I used to call myself a Grocery Store Maven.
In Oakland, I knew the prices of coconut milk at Berkeley Bowl and Trader Joe's and 99 Ranch and Piedmont Grocery. I had opinions on where to buy dried garbanzos and whole coriander (Vik's) and the cost effectiveness of having a Full Belly Farm CSA Box.
In Paris, I began again to memorize the cost of Bordier butter at Le Grande Epicerie vs. the fromagerie at Marche d'Aligre. I knew that Monoprix was not the place to get anything Asian and that it was worth a trip to the 13th to Tang Freres for 10 items for under 3 euros. I charted the costs of American ingredients and weighed that against my desire for chipotles ($9) molasses ($6) and cans of pumpkin ($5) at Thanksgiving and other ex-pat merchants.
I realize that since we left the country, food prices went up. I realize that New York City has the most expensive food around. I am appreciative to have a gourmet market a few blocks away and bodegas that carry Fage yogurt and that I don't have to carry my groceries if I want to order from Fresh Direct.
What I didn't anticipate complaining about at BBQs and the water cooler, was the sheer price of items. It's like I'm shopping each day at Thanksgiving or Le Grande Epicerie yet I'm in the country the items come from and each place I go to lacks 2 or 14 that I wish I could have (why doesn't Fresh Direct carry bags of Tazo Tea or buttermilk? Why doesn't the gourmet grocery have French lentils?)
The Grocery Store Maven is stumped.
I've inquired into CSA boxes (all full save East New York). I take the train into the city and trek the vegetables back. I have researched the Park Slope Food Co-op but here 10:1 negative stories and worry about how my hours will change when the school opens next year and the sheer disorganization of 12,000 members and yet everyone needs to work every 3 weeks?
So I ordered Fresh Direct to stock my pantry. Sans beans and tea. I paid 2.79 for DeCecco spaghetti at the store. I'm scheduling a trip to Astoria next weekend to go to the Indian market or to Midwood to check out the new Kosher one.
I'm determined to find an answer before I suck it up and pay twice as much for yogurt and milk and cereal and refried beans than is necessary.
Whole Foods is the cheapest option. (I'm not even kidding). I might have to switch careers and open a store.