Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thought for Food

When you move to a totally new place, you hope to find some familiar totems that you can rely on for the basics.

But when you move a long way away, what if there are none of those recognizable faces? This has been the case for us with finding grocers. I've yet to see a Marvin's, a Harp's, an IGA, a Kroger, a Minyard, an Albertson's... I haven't even see a Walmart. I know there are Walmarts here, somewhere, but I haven't happened on one.

The nearest Kroger is in Virginia. The others are farther away.

So our third night here, we saw grocery store in Allston called Star Market. It's part of the regional Shaw's chain. Interestingly, I noticed that the store locator feature for Shaw's was identical to that of Albertson's. Turns out both of those chains are part of the giant grocer operation Supervalu, which owns more than 2,500 grocers across the U.S. They also are a supplier to IGA.

We went into the Star Market, and later found that there is another one nearby. The Allston store had a spacious parking lot (a rarity in these parts; that land alone must be worth a fortune), and a clean, ample store.

It was also damned expensive. We didn't buy a lot of things, and still it was close to $100.

In talking with our new acquaintances here since, we've been told that Star Market is avoided because of those prices. Ditto for the Whole Foods Market. There are many Whole Foods here, and their products are typically great. But there's a reason that the chain is also known as "Whole Paycheck Market."

What's been recommended is a chain called Market Basket. We attempted to get to one of those last night, but ran into Saturday night Harvard Square traffic as well as people crowding toward a big football game at Boston College between the Eagles and Notre Dame. The game is known as "The Holy War" because it pits the two biggest Catholic-school football programs against each other.

When we had visited in October on our scouting mission, we had noticed a Trader Joe's near the hotel, so we called an audible and headed there.

It turned out to be a great experience. Although the store has a limited selection, it has only high-quality stuff. We spent about $100 this time, too, but it was a lot more food than we got last week. Most notable is the price of a gallon of milk at TJ's was half the price of that at SM.

Until I land a job, we're watching the budget. That means we need to eat at home as much as possible. So we bought good cheese and deli meats for sandwiches, some chili fixins' and some reasonable snacks, among other items.

I'm going to make a point to get to a Market Basket late this week; the Trader Joe's was crowded and I'm told that Market Basket is a zoo on weekends, very crowded. So I'll probably find a morning in the latter half of the week to investigate further.

There are a handful of convenience stores throughout the area... most call themselves "variety" stores. Quaint. They remind me of the depanneurs you see in Montreal. I zoomed into one of them last week to snag a bottle of soda. But that's only a quick-fix option.

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