I had an unexpected loss this year: my neighborhood grocery store. RIP, Albertson’s on University. We had a good run of it together.
The store’s closing hit me fast and hard: I found out in September that their last day was October 8. Apparently, that particular Albertson’s location was bought out by HEB, which kind of makes me hate HEB, even though they do have an outstanding produce section. I loved having a decent grocery store that was quite literally within walking distance: it was three blocks away from me. It seemed serendipitous that even in Texas, land of a thousand trucks, I, the carless freak, had a grocery store I could visit virtually any time because it was so close. Now I have nothing.
Oh, I exaggerate. I still have options. There’s the hippie food store a bit further down the road from the old Albertson’s, which can be reached easily on foot or on bike. There’s the HEB down the road from the hippie store, too far for foot travel but easy to reach on bike. And then there’s my favorite newly “discovered” option, Village Foods, which can be reached quickly by bus. I’ve known about Village Foods since my early days in Texas, but because of its location and the difficulty of riding my bike to it, I hadn’t shopped there in a long time until this month. I like Village Foods. It’s like a cross between Whole Foods and Albertson’s: they have a small but respectable selection of organic produce as well as lots of other organic products, but they also carry a lot of items one expects to find at a typical chain grocery store. They have what looks like a promising selection of alcoholic beverages, too—I spotted cans of Strongbow Cider, which is seriously delicious cider (and very strong too! I was quite tipsy after a pint at the bar over the summer). The best thing about Village Foods and the hippie store (whose proper name is Brazos Natural Foods) is that they are independent grocery stores, not chains. Indie grocery stores! How terrific is that? I may not be so good at supporting indie bookstores, but dammit, I can do it for food.
The biggest loss I am feeling after Albertson’s closing is that I no longer have the option of popping into the store after work for a few basics whenever I’m in need. No more shopping trips for a bunch of bananas, milk, a can of tomatoes, and a package of toilet paper. Without Albertson’s, I’m being forced to reconsider my shopping habits, to adapt to a new model. It’s now inconvenient for me to go shopping with short lists—I need longer, more comprehensive shopping lists, lists that take into account my ingredient needs for several meals, not just the next thing I want to cook. I suppose I’ve been lucky in that I could shop more or less if and when I wanted—today, tomorrow, next week, whatever. It didn’t matter because the store was so close. But now, to go grocery shopping is a bigger deal because the stores are further away and of the two big grocery stores, only one of them is accessible by bike.
Twice this month I’ve sucked it up: I made long lists, took the bus to the grocery store, filled my cart (a cart! not just a basket!) with goodies, spent a week’s worth of grocery money in one transaction, then called a cab to haul me and my loot home. It was nice, being able to buy as much as I wanted because I wasn’t turning my bike into a mule and loading my groceries onto it. And it was only a little hard parting with some of my dollars for the cab ride.
So I’m adapting. I’m figuring out how to be a more organized shopper. I am still planning to shop twice a week, once at the hippie food store on Saturdays and once at either HEB or Village Foods. Twice a week is a good rhythm for me because I like fresh produce, and with HEB, I can either bike it or cab it, depending on what else is on the list. And on the nights I’m cabbing it, I’m enjoying the option to buy a four-pack of hard cider without worrying about all that glass wobbling with me on my bike.
My kitchen is enjoying it too, this feeling of being well-stocked. Over the weekend, I made a surprisingly good onion quiche (recipe coming soon, I hope!), vegan chocolate cake, and last night I made kale and chickpea burritos. I’m eating well, which is good because it’s only Tuesday and I’m already over budget for the week! Oof. But I think it will all balance out: the pantry is well-provisioned, and I think I’ll only want a few things when I ride my bike to HEB later this week. No cab ride, just some fresh fruit, carrots, coconut milk, and maybe some almonds.
Friends, what are your approaches to grocery shopping? Are you a “shop once, buy everything” type or do you make smaller but more frequent trips? How important is fresh produce to you? How do you integrate grocery shopping into the rest of your busy life?