When you tell people you live downtown, the second thing they always ask (after they ask where you park) is where you shop for food. But what’s equally important to know is how. And if you didn’t just fall off the suburban boat yesterday, it’s not done with a car.
True, some of the suburban newcomers do shop for food by car downtown. I don’t know why they’re here. Possibly some sort of clandestine government cross-breeding program and all tagged for migratory purposes.
But the rest of us get our groceries home one of three ways: shopping cart; bus; and L. The blue-haired ladies and those of us who like to shop once every couple of weeks shopping cart it. The rest of us simply buy food more often, take what we can carry, and pull out our Chicago Cards.
Neophytes settle for carrying things home in the single, flimsy, see-through plastic bags that are all-too-common at Chicago markets. Even doubled (and unlike New York, you’re lucky if a checker doubles your flimsy see-through bag in Chicago), these virtually transparent wonders are fit only for carrying food the two feet from shopping cart to trunk.
Downtown, it’s doubled shopping bags all the way. Whether paper-lined 39-cent (what a rip-off) plastic shopping bags from Jewel, or doubled paper handle-carry shopping bags from Whole Foods, these sturdy totes are the wiser way to return home with downtown grocery booty.
Taking home what you can carry means two shopping bags and more-frequent trips to the supermarket, for sure. But it also means that downtown you can revel in always having fresh produce in the fridge. And if you’re down here your market’s closer, anyway.
As with all things, there is a downside to downtown supermarket shopping. I’ll summarize with one word: supersizing. Our big five downtown markets (three Jewels, a Dominick’s, and a Whole Foods) have each made the boneheaded decision to sell the same supersized products in downtown Chicago markets that they hawk in the suburbs, lately to the extent of replacing single-item versions of the same products. Note to the big three: when you’re shopping on foot because you live downtown, who the heck is going to be carting home six shrink-wrapped rolls of paper towels, a bushel of celery, or a 30-gallon bag of cat litter?
This means that sometimes we have to hop from market to market down here to find appropriately human-sized items to purchase. Then again, what’s life without a little adventure?
Well, I mean, besides the suburbs?
Michael Thaddeus Doyle
I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.