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Emily L Wants a Better Supermarket

July 9, 2019

Well, the tree is gone from the roof, which is now water tight. The car has a new windshield. Our insurance adjuster has inspected the damage, and I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll be approved for all the repairs needed to make it whole.

Now, it’s time to get back to our everyday business of packing and transporting our life from Albany to Ann Arbor. Of course, that’s got to go on hold for a couple of days, because on Friday and Saturday I’m headed down to Pennsylvania. Then on Sunday, we have the last of the Profussor led Fussy Little Tours.

I really shouldn’t say it’s the last tour, because there have been volunteers who have stood up and offered to lead readers out into the wilderness of these seasonal eating adventures.

It’s a little overwhelming. Actually, it’s a lot overwhelming. So I’m incredibly thankful to Emily L for submitting another guest post upon her return to the U.S. Today, she’s writing about a matter that’s near and dear to my heart. The sad situation surrounding our supermarkets. I think it might all be solved with the arrival of Wegmans. But that might be jumping the gun. Let’s first hear her out.

The Grocery Store Dilemma
By Emily L

I love to travel. The past two and half weeks, the boyfriend and I have been exploring New Zealand and Fiji, eating everything we could find in our paths. From the iconic New Zealand candy hokey pokey to regional Fijian breakfast dish lolo buns, we thoroughly enjoyed everything these two countries had to offer, picking up a few pounds on our bodies along the way. Now we back to life and reality of trying to manage healthy lifestyles while still enjoying all of the cuisine the Capital Region has to offer.

One of our biggest sources of frustration is the price of groceries in this country. One of our first stops in any country we visit (besides McDonalds) is the grocery store. Grocery stores in Europe and Oceania are about the same size (if not smaller) than stores in the US. But the variety of products and prices make what would be speciality items in the US, actually attainable for us. While in New Zealand, we enjoyed goat and sheep cheese products, speciality baked goods like pavlova, papaya, herbs including lemongrass, special cuts of meat, fresh baked whole grain bread, beautiful tricolor carrots, and amazing New Zealand wines for 1/3 of the cost of what it would have been in the United States.

Here in Albany, to buy good produce and local meats, we end up going to 3-4 grocery stores a week to try to keep our grocery budget somewhat in reason. While we are part of a CSA and do eat seasonally, this year’s crops have been slow coming in. We aim to have 2/3 of our plates at dinners to be plant-based which means we need vegetables and fruits in large volumes.

It is frustrating for us to see the food access other countries are afforded. Even in small towns in New Zealand, we found large varieties of fresh and affordable groceries. I know there are a number of reasons why we don’t have this access in the grocery market in the United States, but every time I go away, I come back unmotivated to go to American grocery stores.

So help me come out of my funk. Besides some of the regional cultural markets I have been exploring in the area, how can I get my grocery grove back in the Capital Region? Is there a one-stop shop I have been overlooking? Or do you also hodgepodge together your needs for the week from a variety of stores.

My solution to this problem has always been to shop everywhere. And I mean literally everywhere. That said, most of our food comes from Trader Joe’s.

Some have criticized this chain for being nothing more than cleverly packaged processed foods. And while it’s true, there are a lot of those tempting treats lining the TJs shelves, it’s not the bulk of what we buy. I’m a fan of the plain yogurt, their salted peanut butter, the 100% whole wheat pasta, the California Olive Oil, raw walnuts, dried mango, cultured butter, frozen broccoli, inexpensive parm-reg, organic apples, and a variety of breakfast cereals, just to name a few.

Produce everywhere is tricky. CSAs are great, but they are variable. I’ve found HWFC to be pricey for produce, as is Whole Foods. Both have ways of creating better values. The farmers markets have great fruits and vegetables, although you’re going to pay for them. As you will if you go to a high quality farm stand like Forts Ferry Farm. But they are totally worth it.

Eggs and dairy come from Stewart’s. Other specialty items come from International grocery stores of all stripes. Hannaford is where I pick up my challah and loaves of supermarket bread. Price Chopper has the best price on Tom’s of Maine toothpaste, so we’re there whenever we need to restock. Walmart and Target are for household items like toilet paper and such.

Come to think of it, neither ShopRite nor The Fresh Market are in the regular rotation. Largely that has to do with geography, as their are equivalent stores just a little closer to where I roam. But there is nothing at these places I buy that can’t typically be found elsewhere.


Fundamentally though, I think Emily’s issue stems from the different agricultural policies of America versus the rest of the world. Government subsidies are powerful tools. We subsidize corn and soy. So we have cheap sugar, cheap animal feed, and cheap cooking oil. That means we can get a burger, fries, and a coke for a few bucks. But subsidies aren’t unlimited. We picked our winners decades ago, and are suffering the consequences today.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    July 10, 2019 6:10 am

    What about Whole Foods and Honest Weight Food Coop?

  2. llcwine permalink
    July 10, 2019 10:13 am

    Fresh Market has some incredible sales in their butcher department. Get on their email list and it can save you a drive if nothing interests you. I have gotten Prime NY Strip Loin at times cheaper than buying Choice from other area stores.

  3. albanylandlord permalink
    July 11, 2019 1:23 am

    Thats interesting. I never realized our veggies were more expensive than other countries. I would guess our supermarkets are so focused on 12 month mass market fruits and veggies that there is just no good / large distribution channel for local farms or seasonal produce.

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