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Where Are You Buying Groceries?

Any of us who don’t live in food deserts have really not had to think hard about where to buy groceries–either for ourselves or clients. If we did, it was pretty much to sort out the many options available from our local supermarket to farmers markets to Costco/Sam’s Club to Trader Joe’s, culturally specific markets or our favorite specialty stores, including fish markets.

Then came the coronavirus and if you live in a region hit hard, you have faced staples shortages, long lines–and even the question of whether you should venture into a store at all. Which then led to the ethics of having someone else shop for you or being able to book an Instacart delivery date during your lifetime.

In short, marketing has been complicated for many of us.

Thankfully, much of the hoarding and shortages have abated, but the virus has not and we don’t know what fall months hold in store. So, it’s not a bad idea to know what your options are for now and looking ahead into at least the next six months.

This came into focus for me in a Real Simple story that ran at the end of April. It brought up some very good suggestions for identifying some unexpected places to find groceries. These include:

  • Local restaurants: Many have been helping both their suppliers and customers by selling groceries–either individual items or a bagged packages of groceries or meal kits. We’ve seen everything from flour, pasta, and yeast to fresh produce and seafood. Sometimes even toilet paper. They have great resources. Take advantage of them.
  • Online housewares stores. How often have you been to Bed, Bath & Beyond, World Market, Williams Sonoma or other housewares stores and picked up snacks or coffee/tea or specialty items? You can find them in the brick and mortar shops, but you can also shop for them online.
  • Restaurant supply companies: Sure, you may shop them for your equipment, but there are plenty of edible goods available–and some may even deliver. The caveat may be the quantity of packaged items, like 50 pounds of flour or 30-pound bags of rice. But splitting staples is what friends and neighbors are for, right?

  • CSAs: Community-supported agriculture, or CSAs, package weekly or bi-weekly boxes of fresh produce to subscribers. They do three things very well–they provide subscribers with a delightful and steady supply of local produce, they directly support farmers (many of whom live life on the edge and have now lost restaurant business), and they keep the money in the local economy. You can also expand your reach by purchasing boxes from Imperfect Foods and Misfits Market. These companies sell delicious produce but they are either a little odd looking or the wrong size for very strict supermarket guidelines. There are also CSAs for meats and seafood (think Moink, Butcher Box, Farmer’s Cart, and Heritage Foods–but also check around for local businesses that sell at your farmers market).
  • Alternative online stores: Real Simple notes that businesses like Thrive Market offers organic food and food delivery while Loop is an ecofriendly store focused on numerous brands and retailers that ships packages of grocery and health and beauty supplies in reusuable, returnable packaging.
  • Buy direct: Need white whole wheat flour? You could buy it directly from King Arthur Flour or Bob’s Red Mill. Why not just go directly to the company that has the product you’re craving or needing and see if they sell directly to consumers?

To this I’ll add that the megachains like Target and Walmart made a huge investment in grocery departments in the last few years. Neither is my first choice for grocery shopping, but in a pinch you can buy produce, milk, bread, and so much more. Same with Big Lots and “dollar stores.” I haven’t even mentioned Amazon’s offerings…

Do you have a good grocery wholesaler that’s open to the public? In San Diego, we have a place called Specialty Produce. They have long since branched out into specialty products from local makers and purveyors–local honey and other condiments, cheeses, pastas, etc. And, they’ve put together their own version of a CSA that combines fresh produce with local seafood, cheese, bread, and other products. Your city may have a similar wholesaler. Likewise, does your community have a butcher shop, seafood market, or other specialty store that has been selling other groceries that complement their main product line?

We’re living in disruptive times that require creativity and ingenuity from all of us. We’re lucky that the supply chain is holding for now (although the ethics of how that’s going is another discussion worth having) but keeping clients–and our own families–fed is probably not going to be as effortless for quite a while as our old marketing habits were back in January.

Where have you been shopping for food, if not your grocery store? Did we miss a great resource?

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Caron Golden

About 

Founder of premier organization of personal chefs inspires students to follow their dreams of culinary entrepreneurship.

Candy Wallace, executive director of the American Personal & Private Chef Association (APPCA), today was recognized by Sullivan University’s National Center for Hospitality Studies as its 33rd Distinguished Guest Chef.

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