Food & Fitness

The Living Healthy in the Real World Guide to Grocery Shopping, Part Four: Where to Shop

Be sure to check out our previous installments of this Grocery Shopping mini-series:

Part One: Preparation for Grocery Shopping

Part Two: Building the Basics

Part Three: Grocery Shopping for the Time-Restricted

Where to Shop?

Safeway. Health food store. Sketchy corner shop. Bulk foods. There are so many different kinds of grocery stores, it can be daunting to try to choose one as your “go-to” place to shop. That’s why I recommend that you have multiple stores that you frequent! Each grocery store is very valuable in its own way.

Large chain stores: The nearest big chain store to me is Safeway. I guess I should feel like a sell-out, encouraging people to go to these big stores, but there’s good reason for why they’re so popular! These stores have a lot of variety in a clean environment. The food is fresh, the aisles are big, and the lighting is bright. These places are sometimes more expensive than the smaller stores, but they often have deals and promotions (such as club cards or week-long sales), and their products are generally of very good quality. These stores also tend to have organic sections if you’re so inclined. This is typically my go-to store for all of my basic needs.

Smaller corner stores: The products are liable to carry a layer of dust on them, but you can come here for herbs, spices, and fresh fruit when you need it. Plus, these are usually open at different hours from the larger chain stores, which is advantageous if you’re crunched for time. There may be several near your house closer than the larger chain stores (I have one at the end of my street), so you should absolutely maximize your use of that. The other plus to smaller corner stores is that when you buy from these places, you’re supporting the local economy!

Health food stores and local bakeries: I adore these stores the most. I have a few that I wander into on a regular basis; the people who work at these places know that I’m liable to spend half an hour perusing the aisles just for the fun of it. Here is where you’ll find all of those obscure items that you don’t get at any other store. These sell healthier versions of things like vegetable bouillon cubes, as well as many products for special dietary needs. I found tons of different kinds of flour and oat flakes here; these stores are also where I purchase my nutritional yeast, protein powder (usually far better ingredients than the protein powders from any other store), and my bread. Always buy fresh bakery bread! Commercial bread at the stores is full of ingredient lists a mile long. You don’t want that crap going into your body. Freshly baked bread made with local ingredients is also so delicious that you’ll never want commercial bread again. If you don’t bake your own, buy bakery bread. I cannot stress this enough. The extra dollar or two is absolutely without question completely worth it.

Drugstores: Probably the only place where you can buy “real” food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you work a night shift and you’re clean out of eggs, drugstores like Shopper’s Drug Mart are your place to go! I don’t get much of my food from drugstores but it’s nice to have the option. This is where I buy my calcium/magnesium powder. I also enjoy looking at the wonderful displays of chocolate 😀

Bulk food stores: I adore bulk food stores. Seriously adore. Where else can you come across a blend of 15 different kinds of beans all in one big tub? Or vegan and gluten-free pastas? The spice and herb selection is amazing, and you also have a huge choice of flour, nuts, and dried fruit. The Bulk Barn that I go to also sells different kinds of nut butter. Find a bulk barn near you and you’ll never look back.

Gas stations and cafes: The 7-11 across the street from my work has saved me countless times when I’ve been on the hunger prowl: they sell gigantic apples, oranges, and bananas. I’d never dream of buying anything else from there- even the sandwiches are full of horrible things- but when you need a piece of fruit, it’s fantastic. Cafes (both small local ones and larger chain ones like Starbucks) also often sell fruit or salads. I wouldn’t recommend getting the sandwiches unless you know what’s in there, but in a pinch, these places can be useful.

Online: The only thing I really order online is PB2. I can’t get enough of my powdered peanut butter. It’s an addiction and I can’t quite kick the habit. But there are many other wonderful products which you can only buy online. If grocery shopping is difficult to fit into your day, doing it online might be a really good option for you.

Can I really get to all of these stores?

Not all in one day, silly! The idea here is that you have to scope around and find out where these stores are in relation to where you live and where you work. That way you’ll be prepared for when you’re running low on something. You’ll know exactly where it is that you need to shop! The other nice thing about having a variety of stores to shop at is that if one is closed, or if it doesn’t have the product that you’re looking for, it’s ten to one that another store on this list is open and does have the product you want. Be aware of the places around you to make the best grocery shopping choices.

