Sunday, April 02, 2006

Reflections on Grocery Shopping

OK, let's face it... Whole Foods is ridiculously expensive. If you go there and even dream of buying anything prepared in advance, like a sandwhich, or a dinner entree, or god forbid a side dish, not to mention the organic vegetables and fruits, not to mention the individually wrapped tira misus and rice puddings, not to mention super antioxidant pomegranate juice at about eight dollars each, don't be surprised when your bill equals that of your latest dentist visit or Carribean vacation. Some may argue it's worth it for the shopping experience - the groovy lighting, the granola people at the checkout, the fun packaging and signage, and, if you're lucky enough, on onsite cafe, Jamba Juice, and restrooms to complete the experience. So after some thrills and yet ultimate frustration with Whole Foods, my husband and I have recently been exploring the shopping choices in Manhattan, and the options are pretty grim. In our neighborhood, Morton Williams Associated supermarkets abound, but who the heck is Morton Williams anyway, and why were the last lambchops I bought there a strange greyish hue? I'm not going back. Plus, they don't have the mini size Tropicana Immunity juices that my husband likes to take to work. Then there's Gristede's, where the cooked chickens are so dried out it's scary, and they don't have the low fat Smart Popcorn we like. The last time I was there, the credit card swipe wasn't working and there was a general aura of hostility in the place. I'm not going back. D'Agostino is nearby, and for a while I focused my energies there for several reasons: 1. Dag points, which means if you cash in, your groceries will eventually translate into meaningless electronic items/gadgets/ ie. stuff you probably really don't need or want anyway, but at least you can always resell them on e-bay; 2. decent roast chickens. But look as hard as you might, they still don't have the Smart Popcorn or the immunity juices, and the last time I was there it smelled like bleach and no one knew where the raisins were. So I'm maybe not going back.

Our latest grocery plan of attach is Fresh Direct, which, after a few false starts, like the delivery guy showing up two hours late due to weather conditions (OK, it was raining), and the complete ommission of Ben and Jerry's Phish Food which we had diligently checked off on our online shopping list, so far has proved a success. How cool is it to have your previous grocery order appear on your computer screen, ready to go, with just a few adjustments of course- like checking off a sudden urgent need for chocolate pudding, or mushroom risotto, or even lamb kabobs premarinated in - can this really be happening- a choice of orange citrus or ginger soy? Thanks to Fresh Direct, I now know that there are over 7 kinds of tomatoes, and I can exercise my right to have my pork chops sliced in half or one inch pieces. No standing in line at the register, no risking carpel tunnel syndrome carrying your bags home, and no surprises at the bill, which you can increase or decrease with the touch of a button. Still no Smart Popcorn or mini Tropicana's, but we'll get over it.

One last thought...today while walking around Union Square, my husband and I happened upon the new Trader Joe's which, being grocery afficionados, we had already checked out during its opening weekend two weeks ago, making notes on the prepared and frozen foods like spies on a secret mission. This place has potential - there was a tasting counter where they were handing out bite size bits of a somewhat strange lemon tart, and a lot of interesting selections of frozen foods, cereals, and fruits and veggies. But there were lots of arrows and signs and hustle and bustle that made me feel like I was on the Long Island Expressway. Imagine our surprise today when we saw a line down the block just to get in! As if there were no other stores in all of New York City to shop in... So we ducked into a Korean bodega for soy milk and lemons, decide we'd hit Trader Joe's again when the lines die down, which may be never. It's no big woop - even they didn't have the Smart Popcorn or the Tropicana mini immunity juices. Sometimes, you just can't win.

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