When we think of small, locally-owned businesses, we rarely think of our local grocery store. I remember amid the early years of motherhood, the grocery store was often a moment of sanity. Just to be an adult, even for only that moment, meant the world to me. I knew what every aisle was going to have. I never had to guess where the pasta and cereal was. In some ways, especially when I was in a hurry, that sense of sameness was an absolute comfort and lifesaver.
But I’ll never forget that one trip when I was in the canned food aisle of a major supermarket. There I was, looking at the beans. I don’t know why it was the bean aisle, but it was. I needed something different to cook, something inspiring. All I saw were beans staring blankly back at me, offering nothing new or original. One aisle over, I stared at pasta. Was I craving pasta? The spaghetti and macaroni noodles sat on their shelves mockingly, completely unsympathetic to my plight. I wanted to cook something different for dinner and needed inspiration, but I knew one more aisle over was the cereal aisle carrying all the same things I’d seen a million times before. And did I really want cold cereal for dinner? No, that aisle I could skip. Maybe I’d find inspiration in the soup aisle. Nope, I wanted to cook and not just open a can. Everything was the same, too much the same. Everything was in perfect order, just too perfect at the time. Don’t get me wrong, with the right recipe; your grocery experience has endless opportunities. But don’t you love it when you find the unexpected and a new dinner option jumps to mind, and suddenly buying rice and flour takes on a whole new meaning? As I recall, I went home with milk, eggs, bread, and some produce without a clue what I was making for dinner. Grocery shopping at its worst, right?
It wasn’t long after that shopping experience a Grocery Outlet opened up not too far from our house. Now, as you know, your local Grocery Outlet isn’t the most modern shopping experience, complete with staged lighting, new flooring, or that irresistible sound of an espresso machine bringing all kinds of magic that comes with coffee. Nope, they don’t have a barista, a florist, or freshly made baked goods either. It wouldn’t be long before our family nicknamed it the used food store. The name makes sense when you see in-house labels like Lucerne (Safeway) or Best Value (Walmart) on the shelves. But what keeps me going back to the Grocery Outlet is their inspiring surprises.
If you love all things cheese like me, you’ll find there is a constant supply of cheeses coming in from all over the world, all at half the price of what you could find in a big-box grocery store. Whether you like sharp cheeses, moldy cheese, soft cheese, goat cheese, creamy cheese, or just all things good about cheese, you’ll find it all here. And how can you have cheese without wine? I love checking out the wine and consistently finding local Californian and European wines, often at two-thirds the cost of retail. I’m always ready for the spontaneous picnic or charcuterie board after grazing their nuts and dried food section.
One of my other favorite aha moments was when I first found wild-caught Ahi in the freezer section. Tadaaa, another fantastic dinner inspiration! I also remember finding their organic and grass-fed hamburger meat. I have a constant supply in my freezer. And let’s not forget about their specialty hot dogs, uncured bacon, gluten-free products, fine vinegars, and olive oils, sauces, and a fairly large health food section. It doesn’t matter when you go; you’ll always find something new and unique.
On my last visit, I was tempted to buy a Starbucks mug with a packet of hot cocoa as a stocking stuffer. But I told myself it was too early for holiday shopping and resisted the temptation. Now I kinda regret it. No, you’re not going to find absolutely everything on your grocery list, but what you will find you may not find anywhere else, which makes it all the more worth the extra stop.
Thankfully, we all support our many locally-owned grocery stores. Honestly, Hardester’s on Cobb has saved more than one holiday meal in my home for that last-minute essential item. But, if you’re looking to spice up your grocery shopping experience, be sure to support your locally-owned Grocery Outlet in-between your locally-owned grocery store visits. You won’t be disappointed.