Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Grocery grumblings

When we last lived together in LA, we did a llot of our grocery shopping at super expensive, gourmet, organic, local, hand knitted, artisanal grocers like Bristol Farms or Pacific Coast Greens.

Sadly, the days of spluffing $75 on a home cooked dinner for two are over. We've got a college fund to save for now, after all.

However we are a bit too fancy for our own good. Ralph's, or Von's, or any of those common-or-garden supermarkets don't quite cut it. For one thing, they don't always stock European butter. They are also often short on good fresh seafood. And their ground meats all contain mysterious 'natural flavourings' i.e. '100% ground turkey with natural flavourings'. I assume the fact they need to call them out on the packaging means these are not the natural flavourings which, um, naturally occur within turkey. Needless to say, I miss Saltburn and Sainos and the butcher very much, as I stand tutting to myself in the aisle.

On the advice of some people who are unintimidated by enormous warehouses, we tried CostCo. The one near us hosts a fresh fish guy every Friday and Saturday. You could almost call it a fishmonger pop-up store. Except that it's in a CostCo. The fish is genuinely fresh and you can buy Kerrygold butter in bulk there too.

And yet... and yet there's something just too depressing about shopping in CostCo. It's that moment when you find yourself clutching a 6lb packet of spaghetti, saying 'this is so cheap!' and realising you don't have the cupboard space for it – because you're not running an Italian restaurant. And you put it down and shuffle on and think 'that's another 30 seconds minutes of my life I'll never get back'. That and feeling a bit wired from the horrible lighting and all the sugary samples I couldn't resist.

So it is that we came to track down our nearest Korean grocery. TLOML loves a good Korean grocery, and tells me they are famously inexpensive, for Koreans are famously smart shoppers. Plus they have an incredible range of seafood including plenty of live shellfish, and some obscure species to boot.

We did a big shop, stocked up on the good kim chee and some very inexpensive oils and fruit and veg. But I didn't like it. It was packed, and overstocked, and full of people who'd been there a million times before and know where everything was and what the heck everything was too.

As I stood, baffled by the tea selection and stumped by the shellfish, I was jostled constantly. I don't speak Korean but I'd hazard a guess that the murmur as they passed me was “Look at this pale faced giant – she looks like she's never seen a geoduck in her life!”.

Or what to do with a geoduck?

Am I the only one here who doesn't know what balloon tea is?
TLOML can handle the Korean market, and he has the mental strength for CostCo too. But when it's my turn to pick up the groceries, I'm afraid it's back to Ralph's or Von's. Or if I'm feeling a bit extravagant, Bristol Farms.


  1. I'm not sure if they have international butter, but you may want to give Sprouts a try. :)

  2. Thanks Julie - Sprouts sounds very SoCal. I'm there!