Published: 01/08/2018 Comments: 9
In January, I moved to New York City from London with my family (one husband, one daughter now 10-months old, and one cat). The move, initiated by a job opportunity for my husband, has enabled me to press pause on my career of 20+ years in the City and accept a position as CEO of our household. Part of the job description is managing our family budget (my husband will laugh out loud when he reads that), so I need to be savvy with our expenses, in particular with regards to food shopping, without breaking the bank.My mission is to do what sensible people do – only buy what I need and not what I think I need. To look in my kitchen cupboards and check what I have before I buy more food. To use what I already have and put a weekly meal plan together so that nothing is wasted. The benefits are endless!With the theme of food shopping in mind, I thought I’d share a few light-hearted stories about my experiences in the US. I hope you enjoy them.“Next guest please!”In the grown-up world of food shopping, particularly in my local upper east side neighbourhood, I’m lucky to come home with a pint of milk, a loaf of bread and a bar of chocolate and change from a $20 note (approx. £15)! It’s soooooo expensive in NYC. I honestly don’t remember it being this pricey when I spent a short time working here ten years ago, and that was when I lived in Times Square, the heart & soul of tourist land and where my studio apartment lit up like a rainbow from lights bouncing off the M&M store. Ahhh, those were the days!When a neighbour told me there was a Trader Joe’s (lower priced supermarket) over on the upper west side of Manhattan, I quickly planned my route from the upper east side to get there with baby in tow.Unfortunately, this story doesn’t have a happy ending like most American movies. Here are the key standout moments:I went to Trader Joe’s todayMy daughter, Lola, is in her buggyIt’s a 40 minute walk to the storeThe store entrance is fronted by escalators and a lift operated by an employee sitting on a stoolThe lift opens on the lower ground floor and its packed with people (like Christmas shopping busy, except it’s just a regular Tuesday afternoon)10 mins in, Lola gets hungry and starts cryingI find a seat near where they’re stacking the trollies (it’s loud and my feet are nearly crushed from the constant turnaround of trollies)Lola is not happy, but she gradually starts to drinkWe resume shoppingI pick out some lovely muffins, artisan bread, strawberries, gnocchi, cookies, avocado and other recommended items to buy at Trader Joe’s like coffee, eggs and wineThere’s a massive queue snaking around the first floor in order to payI reach check out: “Next guest please!”The food items are scanned by the cashierI squeeze it all into the basket under the pram without carrier bagsThe total comes to $37! Bargain!!I forgot my purseIn the end, I had to pass all of the food items back to the cashier and leave the store without a single item. I gathered all of my resolve and marched on out of the store whilst trying not to cry. It was simply one of those days.Rolling in the aislesIt was a Friday night, we had just flown from NYC to Ohio to visit friends and needed to get some food in from Krogers (another US supermarket) for the long weekend.This particular supermarket is massive – very reminiscent of the large supermarchés in France where you could do a booze-run across the English Channel if you lived in the south of England. It’s basically a warehouse with an enormous amount of food, clothes, and home & garden items.My senses went into overdrive in aisle four. Out of the corner of my eye I could see a guy holding a pint of beer in a glass whilst perusing the craft beers for sale. I immediately questioned my local friend as to what was going on.“That guy over there is drinking,” I said. “Is that allowed?”“Oh yeah, there’s a bar. Do you want a beer?” she said.“Whaaaaaat?” I said. “An actual bar?”“Yes, a bar. You can have some wine if you’d prefer,” she said.Stepping out of aisle four we turned into the bar. Maybe I was giddy due to the fact that drinking alcohol hasn’t been high up on my list of priorities recently. I had left Lola with her dad while I went shopping with the girls. I was gobsmacked.In the clearing was a singer with his guitar playing lively soulful music to people sat around a bar with their shopping trollies parked behind them. Some were sharing bottles of wine and eating bar snacks, some looked like they were on dates whilst also getting their weekly shopping.My hesitation about whether to get a beer or not lasted roughly five seconds. I knew it could potentially be dangerous - there was another 96 aisles to go! But, I decided I was ‘out’ (thanks Micky Flanagan) and ordered a pint. It was Friday night after all. Maybe we would end up going ‘out out’.Needless to say, we bought more food than needed. In addition to the many bread products we threw into the shopping trolley, I purchased a Fisher Price Kick & Play Piano, some Little Swimmers nappies and a Boppy (baby support pillow) for my daughter. Unfortunately, our carry-on luggage allowance for the flight back to NYC wouldn’t allow for my purchases, so most of it stayed in Ohio with my friend. Bugger.Yoghurt LandThis is a short story, but quintessentially NYC.Question: When can you have too many yoghurts to choose from? Answer: At a store called A Matter of Health in NYC. Photographic evidence below.This wall of yoghurt stopped me in my tracks.The irony of it all is that they don’t sell the brand I like called Ithaca Milk, which I found in another store and tastes more like panna cotta than yoghurt.Enough said.