When we travel in the U.S., my purse is full of grocery and drug store loyalty cards, as well as my trusty Costco card.
Each state seems to have unique grocery store chains, so we have collected lots of cards over the years. Unlike most Canadian loyalty cards which accumulate points toward later purchases, most of the U.S. cards offer immediate discounts and “members only” pricing. Many also have associated fuel discounts at specific gas stations.
Unfortunately, winter and spring in Myrtle Beach are not fresh produce seasons, so there are no local farmers markets to peruse. The demographic here also skews older: lots of retirees and Canadian snowbirds who eat out and only cook for 2 when they eat in. The net result is lots of restaurants and fewer places to find interesting cooking ingredients.
What I miss most from our home in Mississauga is Starsky’s, the fabulous Polish grocery store/deli chain with a 300+ variety cheese counter, 200 foot long international deli meat counter, European bakery (oh, the Viennese cheesecake!), butcher, huge fresh produce area, and imported items from all over western Europe.
There is nothing like that here, nor is there the same ethnic diversity of foods that we are used to in Ontario. There is a wealth of Mexican food options, but it is a real challenge to find Indian, Thai or even the more interesting varieties of Chinese sauces or spices.
So we make do. We work with what is here. It’s good practice for being in other countries with different taste palates.
This part of Myrtle Beach has Food Lion, Publix, Lowes, Walmart and Bi-Lo, as well as an independent IGA affiliate called Boulineau’s, but my day-to-day go-to grocery store here is the local Kroger. I love the staff at least as much as the convenience and the wine selection; the check out clerks are super friendly and efficient, the store manager often works one of the tills during busy times, and the department managers will walk you right to what you’re looking for…. and remember you on your next visit! There’s nothing special about the food selection, but for basic items the staff make it worth shopping here. My loyalty card gets us up to 20 cents off per gallon of gas at the Kroger gas bar on member appreciation weekends.
For organics and some European imports there is ALDI, owned by a German company (as is Trader Joe’s now). ALDI is the ultimate no frills experience: no bags, canned goods “displayed” simply in open cartons on metal shelves, limited fresh meats, and only a small selection of produce. But…. much of their produce is organic and they have a huge selection of packaged organic foods (many of them their private label, packaged to look eerily like the comparable national brand, right down to font styles and carton colours) priced as cheaply as their conventional items. The bonus for me is that on any given visit, I might find imported German butter cheese, or Hungarian plum jam, or Czech preserves.
And then there’s the local Costco, which has great meat and poultry. The package sizes are WAY too large for 2 people, but we have a good-sized freezer in the condo fridge, and we have Ziploc bags, so we pick up the good deals and divide them into meal-sized portions. I’m a big fan of their Kirkland organic boneless chicken thighs for cacciatore and curries, and their dry-rubbed full pork loins that we turn into chops, roasts and pulled pork. Aside from meats, for a long-term stay a case of Kirkland microwave popcorn is an absolute must as our evening TV snack.
Even with a 30% exchange rate from Canadian to U.S. funds, if we shop carefully, we can maintain our grocery budget.
Ted would say a big factor is cheaper wine prices…. and he is probably right!