Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Grocery Store Maven Stumped

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.


Anonymous said...

I would encourage you to look at the Park Slope Food Coop's website: www.foodcoop.com and look at the FAQ's and the membership manual.

The work requirement is once every 4 weeks, and you can always try it out, and if it doesn't work for your schedule, you can just end your membership - no harm, no foul.

If you live in Brooklyn, then I'm sure you've gone to the many incredible farmer's markets that are available, which have lovely produce and other items.

Best Wishes!

Allen Zimmerman said...

I am the produce buyer and part of the management team at the Park Slope Food Coop. As a member for over 30 years and employee for 20, I am obviously biased. The organization of 14,000 members is very highly organized, which is probably a source of negative stories. The coop is not for everybody and some of the people who dislike it have written their blogs. As someone who gets Google Alerts, I can say that many of the people who hate the coop have never actually been there. You may not be able to keep up with 2.75 hours every 4 weeks; the coop may not work for you, but check out our prices at foodcoop.com, or come and visit. NY Magazine ran an excellent article recently, and it will give you a glimpse at a not at all negative story:

Anonymous said...

Well at my age my brain can't even remember where I parked the car, forget about prices at various stores! But I do notice that NOTHING costs 29 cents a lb. anymore. Seriously, even here in the land of produce things are getting very high. Yes, those peaches are beautiful and perfectly ripe, organic and just picked but $10 for 4 peaches! I don't think my body is that precious.

And it is a pain to run from market to market. Finally rembered to stop for sumac at the Turkish market on San Pablo today. I keep wanting to use it but I'm out and it's too far to go there for just one thing. Shopping is indeed an art form, and it's time to learn to buy and eat only what's cheap or on sale just like clothes shopping! Janet

jessica said...

Thank you for the clarifications about the co-op - totally agree that one needs to go there before making claims - just some stories heard on the street!

Anonymous said...

I was a member of the PSFC when in Brooklyn almost 7 years ago and think I chose the wrong job - cashier/counting cash! Not so good for my anxiety, mind you. I should have packaged bulk goods or made photocopies or the like. Now I'm considering joining a new co-op in Emeryville, theCOG.org, started by old PSFC members - and childcare is an option, so I'm good. :-) Try and find some good Latino stores - produce be cheap there - and Chines, too (i.e. Sunset Park, etc.). -JM, in E'ville CA