Monday, July 25, 2011
I got into a conversation today about grocery shopping. I think most people assume I shop only organic, and at stores like Whole Foods because of course I believe in eating a healthy plant based diet...and where would a person get healthy plants? (lol, kidding)
Anyway the chronology of my grocery shopping has come full circle back to my neighborhood ethnic markets and to Safeway.
When I first started to make all of my own foods I most often shopped at a Vietnemese market 2 blks from my house. The produce was fresh and abundant and it had a meat counter with fresh seafood (I didn't cook much seafood, but it was there if I wanted it!) The prices were easily 1/3-1/2 of a mainstream grocery like Safeway or Lucky and since I ate pounds of salads I needed a large supply. The Veitnemese market also has a unique selection of dried fruits, including my favorite dried cherry tomatoes (sweet), and the store carries alot of pickled items, super inexpensive quail and quail eggs. Great place to get spices too, especially curry, red pepper flakes, balck pepper and sea salt.
I also used to shop at Costco. Goodness, that was so long ago.... I'm not above a ready made roasted chicken, for sure, and Costco does come up with some decent fruits and veg. Huge bags of baby spinach, seasonal fruits and asparagus all year long (where do they get that asparagus?) Big cuts of meat, good quality USDA Choice is good stuff. But it was difficult to dodge the ambush of freebie sample foods, and most of the rest of the store is basically crap. I haven't shopped at Costco in at least 3 years and I don't miss it.
Mi Pueblo is a large Hispanic grocery store chain about 5 blks from my house and they just opened a store in Palo Alto! A Mexican market in Palo Alto...geez....Mi Pueblo must be doing something right! I know...it's the humongous burritos they sell in the in store resturant all day long. Mi Pueblo has almost as much junk food as Safeway, just a different kind. They have a bakery with traditional mexican pastries....and cheap too! They have an in house meat counter with inexpensive prices (that's where I get my smoked turkey thighs for $1.49 lb), and authentic chorizo (what's not to like about chorizo?). Mi Pueblo does not have huge selection outside of the most popular types of produce, but recently started carrying chard (no collards), and Italian parsley...but the avocados, jalapenos and limes are cheap, cheap, cheap! And no where else could I get cherimoya or mammey fruit.
I haven't been to the flea market going on 3 years now but when I did I used to get alot of my salad staples, jalapenos and grapes. I used to buy fresh grapes by the pounds. You could also find fresh figs for $2 a basket in June and Sept., and they tasted great, unlike any fig I've ever bought in any grocery store....seriously I've never purchased one good fig at a store.
Whole Foods, or as Mark used to call it, Whole Wallet! After I lost all of my extra bodyweight I learned more about organic vegetables and that's when I switched to buying all of my produce and meats at Whole foods. Not that I don't believe that organic (and local) is better for you, it's just that now I don't think un-organic is bad for you! Lucky me that most of my groceries were ingredients to make my own foods and not the ready made foods they make and sell in the store, as it was not uncommon for me to get out of there spending less than $50. The bulk section has the best deals, and if it weren't so convenient, two blks walk from Girya, I'm not sure I would go out of my way to shop there. The prices can get ridiculous and that's the biggest reason why I don't feel the need to shop there.....it is the only place I can get lamb however, and I probably eat more of lamb than the average person. (you can also get buffalo)
Trader Joes. I really dislike Trader Joes....not that I don't shop there, I do!. When Trader Joes first opened they had quite a bit "gourmet" type foods but within a very short time every product became a "Trader Joes" brand....suspicious to me. Call me crazy, but I started to feel as if I was buying generic products....I'm not hating on generic, but..... The final straw one time was when I read the label of the red bell peppers I was going to buy....they were a product of Holland! Holland! Goodness how much did it cost to get those to San Jose? I quit buying TJ's produce for a long time after that. Trader Joes has so much crap, and on top of that it's crappy crap! Most of the sweets have fake fats and the calorie count of many of TJ's foods are off the charts. I do however make a weekly "stock up" shopping trip with the same items every time. Cream, yogurt, baby spinach, mushrooms, cheese, ak-mak crackers, raw almonds, brown rice, coconut water, wine. TJ's has the only ready made salad dressing I use, it's a low calorie spicy peanut dressing you find in the refrigerated section. Pretty much that's it....unless it's this time of the year...has anyone tried the Angelcots? Dee-lish!
Farmers' Markets. I think for about a couple of years I would hit a Farmers' Market everyday from Wednesday-Sunday. Good-ness! I was a Farmers' Market snob. I never bought any produce anywhere else from my onions to my celery and cabbage. All that produce would weigh a ton! I miss some of it, but not enough. I've only been to the FM once a week for that last couple months after my Saturday classes in Palo Alto because it's about 4 blks away. Funny thing though....I buy chicken livers, and cheese/yogurt. Rarely any veggies or fruit. I cook through the week so I don't need to stock up anything on Saturdays.
Super Kyo-po Korean market was one of my weekly stops at one time, about 2 miles from my yoga studio. Like most Asian markets the produce is fresh, plentiful and inexpensive. Yellow onions for $.29lb (I use a ton of onions), and that's where I discovered dried persimmons. Dried mushrooms are a bargain and so is sesame oil. I was hooked on a Korean salad called Jap-chae and found an excellent youtube video with very clear instructions (check it out, http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/japchae I love this woman's videos and recipes, I hope she is making a ton of money!). If I ate noodles more often I would still make it....hmmnn... This market also sells, and is the only source I know of for fresh kimchi. Huge heads of pickled and salted cabbage for about $2-$4...you know what kind of work goes into making that? They have lots of stuff I have no idea what it is...maybe it's time to go back.
Dobashi Japanese Market. This is a small Japanese market 2 blks from my house (I live in San Jose's Japantown). It has seaweed, rice, soy sauce, moshi, horribly tiny and dry cookies sort of things.....but it does have a beautiful produce and meat section with all organic products...if I'm in the mood. Dobashi also has ready made sushi and seaweed salad, pot stickers and the such and is the only place I can find "golden yolk" eggs, Marks favorite since he cooks an egg stir fry everyday. Everything is super expensive but it's convenient when I only need a few of those specialty items I mentioned.
Safeway. Theres' something to be said about being able to buy chicken and laundry detergent in one stop! That was part of drawing me back into Safeway. The other part was Mark Bittman, one of my favorite cookbook authors. In his book "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (a must have btw) he explains how one of the reasons whey he most often shops at places like Safeway is because he wants his readers, no matter where they live or what kind of budget they are on to be able to get the ingredients in his recipes easily. Hey, if Mark Bittman shops at Safeway the I can too! Safeway has some decent beef,(Ranchers Reserve), in fact I feel that the skirt steak is best quality, hands down. Other than that it's not anything special but the prices are fair and it's convenient.
I go to some kind of grocery store almost everyday because I have the time. I like to buy fresh and affordable foods and I try not to be so picky. Am I the only person that shops at half a dozen different stores every week? I have yet to make it to an Indian, Greek, or Persian market.....but I know where some are and it's only a matter of time....
Picture above: What I picked up yesterday at Mi Pueblo....sorry for the fuzzy pic but I hadn't planned on taking it and I had to do it quick as my tomatillos and Honeydew melon where already swiped through! I spent $40 ($14 of it was the chicken and cottage cheese).
6 lbs whole chicken legs
2 pints cottage cheese (full fat)
5 limes, 2 lemons
5 ears of corn
2lbs of red grapes
2 fuji apples
yellow onions (no shopping trip would be complete without onions!)