The Suburban Grocery Store Scene​

You’ve left the city and are now settling in in the suburbs. But, as new suburbanite Alison Sherwin discovered, there’s still one final step: learning to navigate the suburban grocery shopping landscape. Here’s what she discovered in the Westchester suburbs, and why having stroller-sized aisles is a major plus.

 

So you’ve taken the plunge and moved to the Westchester suburbs—now what? The family needs to eat, and sadly you can’t live on takeout forever. Once you’ve celebrated all the storage space in your new kitchen (!) and unpacked all the pots and pans, the cooking begins. It’s time to explore the grocery store options in the area.

My old apartment was a block away from a Fairway, so I was spoiled by the ability to find almost everything I could have needed or wanted in one spot. Fairway didn’t have everything—it lacked many specialty Indian and Asian ingredients and a few items for which I needed to brave a Gristedes—but it came pretty close.

Once I started cooking in my new house, I found that to get everything I wanted, I would need to go to many different stores. It may sound crazy, but none of these places are too far away and I don’t go to all of them every week. Plus, I get to revel—every visit—in the joy that is grocery shopping with children in the suburbs! (That’s not sarcasm.) After struggling in the city with strollers, tiny carts, and narrow aisles teeming with people, the suburban grocery store is a dream. That doesn’t mean that shopping with toddlers is anything other than stressful, but at least the carts are big and the aisles are wide.

First stop—the closest full-size supermarket to your house. For me, that’s a Stop & Shop. Wide selection, wide aisles, and grocery carts with plastic cars in front that your kid can “drive.” Fair warning—those car carts aren’t the easiest to maneuver, but if it keeps your toddler occupied, so be it. Stop & Shop has all the basics in a wide selection of brands, a decent selection of organic and conventional produce, and some of the ethnic options I like. The store is lacking however, some of the oddest things—for a while mine didn’t carry dark corn syrup—but overall it works for daily shopping.

DeCicco’s. There’s one in Ardsley and other branches throughout the Westchester suburbs.  If it was closer to my house I’d make it my everyday store. It’s got a great selection of produce (both organic and conventional), a really great butcher and a deli that I love. I find that the ethnic variety is a bit better than at my Stop & Shop, and it carries some fancier options.

Overall, it feels quite a bit like a Fairway to me. I see on the Westchester “mommy” boards a lot of complaints about it being expensive, but after almost a year of shopping there, I’m still trying to figure out why. Yes, there are some nicer and therefore more expensive options, but the day-to-day items seem to be priced the same as at Stop & Shop. If someone can explain this to me, please do!

Whole Foods. I go to the one in White Plains. You can park in the parking garage connected to the store, making the stress of driving in White Plains worth it. This branch has everything you would expect from a Whole Foods. I buy a lot of organic items and specialty items there that I simply can’t find elsewhere. Grab your reusable shopping bags and go.

Trader Joe’s. I go to the one in Hartsdale, but they’re also in Scarsdale and Larchmont. It probably has the narrowest aisles of any of the grocery stores I go to. But it has all the Trader Joe’s specialty foods and rotating seasonal options. In the fall, everything is pumpkin. For the holidays, it’s all gingerbread. I can’t get everything I need there, but it’s always fun to go in.

HMart (Hartsdale). Asian and other ethnic foods galore! A foodie’s dream! Plus, a bakery! I find it’s not a great place to bring my kids, as it takes me a bit of time to find what I’m looking for because many of the items are labeled in different languages. I can’t just run in, grab two things, and run out. But any Asian produce you are looking for, it’s there. Any random ingredient that I can’t find in traditional stores or on Amazon, it’s there, too. It may not be in English so be prepared with pictures of the item on your phone. And stop in the bakery for something—especially if you’ve left the kids at home.

Stew Leonard’s (Yonkers). My kids love this store. Every few feet there’s a talking or singing animal, and a train goes around the cashier area. Before you go, understand that there’s one path through the store. You have to wind around the entire store to get to check-out. It’s a time commitment, especially when you have to stop and listen to each animal sing. Amazing prepared foods and the nicest cashiers. However, Stew Leonard’s does not carry everything that a “normal” grocery store does.

 

I didn’t understand this the first time I went and was so confused by the fact that although I had yummy flying saucers and an excellent calzone in my cart, I still had to go to another store to do my actual grocery shopping if I was going to cook dinner that night.

Costco (Yonkers). Yup, you’ve moved to the Westchester suburbs. One Costco membership, please. I buy organic milk there once a week. Buy paper products and diaper wipes in bulk as well as anything else your kids eat rapidly. And hey—you have a house now—storage space!

 

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Two issues: First, it’s extremely crowded on weekends. Second, the organic produce selection isn’t the best or consistent. What might be organic one week may not be the next. But, if you have freezer room, there are great organic produce options in the frozen section. Plus, the Costco in Yonkers is next to Home Depot and Stew Leonard’s is right around the corner, so you can combine errands.

That’s my list of usual suspect grocery stores. There are different reasons to go to each and I try and stock up on things at each store to avoid frequent trips. It took me a while to figure out where to go, but it’s nice to have options. Besides—I can now put groceries in my trunk and drive home—no more lugging bags of groceries home while trying to push a stroller too!

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