Confessions of the far-grazing foodie

Shoppers choose multiple markets to supplement their pantries and satisfy their tummies. Photographs courtesy Stew Leonard's.

I have a problem. I’m told it’s an addiction — but I don’t like to think about it like that. 

I’m in deep and the frequency of my habit is increasing. 

I told myself I was done for good. But that was yesterday. And now here I am with my baseball cap pulled down low in case I see someone who recognizes me.

I always do that when I’m getting my fix — deep in line by the peanut butter dog lollipops — at the checkout counter of Stew Leonard’s. 

Or is this Trader Joe’s? After a while, they all start feeling the same.

But here’s the rub:  They are decidedly not the same. Instead they are like fragmented puzzle pieces that, once assembled, create a perfectly stocked kitchen. It’s a game that’s driving me and my friends nuts. 

Did I say nuts? Darn, the nuts I like are an extra 15-minute car ride away. But I digress.

Most of us spend hours a week zooming from market to market in order to satisfy the complex dietary needs of our families. We complain about being frantic and no one appreciating the effort. (This is true, they don’t.) But do we really need to shop this way? Or is there a place in our deepest depths that wants us to shop this way?

In other words, are we having fun?

‘MULTICHANNEL’ SHOPPERS

According to a 2016 study of grocery shopping trends on Hartman Group’s fmi.org, more adults are sharing shopping responsibilities — not because of fairness but because of fun. The study has even tracked our allegiance away from traditional food stores — which keep trying to reel us back in with promotions, giveaways and events as well as produce — to boutique food markets farther afield. We have become “multichannel” shoppers and are loving every minute of it.

White Plains resident Leah Kaplan gets excited when she talks about the bounty at Costco in Port Chester (with more locations in Yonkers, New Rochelle and Norwalk) but notes she still needs to make a Stop & Shop run (in the same complex downstairs) to complete her list. “It’s more because I like the stuff better,” Kaplan acknowledges, “not because I need it.”

Tara Monaco of Bronxville and Kerry Kusic of Yonkers make frequent trips to Stew Leonard’s (with locations in Yonkers and Norwalk) but shop elsewhere for things like paper towels and healthy snacks for picky kids. “I just can’t get everything I want at one place,” says Kusic as she heads off to ShopRite (with locations in Yonkers, New Rochelle, Scarsdale, White Plains, Stamford and Norwalk) for her kid’s favorite chewy granola bars. 

Monaco feels the dairy at Stew’s is superior. She can grab a ball of mozzarella for the next two days of school lunches and she prefers the in-house brand of coffee over any other.

Milk and eggs are indeed popular at Stew’s (as those of us who know it well affectionately call it) and so are the deals on meat and wine. Then there’s the free ice cream or coffee with every receipt of more than $100. You can buy plants in the summer and Christmas trees in the winter and children can push a button to make a banana dance. 

Did I mention the free samples? 

ETHNIC CHOICES

But then there’s Trader Joe’s (with locations in Hartsdale, Scarsdale, Larchmont, Stamford, Danbury, Darien, Fairfield and Westport), which has an extensive selection and competitive pricing on those darn nuts I’m looking for. Plus, if you’re going to eat frozen fettuccine Alfredo (a personal favorite), you’d be a fool to go elsewhere.  

If you’re looking for a home-style cooked dinner or something for the grill along with your light shopping, then head to Balducci’s (in Scarsdale, Rye Brook, Greenwich, and Westport), for prepared foods, or fresh fish at New York City’s biggest outpost of Citarella in Greenwich.  

Fairway, on the other hand (with locations in Pelham and Stamford) has an olive oil section that makes me giddy, an array of sparkling water that will satisfy any bubble snob. Plus, it sells French apricots to go with a wide array of cheeses and wines at its adjacent shop.

And then there’s Whole Foods Market. Let’s face it, we all need Whole Foods (with locations in Yonkers, White Plains, Port Chester, Greenwich, Darien and Westport) to satisfy our nation’s obsession with…well…whole foods. I mean who eats berries if they’re not organic? 

Or what if you snack on seaweed and are particular about your ramen and wouldn’t mind sipping on bubble tea as you shop? Then H mart is the place with two (yes, two) locations on Central Avenue, serving towns along the northern and southern stretches of the commerce hub. There’s an extensive fish department and a choice of eat-in or takeaway Chinese, Japanese and Korean. 

It is a dizzying amount of choices that is creating a mania in our communities. Admittedly, these are rarified problems for neighborhoods that are near major cities, with inhabitants living on a predominantly middle-class income. Nevertheless, it’s getting ridiculous. 

Today I decided I would finally end the insanity and head to Stop & Shop (with locations in Yonkers, Dobbs Ferry, New Rochelle, Eastchester, White Plains, Port Chester, Greenwich and Stamford), where I could get my organic berries and a granola bar alternative for my kid and cat food and detergent and sushi. Take that, friends, I’m cured.

“Mom,” said my son as I unloaded my bags. “Did you get that yogurt I like?”

Don’t worry, spoiled child, I thought to myself. Mommy’s got your back. 

I’ve done it. Kicking this nasty habit wasn’t so hard after all. 

“Hon,” said my husband in passing. “Stew’s is running a sale on rib eye steaks this weekend.” 

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

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