Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mmmm ... "Free" Ham (Brief Grocer Review)

My first response to the range of grocers in Gainesville was "what ... no Piggly Wiggly?" Moving to the deep south, I thought I'd be able to shop at Piggly Wiggly, dammit. But no dice.

The three main chains in Gainesville are Publix, Winn Dixie (a close second in deep south identification to me), and Sweetbay.

Publix is closest to where we live, which is no surprise because Publix is everywhere. And by "everywhere," I mean that there are two essentially side-by-side shopping centers on Archer Road, each with its own Publix.

I'd like to like Publix, since it's close and especially since it's employee-owned, but the prices ... it's like most of their stuff is made of gold or something. That may have to do with them selling a lot of high-end organic food and so forth, but even the regular groceries seem mostly over-priced. My usual point of comparison is cold cuts. The cheapest hot dogs at Publix cost about half again as much as similar hot dogs did in Missouri, and significantly more than they do at other local stores. I was there not long ago and randomly picked up a 12-ounce box of kosher "pigs in a blanket" from their special Passover section. $13.xx. Yes, you read that right: More than a dollar an ounce for hot dogs in biscuit dough. Needless to say, it didn't go in the cart. Probably wouldn't have anyway -- on the rare occasion when pig in a blanket sounds good to me, I can make more than 13 ounces of them for less than $2 (if I don't buy my hot dogs and biscuit dough from Publix).

Winn Dixie is a mixed bag. Some of their prices are a lot better, some not so much. The real problem with them is that their locations don't happen to be convenient to where we live or where Tamara works (she normally does grocery shopping on her way home from work; I only tag along if we need to pick some stuff up on the weekend).

Fortunately, Sweetbay is fairly conveniently located, and generally has better prices than Publix. And for the last little while, leading up to Easter, they've been running a special. Every time you buy more than X dollars worth of stuff, you get a little coupon. When you get five of those coupons, you can trade them in for another coupon worth $20 off a spiral-cut Easter ham. Which is what Tamara did. Then when she went to get the ham, they were out of all the hams priced at over $20 ... so she got a $16 ham, free. It's in the slow cooker right now, and it smells great.

So we're pretty much with Sweetbay and happy there (the nearest Aldi is in Ocala, too far to drive with any great frequency).

A side note, though: The service is fast, courteous, and friendly in the way that southerners are renowned for, at all of the above-listed grocers. All three chains seem to run clean, well-stocked stores. The only complaint we have with Publix is price, and we'd gladly shop at Winn Dixie more often if it wasn't a cross-town drive.

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