Thursday, April 1, 2010

Grocery Time!

Goodness, dear readers! It's been less than a week since I posted but it feels like a month! A sudden project fell into my lap this week which resulted in copious amounts of writing in the evenings, and then I spent part of one evening at the clinic getting antibiotics and heavy-duty decongestant for this nasty virus thingy that I've been fighting for over three weeks.

Well, the writing project is done, the meds are working, and I'm back!

I thought I'd share these April 3, 1943 grocery store ads with you (you can click on the ads for a larger image):

They're from the Topeka Daily Capital and they're almost 67 years old to the date! Pretty cool, huh? There's so much I like about these ads. I like that you can see typical spring produce like rhubarb, fresh peas and asparagus becoming available for the first time that year. I like that the Lynde-Falley ad on the left includes the ration points alongside the listing. I like that exotic meats like pickled pigs' feet and oxtails are advertised.

And I like the fact that you have what seem like competing grocery store ads right next to each other. From the research I've done I've found that in the 1940s there were at least three grocery stores within easy walking distance from our house (one block, four blocks and seven blocks). In the 1940s folks typically visited only their neighborhood markets, and usually more than once a week (although gasoline and rubber rationing during the War curbed this practice). So, in a sense, since the two grocery stores highlighted in the ads are over a mile apart they are not necessarily competitors. They can peacefully co-exist, filling their own local niches (you know, just like wildebeests and zebras).

This, of course, is very different from today. Today each store has it's own tri-fold, five-color spectacular insert to entice you to their store - even if it means you drive five miles out of your way to do so. And people today do so.

I have to admit that I have a nostalgic longing for the neighborhood grocery, where the staff would know me by name (and not as that lady that brings in all the cloth bags to use and insists that her glass milk bottles not clink together when bagged). Of course, that's one of the reasons why I shop at the local food co-op; I can get the family-feeling but have to deal with limited variety in return. I'm envious of Jamie's frequent trips to his local green grocer (he's doing an entire month of soups now - check it out). Why don't we have green grocers?

Today the nearest grocery store to our house is four blocks away (in the same building as the Lynde-Falley grocery store in the ad above), but you don't go there unless you want to see if it's reputation is well-earned (expired meats and the like). The next closest stores are well over a mile away. Sigh.

So, readers, I will leave you with these questions:
  • How far do you walk/drive to get your groceries?
  • Do you go to the nearest store, or do you drive out of your way to visit your preferred chain?
As always, thanks for reading and thanks for sharing!

--Rational Mama


  1. For the last several months, inspired by you, we have shopped exclusively at the Natural Food Co-op. (and The Merc when already in Lawrence). We do not drive there, unless already passing by. Mostly we walk, or if in a hurry, bike. It is 6 blocks away. I broke this rule over the weekend, when I discovered the lack of variety included salted butter. I had to have salted butter for fresh bagels. Had to. So, I broke down and drove to Dillon's on Friday. Thanks for calling me out. :)

  2. We have a crappy 7-11 type thing a short walk away, but a quality supermarket a slightly longer walk away, happily. However, I live on the outskirts of London. When I lived in a small semi-rural city, we had a crappy 7-11 type thing in the centre, and bigger supermarkets out of town. We did start getting orders from a farmers' market-type online retailer, which did lovely stuff, and took advantage of the small niche companies in that area, but I hear it's gone out of business now, which is a real shame.

  3. Thanks for the input, readers! Based on these comments and those from our friends who follow the blog on Facebook I'll be posting more about the grocery store issue in the future!