Tuesday, August 3

Grocery Shopping

"But how do you do your grocery shopping?"

It generally takes about 10 minutes for this to raise it's head when you tell someone you don't have a car. I've don't really understand why it seems to be a concern, but, then if my blind, non-driving mother could manage the shopping in rural England, suburban Australia is bound to seem a doddle.

First off, I'm only cooking for one these days (albeit, a disgustingly healthy appetite). I also like to pop to the shops a couple of times a week. I don't buy much frozen food, so, getting my veggies regularly keeps them fresh. Within 4kms I have 4 major chain supermarkets (yuck!), a wonderful Italian provisions store, an Asian grocers (lovely greens, sigh!), a grower's mart, a beef co-operative outlet (from down south), a delicatessen (over-priced), 2 small independent grocers (my usual), an organic food supplier, a middle-eastern supermarket (fab bulk grains and spices), 5 liquor-stores, a wet fish van, 2 butchers and 4 bakeries. I don't think my not having a car is liable to induce starvation any time soon! I'm not even counting fast food outlets, restaurants and the fact that, using the train, I could shop in any suburb I liked.

I tend to get my day to day supplies from IGA (an independent grocers 2kms along the road). If I were consciously thinking of doing a 'big' shop I'd pop the panniers on. The fact of the matter is though, that 90 percent of the time I just plonk my work bag back on the rack and head off. I lock the bike to a post that is less than 3m from the entrance and the check-out staff keep an eye on it for a little added security.

I think I've got an in-built mechanism for calculating how much will fit in my bag as I never seem to go over and rarely have much space to spare. I guess that might be the only difference in taking a bike to the shops. If I get what I need and there's still room I make purchases to fill the space with things that I may need later in the week, or that I can stock up on. Toilet paper is always a good one! This trolley easily packed into my work bag.

If I was shopping for two then I would probably use panniers more and if I were shopping for a family of four only once a week then I would use the trailer, but, it's still perfectly easy to do. If you're not used to packing a bike for camping there are a few things that it might help to consider. Packaging! Boxes, bottles and jars take up a lot more room than the same items soft-packed. So, for example, if I am buying spices I get the ones in bags and refill my glass jars at home and I buy my oats or muesli in bags rather than boxes. If I am buying laundry detergent or dish-washing liquid I get the concentrates. "It wouldn't fit on the bike", is a great reason for not purchasing plastic bottle, after plastic bottle of icky soft drink. Liquids are not only heavy, but, make the most disgusting mess if they leak.

I am not an advocate of disposable shopping bags, but, I always have a few and wrap my liquids in them. I don't want my groceries awash with OJ, honey or yoghurt. If you are using panniers, try and have them weighing roughly the same and pack the heaviest groceries at the bottom. If you want to maximise your room then don't just try and stuff your grocery bags into your panniers, use the little items to tuck into spaces. If your panniers or bag detach from the bike, remove them, pack them and then put them back. If you are packing a trailer try and keep the weight over the wheel base (I find the 2-wheeled trailers better for carting things around the 'burbs. They tend to be more stable and can carry greater amounts than the single-wheeled ones).

When I'm all packed it's then a gentle pootle down a couple of bike paths and within 5 minutes I'm home. By the time I'd found the car keys, combated the traffic, parked away from the store-front and walked, returned the trolley to the trolley-bay, started the car up, etc. I can't see how shopping by car would be any more stress-free or take less time.


Traci said...

Hi - just recently found your blog and am enjoying reading through the posts! This one is great, as shopping for groceries by bike is something that I haven't yet considered trying. I'm actually not sure that I ever will since I think it honestly might be one of the few things that would be easier to do by walking and using a rolling cart. The biggest issue is that while a grocery store is only about 3 blocks away, to get to it by bike requires cycling on a really busy, fast-moving 4-lane. I'll bike on it to get to a restaurant during off-peak traffic hours (I pedal as quickly as possible to get to another street!), but I don't think I'd feel comfortable carrying a load on it and then having to turn left while 3 other lanes of traffic whiz by!

I'd love to have all the stores that you describe close by! I'm in the U.S. (Atlanta) which is the city of sprawl, so even in more developed areas, there's still not as many places for grocery items as you describe. A few farmers markets here and there on weekends and the big-box grocery stores, but that's about it. Most of the international market type stores are away from the city oddly enough and we don't have the typical bakeries as seen in most European cities. I so want to move to Europe to live in a place where people walk, bike, and shop at small shops in very densely populated areas rather than a sprawling metropolis with strip malls and suburbs stretching as far as the eye can see!

BB said...

Traci - I think I'd probably walk too! :D

We have 'sprawl' in Western Australia as well. The more I read other people's blogs the more I realise I'm pretty lucky. My suburb is old and working class, but,the advantage I guess is that it was built before it was assumed all families would have 2 cars so things are quite bike friendly and within reach.

Traci said...

Your suburb sounds great!

I'd like to add a link to your blog on mine if you don't mind :)

BB said...

Traci - Lovely!

ian... said...

I have to agree - I'd walk too Traci, some things just aren't worth the effort LOL

I do most of our shopping by bicycle, and depending where from it's between 1 & 3 miles away. Otherwise we tend to walk & its months since we took the car for grocerys. It really isn't worth the hassle.

BB said...

Ian - and that's for a family in the UK with shops further away! Which confirms my lot in life is pretty cruisey :D

ian... said...

Which confirms my lot in life is pretty cruisey :D
Indeed, and it probably isn't raining in your neck of the woods either ;>D

Velouria said...

Going grocery shopping by bike is easy! But going grocery shopping by bike with drop bars... hat's off to you on that one!

BB said...

@Velouria: The sturdy old surly is like riding a comfy armchair, relaxed angles and built for carting things around. No problem with the drops, it still rides steady as a tank.