And the road goes on forever...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Where's the Grub?

Something that’s fun to do as we travel around is compare grocery shopping in various areas. I can remember when we lived in Iowa for a winter thinking that for a farm state, their stores sure didn’t stock much in the way of any “exotic” vegetables. Things like avocados were hard to come by. They had never heard of white corn. On numerous occasions I’d hear the cashier ask me, “What is this?” holding up a vegetable they were unfamiliar with. 

Surprisingly, what strikes me as most common is that the larger the area in population, the harder it is to find grocery stores. Why is that? You’d think with a larger population base, there would be more stores, not less. In the Los Angeles area, I would often have to drive miles to a store and then there would only be the one, so no choice or competition. And try finding a grocery store in Las Vegas sometime. 

Here in the Folsom and foothill area of El Dorado County there are so many stores offering groceries it is a virtual Mecca! Not only are there many different chains, but there are several stores within close proximity of each other in the same chain. Just as an aside I have noted: Safeway, Food 4 Less, BelAir, Raley’s, Nugget, Costco, Sam’s, Trader Joe’s, Grocery Outlet, WalMart Superstore, Supersaver, & Whole Foods. These are only the ones I have personally seen; I’m sure there’s probably more! Now Folsom is a town of 72,200 people but even figuring the greater area at 150,000 this is an outstanding array of choice in groceries! 

One would leave with the impression that people here must really cook at home, but the incongruity is that there are also more restaurants available than I’ve ever seen in any given area. Every corner is loaded with four or five and the shopping centers and strip malls are also full of them. So, which is it? Do people here cook at home or are they always eating out? How can some cities offer only two or three grocery stores and the same sized city in another state offers up ten or fifteen? Who makes these decisions, anyway?

I’ll leave you with some pictures of probably the fanciest grocery store I have ever entered. This is the Nugget Market in El Dorado Hills, a town of 42,108 of very high income demographic.
A few things were striking about this store, starting with the exterior with its filligreed metal window awnings. Inside the pre-made food/deli section occupied an entire side, far eclipsing any other section. Just about anything you would desire to cook or eat (pizza, Chinese, 20 kinds of salad) was already waiting for you. As part of this area, there was also a dedicated cheese “bar”. Look at those wheels of cheese! Seen anything like this?
The other end of the store, normally occupied in most cases by the vegetable section, is solely for wine in this store. I’m not sure even Total Wine stores stock more than was on display here.
The vegetable section, by comparison, was notably front and center and rather on the small side. Yes, this is the entire area.
Another novelty was a section dedicated to candy, dried fruits, nuts, and exotic items like seaweed or okra chips, all pre-packed. That was quite amazing as well. And finally, the seafood section was respectable given that we are a distance from the ocean.
Do any other inquiring minds wonder about things like this, as I do?