...just because the kids need to have their say (with apologies to Michelle Obama).
We are continuing our car free life, but now in a new city. I've now surveyed the available food options. Within walking distance we have
1) Small Indian grocery that is very close
Pros: good food/reasonable prices, feel very safe as pedestrian with baby
Cons: limited selection
2) Whole Foods about a mile away
Pros: good quality, sell foods we can't get elsewhere, some good sales
Cons: higher prices overall, temptation to impulse buy, B says "it sucks and the checkers are unfriendly"
3) Stop and Shop about 1.5 miles
Pros: lower prices, wide variety of foods
Cons: pedestrian death trap, cannot take baby if walking
4) A local independent grocery about 2 miles
Pros: Decent prices, awesome selection
5) Farmer's markets, both winter and summer less than a mile away
Pros: Good fresh food, local growers and purveyors
Cons: Expensive (and I hate to say it because I know some farmers and I know they aren't getting rich, and temptation to impulse buy
Not too shabby, but as usual there are a few issues. Distance is the big issue. A mile really isn't too far, but a mile to get a bunch of bananas seems a little ridiculous. The Whole Foods is in the same direction as daycare, so I can swing over when I'm headed to get LB, but the walk is along a terrible road of "the greatest hits of American decline," which includes an old-school closed Sears, a closed furniture showroom, some pawn shops, auto supply stores, and some sketchy looking medical office buildings. There are rarely any pedestrians, and so people drive with no regard for pedestrians. Even the Whole Foods has no sidewalks leading into the parking lot (fake hippies!). By the time I get to the store, I'm always in a foul mood.
The other big no-car issue is only being able to buy what you can carry, which limits how much we can stock up when things are on sale. I'm big on the pantry principle, which I learned from the Christian lady bloggers, but it's hard to buy 6 months of lentils plus weeks worth of fresh food if you need to stuff it all in a backpack. Fresh food tends to be particularly heavy and bulky. We can, and do sometimes, get a zipcar, or we could take a cab home, but those costs definitely negate some of the savings of careful shopping.
During my first year away from home, I lived a short walk from the Boston Food Coop, which had the perfect mix of walkability, high quality natural food, and low prices. That was over twenty years ago and I'm still spoiled. Once I've finished all this Christmas candy, I'm going to drown my sorrows in some red hots.