Random Musings on Kosher Shopping - Discuss
Over the holiday we were invited to lunch by someone from shul. One of the other guests was a single man who had just (this week) moved to our area and was asking about food shopping, ie, where to shop, who carried what, etc. The Spouse and I ran down a list of options such as the Russian/Iranian market that carries many Israeli packaged and frozen goods, the Asian store that has a number of OU items and great produce and whole fish, the Mexican groceries that have many items with Latin American heckshers and well priced produce, etc. The newcomer was especially happy to hear about the Mexican stores as he is South American and is missing the tastes of home.
What I found surprising, though, was that our host was unfamiliar with most of these stores even though none of them are new and he has lived in the area for quite a while. This is a very small city and there really aren't all that many different places to shop, kosher or not. The Cabot OU topic also came up and he was quite sure that Cabot has never ever been OU, even though we have a Costco and we had arranged, through a local kosher coop, to buy Passover Cabot a few years ago.
So my question is this - Is this type of shopping behavior the norm among kosher consumers? Are they largely unaware of the great variety of perfectly good hekshered items available in "non-kosher" stores? Do many shoppers still think that only kosher stores carry kosher food? What are your thoughts and experiences?
I know so many people who believe in one stop shopping. As in, if Pomegranate doesn't have it, the item doesnt exist. Nothing wrong with that, especially if you're schelepping kids.
I enjoy shopping for food. I shop in the kosher stores for meat, fish, and certain grocery items. But I enjoy going to the regular supermarkets- the prices are sometimes better and there's such a great variety of items. Friends of mine would never set foot in an Asian market, but thats one of my best secrets. The vegetables, fruit, tofu, fresh noodles, and sauces are all great bargains. When people ask how I know if it's kosher I respond look at the label!! Trader joes, whole foods, the Russian grocery store, Caribbean fruit shop, syrian grocery, guy on the street selling mangoes..... I take my daughter with me everywhere and she's usually perfectly thrilled sitting in the wagon. I figure it's a good education to be out shopping and seeing everything. Costco is one of her best haunts!
Lots of people I know will only shop In a kosher store because they "have the guarantee that it's kosher." is this kind of what youre getting at?
On the one hand, I agree. People are amazingly unaware of what's out there, and delighted when I serve it to them.
On the other hand, life is short, and the bane of my existence as a kosher consumer is that I can never shop in just one store. I've been around, as In I have lived (as in kashered a kitchen and changed my address with the post office) in many states and cities and even in major Jewish communities like New York I have to schlep to multiple stores to get what I need.
I WISH there was one store that carried everything I cannot cook without.
Time is money. Paying more is not always a waste or luxury when it affords time with the family instead of running from store to store to store. This is especially true in NYC when it is not just getting in and out of a car and parking for free in each store's own parking lot.
I like one stop shopping where I can get all that I need, and I am known to the staff and considered an important part of their livelihood so as to be missed if I'm not there. The shopkeepers don't really care about the bargain hunters who come in only to buy the advertised specials and not spend a nickel more.
I do most of my grocery shopping in a family owned supermarket. They know me. They have plenty of staff. Bag boys empty your carriage onto the cashier's belt, they always carry your bags to the car and put them in the trunk. They always ask if you found what you needed, and if it's a kosher item they don't stock, but can get from their distributors they will order it for you.
Does it cost me another 3% per year, yes, but it's worth it.
Last April and May I was in and out of the hospital three times and didn't shop. After not being in the store the first 10 days, the head cashier stopped my 15 year old who was shopping and asked if I was ok. My daughter said that I was in X hospital. The next day, a delivery arrived from the market with flowers, fresh fruits, a nice card and a request that if there was any food they could provide to make my hospital stay better, to please call, also if it would make it easier at home, they'd be happy to take a phone order and deliver.
But even this all this service, I still need to shop elsewhere for fresh kosher meats (not counting packaged Empire), fresh cut deli and appetizing.
Back in 1992 when I was working 3 days a week and kept an aprtment in Albany, I could go into the Price Chopper in Colnie and meet all my kosher shopping needs. Nevr had that luxury anywhere else I worked or lived.
There are wealthy people who simply shop at one store for convenience and saving a few dollars is simply not an issue.
As an example. My niece married a boy from Lawrence, very wealthy and where do they shop- at Seasons (formally Supersol). I thought that was puzzling considering you have the likes of Gourmet Glatt and Brachs to choose from. Except for some meats they are extremely expensive. So I asked why does she shop there? She said, well when I go to Seasons I simply give them my in-laws phone number and say - charge it - voila, free food. This way she, other family members, and the housekeeper can also go there, shop a storm, price is no issue, and simply "charge" it to the parents/employer with no need of giving credit cards, cash or checks.
I am sure there are other reasons for one stop shopping but I think the convenience coupled with the relative affluence would be the driving force.
I am more middle class so I will stray at times from Brachs for really good deals or meat purchases but only if it is worth my while. I am not looking for absolute lowest prices but have an aversion to being clearly ripped off, and will refuse to purchase what I consider an unreasonably priced item out of principle.
Mind you, my analysis and observation is only for a community where there are one-stop kosher shopping options, if there are none then one must float around and differing shopping strategies must be employed.
I'm not sure if it is a kosher phenomenon or just an American phenomenon, although I see a small change as America becomes more food aware and more diverse culturally. I shop a few ethnic markets and am always on the lookout for new and interesting kosher items. I have a feeling that people think that those stores are only for those specific ethnic groups. I've always told people, kosher or not, if you want to find the freshest ingredients for a particular recipe, shop those stores. I shop an Iranian store for Israeli products as well and I have a large spanish/korean market near me that has an incredible variety of produce, fish and dry goods. Within the eastern European section there is a part labeled "kosher" which is mainly Israeli goods, but this market has all sorts of interesting stuff throughout the store and when I mention it to people they seem shocked. I'm not sure they explored the rest of the store like I did. Also many people are not on posts like this to find out about new and interesting kosher items. Admittedly if you're on this thread, you're pretty motivated to expand your kosher horizons. I think a lot of people depend on the big box stores for their food and don't really venture out of their comfort zone.