I’ve always loved grocery shopping.
I can remember shopping with my mom when I was a kid, like that one day we got up extra early before school so we could go to the new grocery store on the day it opened. (That store, called Ramey’s, is still open and is the only dedicated grocery store in my hometown. There’s also a Walmart Supercenter, the elephant in the cereal aisle.)
Every time I have to go to the store for work, I have to pinch myself. Is this really my job? To go to the grocery store and think extra hard about how the products get there, how they are marketed, what’s going on in the minds of the cashiers? To count the Instacart shoppers or people shucking corn right there in the produce section? To look at the buy-one-get-one coupons and understand how a company can still make money by giving away goods? To see a Peruvian pepper and quinoa sauce – sold under the Sprouts store brand, mind you – and marvel at American consumerism?
For the past few years, I’ve been increasingly interested in the grocery industry, for a few reasons. One, I shop there. When I first started writing about food, I felt incredibly guilty that all my food didn’t come from a farmers market. That was just me going through what I think is a common phase of food writerism (call it Food Writer 1.0), but now I have a much greater understanding of the totality of how we buy food. Just as there’s not only way to cook food, there’s not one "right" way to buy it. We need Big Food and Little Food. We need large commodity farmers just as much as we need the little guys, and we need to be able to see how locavorism is influencing the multi-national companies that used to have a monopoly on the whole shebang.
In an effort to expand my reporting on supermarkets and all the ways we acquire food, I’m starting a new series called Grocery Diaries. I have a feeling it will mostly be Instagram and blog posts, but I’ll start reverse publishing some of those in the good old print food section, too.
To get things started, a look at my first few posts, including what I did with that quinoa sauce, which was even better than I’d expected, and how much I spent on four days worth of road trip groceries.