Next up is Part Five: Grocery Shopping on a Budget!


  1. Gena

    I’m loving this series! As I’ve been so time-crunched lately, I’ve neglected taking the time to make a serious, planned out grocery run. I used to buy all the meats, dry goods, and baked items at the local grocery store chain, then run over to a huge farmers’ market for produce. Yes, it was an extra trip, either on the same day or the next day, but it was worth it. The produce was so much better, and always cheaper than at the grocery store.

  2. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman

    Drugstores and convenience stores are great for a last-minute milk run. I get a lot of canned goods and any packaged foods (pasta, etc) at the big grocery store. But I try to get my produce at Whole Foods. It lasts so much longer (because it isn’t partially wilted and dying when I buy it) and since it’s fresher we’re more likely to eat it instead of have it rot in the fridge.

  3. Dr. J

    Like you I’ve shopped at all these kinds of stores. Each has it’s advantages. This really is a great series that you have done.

    Sorry about the hockey finals in Vancouver. I was actually pulling for Canada over the US. It’s all so political now. My sister was “the worlds greatest hockey fan” growing up and all of her heroes were Canadian. One time she was on a flight and met the entire Boston Bruins team. They were all very nice to her and I’ve never forgotten that. She’s mentally handicapped, by the way, and in spite of that has been an incredible success at life 🙂

  4. Sagan Morrow

    Gena- I’ve been known to go grocery shopping to a few different places in one day, too. Kinda nice to get it all out of the way in one afternoon!

    Tracey- Now I’m just jealous that you have access to a Whole Foods 🙂

    Dr. J- It’s interesting how a country can form so much of its national identity around one thing, and once they don’t have that lording over the rest of the world, suddenly it all seems so dismal! I’m rather fascinated by how many Canadians are horrified over losing in hockey. Ah well. That’s so cool that your sister had the chance to meet an entire team! Although I don’t really care much for the sports and the politics of it all, the athletes themselves are really awe-inspiring.

    Michelle- Absolutely! It’s a game 😀

    Westwood- Thought you might, heh.

  5. Cammy@TippyToeDiet

    I do most of my shopping at a chain store. Here, the chains are much less expensive than the corner stores. Go figure.

    My closest Whole Foods is about 5 miles away, and most produce is conventionally grown and seriously overpriced. But I lovelovelove the bulk bins, especially for spices.

    I recently discovered an international market a couple miles away that sells good-looking produce, some of which I have no clue what to do with. Cactus leaves? Hojuelas de papas? I’m researching…:)

    Thanks for another great installment in this series, Sagan!

  6. Sagan Morrow

    Cammy- It depends on what product is at the store, I think. Some things are cheaper at chain stores and some things are cheaper at the smaller stores! OH MY GOODNESS I can’t believe I forgot to mention international stores!! Yes, they’re fantastic. I love all the Asian stores in our downtown Chinatown; really interesting food for fantastic prices. I’ll be shopping a lot at those stores when I live just a few blocks away from them 🙂

    Biz- Keeps things interesting, too!

    Emily- Trader Joe’s is happiness. I should start a petition to bring one to my city.

  7. bhealthier

    PB2 is the only thing I have bought online too! I go to all kinds of stores to get the best deals, for me its fun, food is my thing. I like to see what the best deals are and I just know different places have different things or the same things for better prices.

  8. julie

    I’m so glad you’re talking about this! People think I’m nuts because I have so many shops. It’s only now that I live near an awesome all inclusive grocery, but I still do much shopping at farmers markets, bulk foods, a bit of Trader Joes. I don’t like TJs produce (or nuts or fish), bulk food doesn’t sell fish, etc. Unfortunately, corner stores here are mostly liquor and junk food, back in the city they were often if not outright upscale, sold things like fresh Mexican cheese, fresh chilis. etc. I went into one store last week that sold about 15 types of ginseng, in bulk. Not so useful to me, but fascinating. I won’t even speculate on dried deer, um, private parts. I hope that’s not for food, possibly tea?

  9. julie

    Recently I’ve found a huge adoration for buying things online! Especially protein powders and braggs and what not that I can just get in one huuuge order and have it shipped out and dropped on my doorstep like a beauty 🙂

    Great tips girl!

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