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Grocery Shopping: The Rundown

I’m a terrible grocery shopper. I don’t make a list until I realize we are out of everything and I typically visit at least two different grocery stores on any given week. That’s because I can’t find everything that I need at one store. Sometimes after I’ve planned a week of dinners I decide that I’d rather make something else thus requiring new ingredients and another trip to the store.

I used to love grocery shopping before I had kids but after my oldest daughter was born I became good friends with Peapod and Harris Teeter Express Lane. Giant is actually one my least favorite grocery stores but it sure is convenient to have somebody leave 10 bags of heavy groceries on your doorstep at 7am.

Here are my thoughts on the grocery stores:

Whole Foods
This is a great store for prepared foods although the mark-up is crazy. Its a great place to stop for lunch especially with kids because the salad and hot foot bar has a big selection in addition to pizza, sushi and sandwiches. There are plenty of healthy options. Since Slavins closed I find this is the best place to buy fresh fish. The produce department is varied and they have a lot of unique items but you really have to look carefully at what you are choosing. More than once I’ve found that the produce I bought was rotten the next day. The meat and cheese departments have nice selections and are always well stocked. When time is more important than money Whole Foods is also where I would go if people are coming over or I need something “good” to take somewhere in a hurry.

MOMs Organic Market – This is my favorite. From the convenience standpoint, I can be in and out without ever waiting in line (that’s because they open up a new checkout for you if there is more than one person in line). They have most of the organic foods I am looking for and their prices are very reasonable especially compared to Whole Foods. This is an easy place to take children. There is plenty of parking and its close to the front door. They carry a great selection of organic foods including local meat and poultry and a lot of cool stuff. The fruits and vegetables are always fresh (yes this seems obvious but you might be surprised).

Giant – I don’t often go to the store but I use Peapod. I try to avoid ordering produce if I can although I haven’t been terribly disappointed with what I have ordered. Its great for laundry detergent and bottled drinks (the large or heavier items you don’t want to carry to your car). I’ve made mistakes like buying just one banana instead of a whole bunch so you have to pay attention to the item sizes. Peapod doesn’t offer all of the brands that the store does so sometimes I have to settle for something other than my preferred brand but since I’m usually ordering Peapod because I’m crunched for time, I feel like I’m just happy to have someone else bringing the food. I’ve also never ordered more than a day in advance. Their deadline is 6:00 and I usually get an order in by 5:30 and have it delivered the next morning.

Harris Teeter– My go-to “regular” grocery store. Duke St or Pentagon Row are the best. Their mixed use retail stores at S. Glebe and Shirlington are convenient with covered parking but they are missing some items. For example¬† that particular spice your recipe calls for without which your recipe will be a disaster, is probably something these stores won’t have. The Harris Teeter “Express Lane” at the Duke St. is fantastic. You order online just like Peapod only you pick up the order instead of it being delivered. You park in front and push a call button and somebody comes out and loads up your car. What’s nice is that Express Lane does carry most of the items I am looking for as well as beer and wine. If you’re having a party its great because you order all of your beer, wine and other drinks and somebody else carries them out and loads them into your car.

Balducci’s – Of course I love Balducci’s. Its just pricey. I’ve been shopping there for a sandwich or just a couple of items since it was Sutton Place Gourmet. I’ll go there for a particular meat or fish but I’ve never even thought about buying a weeks worth of groceries. Plenty of people do though. Every time I’m there I see shoppers with completely filled carts.