoyed making lists, picking things out, examining the produce.  This was also in the days when I enjoyed writing out checks to pay my bills.  It was like "Hey, I'm an adult! Cool!"

I've been buying groceries and paying bills for long enough that the novelty has worn off.  I still usually enjoy cooking, and I love food, but grocery shopping has gotten to be a real drag.  Something in me protests at the idea of walking through a huge, cold supermarket, racing around trying to speed things up and inevitably forgetting some staple.  These stores are just too big.  

Woodman's is the cheapest in my area, and also the biggest.  It's like a small village.  My usual choice is Copp's, of moderate size and price, comparable to a Jewel or an Eagle in other cities.  It's fine, I guess, but I still hate being in there.  I go to Trader Joe's sometimes, and it's nice because it's small (and there's always a sample of some sort), but they don't have everything I need or all the brands I like, and their produce selection is bad.  There's also the local co-op, which similarly doesn't have all I want (I can be very particular), although their produce is great.

So okay, we have a Whole Foods, which I used to go to more, but haven't so much lately.  We all know it: "Whole Paycheck", right?  I've been avoiding it in an attempt to save some money.  But I stopped in the other day just to pick up some tamarind paste (it's the only place in town that has it, and I was making the tamarind lentils in The Veganomicon, my favorite cookbook).  I ended up buying fifty dollars worth of groceries! (And no, the paste alone was not fifty dollars.  I got a couple bags of stuff.)  More importantly, I sort of enjoyed myself.

Why? Well, they have a ton of samples, just a ton.  I had mango slices and orange slices and chips with salsa and little cubes of cheese from a local farm, among other things.  I happened to go at a time of day when it wasn't too crowded.  It's an attractive store.  And, perhaps most importantly, it's pretty small.  I realize that these qualities are not important to everyone, but they apparently matter to me.  I felt good while shopping, felt good unpacking my things when I got home, and felt good cooking them.  

Their products are not the most economical, but they're fun.  Whole Foods has my tamarind paste, it has bulk spices, it has lots of local leafy greens.  My imagination runs wild creating theoretical meals.

I am well-aware that if I had bought similar items at Copp's it would've been cheaper by at least several dollars.  But - isn't there a cost associated with the quality of my experience?  Isn't it worth paying a little more to leave the store feeling excited about my new foods, not stressed out and irritable?

I realize not everyone is in a position to spend lots on groceries.  It's a privilege, and really it's not like I have bunches of money burning holes in my pocket.  But I don't have a car payment right now, I have no credit card debt, I manage to put money into savings every month - those things are enough for me to feel justified spending more than is absolutely necessary on food.  I may not go to Whole Foods for every shopping trip, but will definitely go more than I have been.

Perhaps sometime I'll compare prices on specific items between Copp's and Whole Foods, and put an exact dollar amount on my grocery-shopping happiness.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I agree. It's quality of life. Choices. Go Whole Foods!