Grocery shopping is one of my favorite activities. When I was a kid, one of my most fond memories was going to the grocery store with my mother. It made me feel like an adult. There is something exciting about all of that gleaming produce, and long aisles full of delicious possibilities. Then, if it’s a holiday, the excitement of finding gingerbread ice cream sandwiches in December, the King Cakes in the bakery before Fat Tuesday, or the strawberry shortcake cups that would signal the start of summer deliciousness.
Grocery shopping in NYC is a certain kind of beast. It’s just never easy. Either the store is packed, or the selection just sucks. We have tried everything from Fresh Direct, to hitting up multiple store around the city. I love shopping at Trader Joes, but it’s not close enough to make it worthwhile. Whole Foods is nice, but it’s prohibitively expensive. Local stores are close, but the selection is lacking.
We do our shopping once a week, which for us means we own a granny cart. I really resisted buying one when I moved here because I thought they were lame, but I broke down within a month and it changed my life.
Some grocery stores deliver, which is awesome. You buy as much as you want, and they box it up and bring it to your door for about $5 extra plus tip. When we lived uptown, we were on the fourth floor of a walk-up, so we got our groceries delivered and it was worth it. Or you can order online at Fresh Direct, and they bring it right to your door! You don’t even have to leave the house!
Now we live in a building with an elevator, so shopping has become a breeze. It’s amazing how something as simple as an elevator can change your life! Now I just take the cart to the store, fill it up, wheel it right into the elevator, and then right to our door. No more dragging the cart up multiple fights of stairs.
If you didn’t grow up here, and are used to large grocery stores, NYC stores are baffling. Aisles are really small, as so is the selection. You can get really attached to certain products in your local store, and then when you move to a new neighborhood, you can’t find what you need. Need Rotel? You probably won’t be able to find it! Need yeast for bread? It’s not in the baking aisle, it’s by the registers. I shopped at a place where I couldn’t buy tomato puree for my pasta sauce because they simply didn’t carry it, so I had to make a trip to another store to find it every time I made pasta.
The upside is, if you want to try something culturally different, you are in luck. When I lived in Astoria, I could get my hands on cool Greek products. In Inwood, there were some great Kosher products we would enjoy. Now in East Flatbush, we can buy all of the food we fell in love with while we were on honeymoon in Jamaica, like callaloo or ackee and saltfish.
Is shopping in NYC more expensive than other areas of the country? It’s possible. We spend $100-$135 a week for two people, and we make most of our meals at home. But, I can easily drop $20 in Whole Foods on two loaves of gluten-free bread, coconut coffee creamer, and dairy free cheese.
Do I miss the days of getting in my car and grocery shopping at Meijer, Giant, or Kroger? Absolutely! But visiting those stores while traveling can make it such a treat!
OK, enough procrastination! Let me get my butt to the store.