Life without Wegmans and Tops

Jen and I are trying to start a new way of shopping for our family. We already do a fair amount of our shopping at Abundance Coop Market each week, supplemented by occasional runs to other places like Palermo’s Meat & Food Market on Culver Road (467-3950 / map) or The Ravioli Shop on Winton Road North (288-6420 / map).

A few weeks ago, we decided to try to go all the way, and cut out the big chains completely. Why? Several reasons: (1) it keeps more money in the community at the grassroots level; (2) it’s a great way to support local farmers and producers; (3) the quality of the food is often much better; (4) it’s rewarding to build relationships with local merchants; (5) the idea of shopping in neighborhoods from folks who live there fits in with our general economic and political philosophy.

All of that is easy to say, but it does actually take some effort to shop without the chain stores. The effort is leading to some interesting results, though. For example, we’re thinking more carefully about which things we actually need that we buy at the chains. The answer is that we need very few of them. In many cases, we can substitute healthier products, or cut things out altogether.

We do have some criteria for this experiment, the most important of which is cost. We have two small incomes, and we need to be very careful about how much we spend on groceries. Buying a $5 jar of mayo may be the earth-friendly thing to do, but having to eat it while living in our car isn’t the best outcome.

I’m interested in what you have to say on this topic. Where do you shop? Which little specialty stores do you use that everyone should know about? How do reconcile the various practical and philosophical concepts at issue?

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