An article on BuzzFeed earlier this week proclaimed Publix as the greatest grocery store to ever exist. I don’t know anything about Publix–it only operates in five states, all of them in the South–but the pictures on the site were gorgeous, and I could certainly sympathize with the author, a Southern transplant to New York City, when she bemoaned having to shop at Gristede’s. If there is one thing I don’t miss about living in the city, it’s shopping at Gristede’s.
Here in Baristaville we are fortunate to have a handful of great grocery stores to choose from. The problem is that each has its drawbacks, and if you’re food obsessed like I am, this can make food shopping a lot more complicated. On a typical weekend, I find myself driving to three or four different stores in three or four different towns just to stock up the fridge for the week.
Before Trader Joe’s came to Clifton in November (and to Millburn in late 2009) and Fairway came to Woodland Park in June, I generally shuttled back and forth between Whole Foods and Kings in Montclair and ShopRite in Bloomfield — all within reasonable proximity to my house, but none of which completely satisfied.
Since Trader Joe’s arrived, I’ve preferred to go there when I can. They have terrific (and inexpensive) prepared foods — an area in which Whole Foods is lacking — that are great for taking to work. And their pre-cut and washed vegetables — kale, butternut squash, shredded brussels sprouts — make weeknight cooking a cinch. Plus there are those TJ’s items I just can’t live without: the reduced sugar organic strawberry preserves (best. jam. ever.), the turkey meatballs, the low-fat marinara sauce, and lots of stuff my kids like.
But Trader Joe’s, as fun as it is to shop there, isn’t perfect either. Whole Foods has the best packaged and sliced whole wheat bread that I can’t eat any other kind. Its freshly-baked muffins and scones–especially the vegan oatmeal date scones–are much better than anything you can get at Trader Joe’s. And unlike Trader Joe’s, they also have a nice selection of fresh fish. As a major bonus, Whole Foods is the closest grocery store to my house.
Then there is Fairway. No store beats Fairway’s selection of specialty items. A trip to their bulk food aisle can send me into spasms of joy. And have you seen its selection of pasta? And cheese? And olives? And bread? It’s a foodie heaven, and probably the closest thing to what I imagine a Publix is.
But Fairway is also enormous–intimidating, in fact–and quite a drive from my house. And like ShopRite, it can be pretty crowded on a Saturday morning. (On the plus side, both stores have several aisles worth of household items–cleaning products, paper supplies, etc.–which occupy maybe half an aisle in both Whole Foods and TJ’s).
So what happens when I need to go to all of these places at once? When I’ve run out of Whole Foods’ bread, need Trader Joe’s frozen entrees for work, a chunk of Fairway’s havarti with dill for a party, and have a whole bunch of coupons for ShopRite? Well, I end up spending a good portion of my weekend food shopping.
If only I could combine all these places under one roof. Then again, I’d probably still spend all weekend shopping. I would just be doing it in one store instead of four.
Where do you do most your food shopping? And have you ever been to a Publix?