This may sound bizarre to you, but my idea of the perfect way to spend a hot, summer afternoon is cruising up and down the aisles of a grocery store. Some grocery stores are more fun than others. I don’t get ripped traipsing around a Safeway or Albertsons, but these days, we have more choices than ever with the proliferation of specialty grocery stores.
In Arizona, we have the haute (A. J.’s Fine Foods) and the hippie (Sprouts), the yuppie locavore haunt (Whole Foods) and the crossbreed (Trader Joe’s), plus the usual suspects: Walmart, Safeway, Albertsons, Fry’s and local Basha’s (who also owns A. J.’s Fine Foods and the Mexican centric Food City stores). We have ethnic markets, too: Lee Lee’s and Ranch 99 (Asian) and Ranch Market (Mexican).
And now the British invasion; I just stumbled upon a new grocery store concept imported from the UK. It’s called Fresh & Easy, and it’s similar to Trader Joe’s, only with wider aisles and more in the prepared foods to-go category. They do a tremendous job of displaying produce and prepared foods, too. So far, Fresh & Easy is limited to Arizona, Nevada and Southern California. They have 60 some-odd stores, with plans for dozens more. The prices are more than reasonable, the store is clean and bright and it’s easy to navigate. What’s not to like? Oh, and it’s just as chilly inside, so bring a sweater and make an afternoon of it.