3:13:13 Grocery Shopping

Because I prefer home-cooked meals to restaurants/fast-food, I probably take my grocery shopping more seriously than some. I do so with a template list in hand.

But where to shop? That is the question whose answer is freighted with all sorts of consumer affirmations that might have little to do with what one actually eats.

Do you want cashiers dressed in Hawaiian shirts, outré friendly,  anxious to please, to help? (Think Trader Joe's, mostly repackaged no-name commodity goods, but customer service taken to Nordstrom-type heights.)

[winco bulk foods]

Yet another grocer appeal, with Portlandia overtones, is the locally sourced imperative. Less carbon getting piggy to market. Worrying the provenance of one's produce seems the call of Portland's New Seasons chain. Ah, but if I buy that, if I so limit my choices, does the grocer get fat margins and I, guilt should I think about buying elsewhere?

Then there's the "healthy foods" appeal. Abstinence from stocking overly processed, additive-rich foods. I see king of this as Whole Foods. But at a price: The putdown sobriquet of Whole Paycheck has stuck.

One rejoinder is the plain vanilla appeal of low-margin, high-volume operations. We have several in Portland, including WalMart, Grocery Outlet, and my favorite, WinCo.

A last category is ethnic foods grocers. Where your exotic taste buds take you for more selection in an international cuisine.

Years ago, I decided against grocery shopping at one store. My weekly shopping takes me to three grocers. I like to think I've diversified my grocers for a balance of value, variety, and quality.

That said, of late I've been spending about 75% of my food dollars at WinCo, which is thevalue leader in Portland. The produce selection is vast and fresh (for example, they daily move bananas in tons). Another WinCo strength is bulk foods, scooped out of bins and bagged--no other store comes close and I'm a fan of buying in bulk, not packages.

Whole Foods take up 22% of my food dollar. I like Whole Foods for their hormone-free meats. Moreover, Whole Foods has a value store within the store, as The Undercover Economist Tim Harford once noted, with their 365 brand. Today I got a 16 oz. box of 365 orecchiette (organic, of course) for $1.99.

Getting 3% of my food dollar currently (though this fluctuates) are Asian stores. I'm a fan of Japanese and Chinese cooking and you can't buy your raw sashima just anywhere!

So 75%, 22%, 3%. Home cooking is best, but for my money, not one grocer!

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