And the winner is …

10 Mar

Grocery shopping probably doesn’t sound like a very exciting enterprise.  There’s not much I can do to change that.  But for a mom of three living in a new country, it becomes a weekly (if not daily) adventure in finding the place that suits your needs and budget … and provides that quality of experience that feels most comfortable.  I’m seeking a certain je ne sais quois to go along with my produce and cheese.

I started the British grocery shopping adventure way back when we first arrived.  Almost six months in, I may not know too much more — aside from always bring your own bags — but I do know my way to several major groceries in town.

ASDA
ASDA is the British wing of Walmart.  ASDA is not as vast and depressing as Walmart, or at least the local ASDA is not, and prices are low.  Brands may seem more familiar to the American shopper.  If you need toilet paper in bulk: ASDA.

Co-operative
The Co-op somehow seems hip to me.  They put some effort into their persona.  The one closest to us doesn’t have good parking nearby, so I only pop in if I’m out walking and need something small.  I’m still a little worried about their half price prawn salad specials.  Honestly, if I’m going to eat prawn salad, I’m totally okay with it being full price.

Tesco
I discovered the joy of Costa coffee at Tesco.  The prices at Tesco are pretty good, but the quality is famously uneven.  However: they have Krispy Kreme donuts.  Every now and then, that alone that merits a Tesco run.

Morrisons
It took me a while to discover Morrisons.  The local store is out of the way,  the parking lot is a bit narrow and you must deposit a pound to borrow a cart (or use a token).  However, when I finally made it inside, I found a good variety of food and the best fish counter of all the groceries I’ve seen.  It was easy to find things like tortillas and pitas, which I don’t always find other places: they even carry ‘american style’ cheese like Jack.  Right now, this is my favorite place to shop.

Sainsbury
It’s hard to beat a place with a Starbucks that will wash your car while you shop.  They have an interesting variety of very British-sounding prepared foods, and it’s been fun trying those out.  And yet … for straightforward fresh whole foods it somehow leaves me unsatisfied.

Waitrose
The upscale place to shop.  I generally find myself wandering the aisles next to posh retirees.  The quality can’t be beat, and the prices reflect that: Waitrose values itself.  I prefer their fresh and frozen prepared foods to those from any other store, and the variety of dry goods, produce, and meats on offer is the best.  But the budget won’t let me shop there all the time.

Groceries are personal.  They’re about food, and getting what you need to take care of the people you love.  Respect the grocery store.  When I say my favorite place for groceries– at least for now — is Morrisons, this doesn’t mean I think your favorite place to shop is less worthy.   I’m talking about my sweet spot.  I’d love to hear yours.

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22 Responses to “And the winner is …”

  1. Lisa March 10, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    This is a perfect post for me to read, just having received our car! I’ll definitely have to check out Morrisons since, until we got the car, ASDA was my favorite place only because it was the only place that we could easily walk to. I saw a sign there that said is was in “the Walmart family” of stores and I decided that it’s like the sophisticated cousin. Have you ever thought about Walmart having a person who was designated to hold a sign telling you that there’s no line in a lane? I love it! I think that ASDA is like the sophisticated cousin of Walmart. Oh, and I do love Waitrose, too, but agree with you about the prices!

    • Carolyn March 10, 2012 at 10:46 pm #

      Just wait until you venture into ordering online! http://www.ocado.com is my favorite. They operate out of a Waitrose warehouse (so the food is fresher than ordering from a store), but price-match a lot of Tesco products! They save all of your favorites, so after the first order, it’s easy to re-order stuff. With two little kids, ordering online is the only way to go! Before my youngest was born though, Morrisons was my favorite store by far! We live pretty close to Cirencester and there is a Tesco Extra there (it has all the groceries, plus clothes, home goods, toys, electronics, etc.). I like it quite a bit too.

      • Monique March 11, 2012 at 10:04 am #

        Oh I see the ocado trucks all over town! Online ordering is probably a whole other post. Waitrose is the only grocery delivery service we’ve used (not including our box scheme) — *very* happy with them there. They even delivered to us in our apartment before we found our house. Good to know about the Tesco Extra — does it feel like (holding my breath in hope) Target?

    • Monique March 11, 2012 at 10:02 am #

      They are very friendly at ASDA, never make me feel rushed. And lol I think ASDA would love to think of itself as Walmart’s sophisticated cousin. It’s hard to imagine a British version of peopleofwalmart.com

  2. Lisa March 10, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    Oh, and every time I’m at ASDA, they apologize for my wait, and I think I’ve never had more than one person with 20 items in front of me. Can you ever imagine that happening at Walmart?!?! 🙂

  3. Zazzy March 10, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Well, in my little area it’s Walmart or the local grocery store. In favor of Walmart are the prices and that I can get the rest of my shopping done at the same time. I buy a lot of frozen dinners for my dad and Walmart is more likely to carry different companies. Local, on the other hand, is willing to carry items that don’t sell by the thousands. My in-town local was carrying Scharfenberger chocolates and King Arthur flour for a while and has a fairly decent organic line. They’ve stopped carrying, at least for the off season, most of the exotic stuff. Their produce is often fresher but there is less variety. The local off near Walmart has a better selection of ethnic products and a lousy bakery and a really lousy cheese selection. If I’m up in the city I have more choices and favorite small and large stores for baked goods and seafood and cheese.

    You put it well, it’s a balancing act. I like to support the local grocery, and I really like to be able to buy Irish butter or Scharfenberger chocolate now and again. For “big” shopping and toilet paper, Walmart has to win because my budget is tight and they make it easy for me to get most of what I want in one place.

    @Lisa, Walmart is currently cutting a lot of it’s customer service and trying to bill it as “improving the customer’s experience.”

