Special Edition: Navigating New Grocery Stores

Honestly grocery stores can be daunting. Once you typically find one you like, you only go there and you hate to try anywhere new. I’m this way too…but now that I’ve been making all my own food I have to be okay travelling to all kinds of grocery stores for different ingredients, I’ve gotten accustomed to going to new stores. It wasn’t an easy change to make, so I wanted to give everyone else a few tips and tricks to checking out new stores.

Trader Joe’s

Now you might be rolling your eyes at me writing about Trader Joe’s and I would have too, until I realized that not everyone has been to Trader Joe’s and not everyone knows whats available there. Trader Joe’s is my go to place for flowers or pre-made salads, but there is so much more there. Also, it’s not as expensive as you may think and that’s because Trader Joe’s doesn’t carry name brand items that you will find in your normal grocery store. Trader Joe’s has a lot of good foods and good frozen foods at that. I personally only shop here when craving something like shrimp burgers, gyoza, or as I said earlier if I want flowers or pre-made salads.

Trader Joe’s has a great selection of “healthier” items alongside treats and sweets to fill everyone’s needs. If you have a Trader Joe’s in your neighborhood, I truly encourage you to use it as your home base store. Not only will you be able to find great staple items, you can build lasting relationships with the staff, sample items regularly, and you’ll also be able to fill your house with new and unique items you never knew you’d love.

Now you may think to yourself, isn’t this just yuppie white people food… and you know I’d be lying if I said no, but I will tell you this, there’s something for everyone here. Haris, who is Indian, he found a plethora of items to try and that he ended up liking. They even have a pretty good meat selection and spice area. You can find a lot of great things at Trader Joe’s you just have to stay open minded. And like I said, it’s not as expensive as you may think… it’s like the lesser more millennial version of Whole Foods, if you know what I mean.

Tip: Stay open-minded about places. You never know what you’ll find, and you shouldn’t just make up your mind about a place before checking it out.

Tony’s Meats & Market

Now this store was hella intimidating to me even when we walked in the door…that was until I got to the bakery area at least. Very small stores make me super nervous. In large grocery stores you can hide. There are at least 42 aisles where the shelves go way above your head and it takes you forever to get from one side of the store to the next. You rarely run into anyone asking you if you need help. But here, there are 2-3 cashiers and then about 5-6 people behind 3 different counters all ready to help you find what you need. There’s also at least one person sampling to you. It makes me think of what it was like before grocery stores and supermarkets became a reality. It was less than 100 years ago when we would have to go to a butcher for meat, milk was delivered to your house, you went to a bakery for bread and so on and so forth. Numerous different shops along one street helped fit your every need, and there was not that many products to choose from.

Fast forward to today and there are a million products and its rare to see just a butcher shop or bakery. Tony’s Meat & Market brings the past to the present but with a twist. My anxiety of going to this store melted away once I wandered around a little and saw just what it had to offer. And that’s the trick to visiting stores like this for the first time. Go in when you don’t need anything and check out what they have. That way when you do need something you’ll know if its the right place to go. For instance now I know if I need any alligator meat, I should go here! If I want a great deli spread or cannolis to share with friends I should go here. Getting out of your comfort zone can be hard, but if you make it a game, make it an exploration of sorts, you can always find a way to make that comfort zone larger.

Tip: Make it an adventure when trying out a new place. You don’t have to buy anything, just go and see what’s there… you never know, you could find something you just have to have that day!

H Mart- Asian Market

Next up is H Mart which is an Asian grocery store in the Denver area. Now what I like about stores like this is that I know I can find ingredients I need for a specific type of cooking. If you’ve ever made an asian dish, a mexican dish, or a middle eastern one, you know how hard it is to sometimes find the ingredients you need at your local grocery store. So you have to seek these stores out. I mean look below, when was the last time you saw Loong Kong Splty Chicken like that at Safeway, Smiths, Target, Walmart, King Soopers, etc.?

What’s fun about stores like this is that you can also try new foods. The sky is the limit. I personally always want to try new desserts, because why not? I mean can you really mess up something sweet? (Okay, I know you can, but whatever). I guess my point here is that sometimes you have to seek out new places and then wander around them. You’ll be surprised to find that there are products you already knew about, as well as ones you’ve always wanted to try. It’ll open up your eyes to more cultures and to different ways of life. But I understand if you aren’t comfortable doing that just yet, so seek a buddy, someone who knows what they are looking for and what products are available in that store. You’ll be happy that you did!

Tip: Bring a buddy on your adventure, someone who might know what you need and where to find it.

So ultimately, be cool and try out a new grocery store…try out new foods…move outside your comfort zone! Bring a friend, make it a game, and keep an open mind.

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