Sunday, February 1, 2009

Grocery Shopping, Redefined

Past: McQuades
I didn’t always love grocery shopping. There is a big difference between shopping for yourself and accompanying other people while they shop.

I hated grocery shopping at McQuades with my mother. I spent countless hours standing in the magazine section admiring pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio in Tiger Beat magazine, while my mother pushed her grocery cart down aisle after aisle after aisle. I preferred the magazines to lagging behind my mother while the cart squeaked down an aisle of canned goods—especially when I had no interest whatsoever in cooking, or eating the majority of the things we brought home.

Present: Treasure Island

But now that I have a kitchen of my own, and someone to cook for, grocery shopping has become a high point in my day. After work, I ride the train four stops, walk two blocks past my gym, a movie theater, and Second City, and say hello to the Streetwise man on my way inside Treasure Island. Yes, my grocery store has a fabulous nameand wall art (see photo to the left). The first time I entered a Treasure Island, I was disappointed to learn that it was merely a grocery store, but I have come to realize that it truly does hold treasures—especially when I’m peckish after work. Treasure Island has free samples. I know where each sample is placed, even the samples that are hidden in corners and on shelves. As I blithely swing my basket through the store, I snack on French bread, jam, pretzels, orange slices, salsa and chips—and sometimes, if I’m very lucky, baked goods!

I always spend about fifteen minutes longer in the grocery store than I really need to, wandering the aisles and pondering my options. Although I would never buy $12 cereals or $25 gourmet cheeses, I still like to look at them. It is probably my biggest indulgence that I never leave without buying something totally superfluous based solely on an immediate craving. Dates. Marmalade. Tropical dried fruit mix. Hazelnuts. When I look at my bank statement at the end of each month, Treasure Island accounts for nearly all of my spending.

Future: Stanley's and Beyond
When F and I recently opened a joint bank account, we looked into how best to streamline our grocery shopping. Treasure Island is by no means the most expensive grocery store in Chicago, but it’s certainly not the cheapest. It’s down the street and it has free samples, but those facts alone do not make it the best option for the majority of our shopping.

I did a little research on grocery stores, and found that Stanley’s is hands-down the best place in the city for produce. I had passed Stanley’s twice a day for two years when I drove to the suburbs for my previous job. I recall sitting in traffic staring at its hideous sign and thinking that it looks like a dive market I would only enter in desperation. But it turns out that Stanley’s of the hideous sign is a glorious Mecca of produce. And it’s CHEAP!

The first time F and I visited Stanley’s, we went a little crazy and bought an entire cart of fruits and vegetables. I had a lot of fun looking for recipes to use up the exotic things we bought, and we did fairly well using it all, too. We only had to throw away some lettuce and a few potatoes. The next week, in an effort to use everything we bought, I chose four recipes in advance and shopped for specific ingredients.

For our Stanley’s trip on Saturday, I boldly planned a menu for the next seven days. We bought accordingly, and our total bill came to $27. Now, keep in mind that we will still need to visit Treasure Island for our meat and cereal and nonperishables, but I am so excited that we brought home an entire week’s worth of produce for under $30!

The next step in our grocery revolution is to visit some of the other local Chicago markets for our meat. As much as I love Treasure Island, and have come to know each and every produce man, butcher, and stock boy, I realize that I must sacrifice my daily grocery stop for cheaper, more streamlined, and ultimately more fulfilling approach to grocery shopping.

And so I say farewell to Treasure Island.

…right after I stop by on my way home tonight for a turkey breast and some free samples…

1 comment:

  1. (a gentle voice whispers into the air)
    peapod peapod peapod