Shopping low carb – at least the way that I do it, can be a pain in the ass. The reasons for this are:
- The conventional supermarket has the most variety and the best prices generally, but the specific items I’m looking for are either unavailable or at a higher price
- The specialty markets (ie: Whole Foods) have more of the items I am looking for and the prices are comparable or better than they would be at the conventional supermarket – the problems is that the rest of their stuff is immorally overpriced
- The ‘value specialty markets’ (ie: Trader Joe’s) provide an eclectic selection that ranges from treasures to junk
- Some things are only available mail order – or only economical mail order
What this means is that I have become used to buying food at 5 different stores.
A pain in the ass – see what I mean?
Let’s take a tour.
The regular supermarket is where I get the family consumables like paper towels, Saran wrap, low carb ketchup, mustard and that sort of stuff. I occasionally will grab meat or deli items there but I don’t necessarily think these are ideal as they are typically lower quality. I can get a few organic items I like, but the cost is high because the store isn’t really in the business of ‘organic’ and as their volumes are smaller they have to charge more.
Whole Foods is the only place I can find full-fat Greek yogurt. They also have my pastured butter, and you can’t find a locally raised pork belly in the conventional supermarket. The pork belly, at $5.99 a pound, is reasonable – and delicious. They also have grass-fed beef at $6.99 a pound, which feels like a ripoff to me – except when I realize I am paying for quality and can’t compare to the supermarket ground beef. Of course, if Whole Foods if pulling a fast one on me and giving me the cheap stuff, calling it grass-fed and screwing me – I can’t know. Their steaks and other cuts of meat are pornographically high in price and are NEVER under consideration.
Their organic vegetables are better and cheaper than at the supermarket so we tend to shop there for those.
I can also get grass-fed organic, not ultra-pasteurized heavy cream only there, as well as the grass-fed Kerry Gold Dubliner cheese at a reasonable $3.89 for 7oz. The rest of their cheeses are NOT a bargain and I usually avoid them.
Trader Joe’s has a lot of ‘junk’ in my opinion – but their junk is a few notches above the regular supermarket’s junk. For instance: the boxed mac & cheese leaves out the artificial coloring. It’s still junk but better.
There are also true gems to be had: they have a raw milk cheddar cheese at a very reasonable price as well as my beloved California Estate olive oil. I don’t buy butter or sour cream there and every one of their yogurts are low-fat -bleech!
Trader Joe’s is a great place to shop – but a low carber has to be wary of what they buy there. They have organic grass-fed beef, but it is flown in from New Zealand, is packed with so much blood as to raise questions in my mind about the actual weight of the meat, and I have gotten 3 packages where the meat had gone bad and stank, so I am not sure how carefully this stuff is being handled on its trip from the other side of the world.
Wal-Mart is where I get my Lindt Chocolate and pork rinds. I usually stock up because I only hit Wal-Mart maybe once a month or less if I can avoid it. I don’t like buying food there.
Lastly, there is mail-order. I get my Wild Planet Skipjack Tuna from Amazon Subscribe and Save. You get a subscription price and I pay $70 a year for Amazon Prime which further cuts costs. I save about $1 – 2 dollars per can this way. Amazon Subscribe and Save is actually a pretty good deal for a lot of things if you have free shipping – I should use it more.
EZ Sweetz – the liquid Splenda – must also be bought mail-order, but it is a niche product and utterly unavailable through any other channel than mail-order. I buy one big bottle – that should last me a year.
Since I am time-starved, managing all this shopping is a challenge:
I typically go to Whole Foods once a week, mainly for yogurt, butter, cream, vegetables and meat.
I also hit the supermarket once a week for things like bread for the kids and maybe some deli and sugar-free ketchup. It’s a quick trip I usually make once a week on the way to work.
Wal-Mart is once a month or less. Another quick trip.
Trader Joe’s I hit maybe every other week and try to stock up on my core favorites.
Amazon is simple: I’m subscribed. They notify me ahead of time and I can skip delivery if I want. It arrives at my door, free shipping. Easy-peasy.
I wish it was simpler – and I’m trying to noodle my way through ways of doing this – but this is where I’m at now.