…and struggling all over again.
The path of discovery is not for the faint of heart, I tell you. Each and every time you visit (or move to) a new neighborhood, you have to eke out all your unpopular options from among the many (or not-so-many, if you find yourself in a food desert) regular food stores around you, especially if your budget, menu choices, and ethical buying criteria are very tight.
Although there are some chains on which I can depend in many cities (Sprouts, M.O.M.’s, TJ’s, and the specialty aisles at Safeway/Vons, Ralph’s, ), I usually have to ask around, check the AmEx Shop Small promotions (from the annual holiday, Shop Small Saturday), or worst of all, comb through Google Maps until the reviews show I’m getting warm.
I’m pretty sure I’m neither the first nor last “special eater” to have this struggle, but I do know that in this day and age, with all the rushing we have to do regularly, we humans tend to forget to draw and leave our treasure maps behind for those who may have the same struggle (isn’t this why blogging has taken on so many topics, though? Why can’t I find more of them?). Although I’m neither an avid nor a professional traveler, I do know what I’ve found and where I found it. Below is the bit I can share, and after that, I invite you to tweak and/or share what’s missing in the comments section below.
NOTE: Whole Foods is everywhere, for those with food needs who are okay with shopping at bigger corporations, so assume it’s always there for you
Lazy Acres: full-size alternative grocery store complete with deli, hot/cold food bars, fresh juice & kombucha on tap, and its famous Pokē bar. This tiny chain, with locations spread across many California cities, reminds me very much of MOM’s market, with a full array of departments stocked with brands that are harder to find than those of Whole Foods and the “natural and organic” sections of popular standard chains. Things can get a little pricey, but on many a hungry night while visiting San Diego, it’s saved me so much time to be able to get most of what I needed (especially for unusual recipes) in a single stop. The only problem I had was finding gluten-free all-purpose flour for my GFV biscuits (recipe to follow in another blog entry).
Pancho Villa: although this is a locally-owned international (read: Mexican food and a few other additions) market, it has many great options for the more creative alternative eaters among us. For those who are GF but CAN eat corn, the corn (masa) flour sells out quickly. For those who are GF but CAN eat rice, bulk sales of white rice are available. However, you can get fresh Masa tortillas made right there in the store. However, if you are VERY sensitive with very little time to make your own bread/tortillas/pasta, I would stick to the alternative markets for your tortillas or other starch needs.
Krisp: a little neighborhood market with fresh foods and a few alternative food and health/beauty brands. HUGE selection of alternative beers & wines.
National alternative chains found here: Sprouts, Trader Joe’s
Regular (national and regional) with good choices: Vons (somehow related to Safeway), Ralph’s
Miss Cordelia’s: Tiny, but well-stocked. Of particular interest is the availability of Omission beer and a local line of GF cookies, Miss Sandie’s, which I only tasted because I happened upon Miss Sandie herself offering samples that day!
Winchester Farmers’ Market: This is an international market without any particular alternative brands, but again: a gold mine for the creative allergic cook. There are also fun exotic cooking devices here, although they’re not necessarily manufactured environmentally-safely or socially ethically.
National alternative chains found here: Sprouts, & (if you’re willing to travel to the suburbs) TJ’s
Regular with good choices: Kroger, sometimes.
Chicago and DC coming soon!