This week I made an unplanned grocery trip to Superstore. I have a soft spot for the store, but this time I had no bags, and worse than that, I had no loonie. Regular Superstore shoppers will know you absolutely need a loonie for access to one of their chained-up carts. My loonie deficiency meant I would have to rely on the grace of gravity and my brute strength to carry avocados, tomato sauce and a really good deal on a box of nine mangoes.
I survived, though my right bicep still smarts from lugging Basket No. 1 down the ketchup aisle.
When did grocery store outings become quests of urban survival? I can’t be the only one who avoids going on a fridge-filling journey for a long and creative list of reasons that begins something like this:
- the produce section at my local Safeway is depressing in a variety of ways. A variety that dwarfs their variety of overpriced and underdelicious fruits and vegetables.
- everything ticks upward in price (except the perennially discounted frozen shrimp) and brings with it an aching reminder of our mortality.
- all the checkout clerks know they’re being replaced by machines whose only perk is that you can buy embarrassing items for free and fight out loud with the robots about whether you bagged the sorbet yet.
- those unmotivated checkout clerks at my Safeway have to work understaffed even at Grocery Rush Hour. And Grocery Rush Hour isn’t anything like Handsome O’Clock, which was rush hour at Co-op Midtown Market when I was single. (That tip was for you for free.)
So you see my point that grocery shopping is an inefficient way to ruin a nice day. But if you’re lucky, it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be if you make a little paradigm shift happen in your world. My paradigm shift happened when once, needing a few food things and fearing items from the aforementioned list of reasons not to go to the grocery store, I instead walked to the equally close, but tinier, localer and only slightly pricier organic market (Sunnyside Natural Market) in my neighbourhood.
And it was glorious.
Every kale leaf was supple and green. The tomatoes smells like tomatoes when I brought their stems close to my face. Every round of goat Brie snuggled against an equally happy goat Brie. The fragrant bread from the bakery beside the spice nook scrawled smiles on everyone’s face.
I’m getting romantic about it but at the very least: the lineup was quick and the product was better than I needed it to be. A few extra cents per tomato was so worth it.
My partner Jason, worldly man he is, reminded me recently that not everybody shops at big box grocery stores every time they shop. Think about all the bodegas in New York, he reminded me, citing our go-to for cool (see also: people who happily expect to rent rather than own a home their whole lives, Manhattanites). True, I thought.
And this flitting between shops isn’t just for New Yorkers. For example, I was chatting about East Village (back to Calgary now) with a friend who is a real East Village resident. I brought up how East Village and Inglewood were total food deserts a few years ago, being far away from typical grocery stores, and how things seem to have changed. She nodded, and listed off her typical grocery store rounds: Bite Groceteria! Lukes Drug Mart! Sunterra Market! (And soon: Crossroads Farmers Market by bike!). All places I’m more than happy to wander in pursuit of ingredients for dinner and lunch and snacks. All easily accessible by foot, car or pedal-power. Absolutely no Mad Maxian deserts to cross.
I’m not going to deny there is convenience in a big ol’ grocery store packed with three or more kinds of everything and coupons as plentiful as Costco cracker samples. But it’s such a treat when grocery shopping can be — even if only once in a little while — a simple pleasure instead of Yet Another Chore.
Try it and let me know if you agree. Already do it? Tell me about that too!
This blog post is part of my bid to become the East Village Resident Ambassador! In that role, I would live in the East Village, an exciting new neighbourhood rising on the banks of the Bow River in the heart of Calgary and tell stories about that life. You can be sure groceries will be purchased. If you think I’d be good at this gig, you can help by watching my 30-second promo video, sharing it and keeping an eye on my tweets tagged with #EVliving. When you fave, RT and reply to those tweets, you’ll help my chances of becoming the Resident Ambassador.