    • Monique March 11, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      Ah, shopping the small independents is *another* post. I feel like it is such a luxury to have a good local butcher, and bakery (which I do). King Arthur flour … sigh … I’ve had some of their things shipped to me here. Miss them.

  4. Andrea March 11, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    We’re fans of Ocado as well, (love that they source Waitrose and some farm shops, so i can get decent meat) but we get the majority of our food from Able and Cole. The quality is so much more real. We also shop the the Farmer’s Market, the eggs their seem to be the best … I’m always searching for a more yellow yolk :). I do miss the regular old routine of groceries at home!

    • Monique March 11, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      Glad to hear you are still happy with Able and Cole. I’m looking for a new box scheme supplier and am collecting recommendations. 😉 I like how you put it: “real” quality. Up with REAL FOOD!

  5. Jenny March 11, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    I shop at Waitrose- only because the parking is easy and the quality is good. But I will never get used to the crazy 4-wheel drive shopping trolleys or the way the checker just sits behind the till waiting for you to unload everything onto the conveyor belt. It really makes me miss American efficiency! (And Trader Joe’s).

    • Monique March 11, 2012 at 10:14 am #

      No, NOOOOOOO, you made me think of them when I’ve been trying to block them out: Trader Joe’s. How I miss TJ!! Wah, wah, sob sob sob. There’s nothing equivalent here.

      And agreeing with you about the sitting and waiting until I unload the whole trolley. What are they waiting for?? Cause once everything is on the belt, I end up packing the bags faster than they can ring up, and then *I* just sit there waiting for *them* and everyone in line behind me gets impatient. Then again, when the cashier is friendly, we just have a nice chat and then I don’t care about the timing. 😉

      • Lisa March 13, 2012 at 9:30 am #

        It’s funny. I’ve found the whole waiting thing very strange, but it oddly makes me feel less impatient. I like it! 🙂

  6. Tesni March 11, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    I really dislike ASDA! Not sure why, but I find the whole experience inside their shops unpleasant, it just feels cheap and I find it stressful inside. Perhaps I’ve just got super busy ones near me.

    I like Sainsburys best, as it feels very pleasant to walk around.

    Tesco- I actually don’t mind Tesco despite the stick they get for taking over the world, but I do tend to use other supermarkets if possible.

    Waitrose- Love it, but can’t afford it. Same goes to Marks & Spencers food.

    Not had much experiences of Morrisons, so don’t have an opinion on them. Around where I live there are Morrisons but they are more awkward to get to. Perhaps I should test them out if you liked them so much.

    We have a brilliant butchers and grocers on our highstreet which are very good value and fresh local produce! 🙂 Perfect.

    • Monique March 12, 2012 at 9:46 am #

      Good point about the size of the stores making a difference in the experience. I think my local Sainsbury is bigger than my local ASDA, and I find it a bit overwhelming. If you find ASDA stressful and cheap, just imgine how a US Walmart feels. Thanks for pointing out M&S, I haven’t been there for food, yet! Tho it sounds like I won’t be doing any major shopping there 😛

  7. lizzybradbury March 12, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Congratulations on such a great blog!

    I enjoy reading it so much I have selected you as a worthy recipient of The Versatile Blogger award.

    Visit – http://lizzybradbury.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/versatile-blogger-award/

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    • Monique March 12, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Thanks Lizzy! How thoughtful! ❤

  8. Sarah March 12, 2012 at 10:20 am #

    I only have a minute to comment (I’m attempting to be RESPONSIBLE today, Lord help me), so I haven’t read all the replies. I love, love, love Morrisons. Our closest one is 30 minutes away, though, so I stick with Tesco and find I can make it work most of the time. If my Sainsburys had a Starbucks and washed my car I would not care what the selection was. But again – Sainsburys is as close as Tesco. I, too, would still choose Morrisons if it were a suitable option. Oh, it’s so funny reading these posts – you are literally writing about my life, too. Only so much better!

  9. Neda March 12, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

    This is awesome.

    I find I do most of my shopping at Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. I would shop at Waitrose more, but like you, the budget doesn’t allow it. And coming back from Sainsbury’s, I do ocasionally run into the M&S food store (it’s in the plaza that has the McDonald’s and Argos in Kingsditch) because I really like their brand of tortilla chips! It works for when I can’t get my Tostitos at the base.

    Did you hear we are getting a Whole Foods soon? Somewhere in Twekesbury! (Pretty sure I just butchered that spelling.)

    You should do a post about your favorite local shops too! Come to think of it, you should have a form for taking requests on your posts. It’s only fair.

    • Monique March 12, 2012 at 9:09 pm #

      Whole Foods, really??? WOW! Now I can overspend on yummy food at TWO groceries! lol Like the idea about local shops — although I haven’t quite developed the blogger chutzpah necessary to take photos at the butcher or baker’s counter. (Hello, Mr Butcher, would you mind posing with those sausages? …. not there yet.)

  10. Lisa N March 12, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    I have a local Sainsbury’s so I tend to shop there mainly for the location. M&S does have a nice grocery area, we go there for special occasions! They have the best apple cinnamon hot cross buns!!
    Dove’s Farm Orangic flour is my flour of choice (in response to King Arthur Flour) and its reasonably priced!
    We have a Costco for our bulk shopping and sometimes I find things like wishbone salad dressings and other American brands!

    • Monique March 12, 2012 at 11:45 pm #

      Sometimes it’s so nice to see something familiar. Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying British food and tastes, but some days I just want some familiar cheese. 😉 I think my closest Costco is an hour away (not sure). I’ve never shopped there (not even back home) but I hear a lot of good things.

      Thanks for the tip re: the flour!

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