Grocery shopping doesn’t pop up on the list of Top 10 ways to spend a weekend for most people. As for me, it’s one of my favorite things to do.
And no, I’m not talking about strolling down an aisle of paper towels and cleaning products. I like to shop for food and, specifically, I’m more of an around-the-edges type of shopper. That’s where you find the meat, seafood, dairy and produce. Of course, nutritionists will tell you that’s where we should all be doing our shopping, as most of the prepared foods, full of fat, sodium and impossible-to-pronounce preservatives are found in those dreaded middle aisles.
I skirt the borders of a store not only to avoid those processed foods in the center, but also because I like to talk with those who are working behind the counters. Those are the folks who likely place the orders and unpack all the fresh fish, meat, cheese and lettuce on a daily basis. In other words, they are the ones who know — or should know — what’s best today.
I’ve always found it in my best interest to get to know the people who sell me my food. It’s not hard to do. Most of them are actually interested in the product they work with and take some pride in sharing their knowledge. Yes, there are some who don’t take the time to understand much about what’s in the case they stand in front of day after day (and it’s equally as important for me to know where I don’t want to shop), but they are in the minority.
By taking the time to ask questions about the beef roast, salmon or wedge of local cheese I’m about to buy, I can usually find out what’s freshest, or what’s a great value, or some new way to prepare an item that I’d never thought about myself.
In the spring, summer and fall, I spend most weekends talking with vendors at any one of our many farmers markets, but in the winter, I’m reminded how lucky we are to live in a food-centric city with so many good grocery store options.
They’ve come a long way in the past 10 years. I can now find ingredients for dishes I could never have imagined finding a decade ago.
Singapore Noodles are a great example. Rice noodles, fish sauce, even napa cabbage and fresh ginger would have been hit-or-miss not so long ago. Now it would be surprising not to find them. More reason to head to the grocery store.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of “Everyday to Entertaining” and “The Big Book of Appetizers.” Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.