If you’re British and moving out to the American East Coast, or just visiting for a while, then my series on living in America may be helpful. This is the first in the series and it’s devoted to food shopping in American Supermarkets on the East Coast, and covers stores in Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.
I grew up in England and four years ago I moved to the east coast of the US. Most of that time I have spent living in Connecticut, but I also lived in the green mountain state, Vermont for a year.
I love shopping for food and I find American supermarkets compared to British even more enjoyable. There is a greater variety of stores to choose from which vary in size from the super-giant-supermarkets to smaller boutiques, which for example, they have a purely vegetarian grocers. Most, if not all, of them, have an area where you can grind your own peanut butter! – It tastes much nicer than the likes of the pre-packaged varieties. And all of the stores have international sections, so I’m able to pick up of some of my British faves, like PG tips tea and Hobnob digestive biscuits. There are some food items that they don’t sell here or that are hard to find, and some items are much more expensive (like smoked salmon). I haven’t seen one packet of Prawn Cocktail crisps sold state side, so I order through a supplier on Amazon.
So Brits, if you’re looking for a store that compares to the one you usually shop at then here’s my recommendations. If Waitrose or Marks and Spencer are your usual spots then you’ll probably like Fairway or Whole Food stores best. If you shop at Sainsbury’s or Tesco then Big Y and Shop Rite are good substitutes. Below I go into more detail for each shop that I’ve tried in Connecticut.
In order of most expensive to least
This one is the most expensive of the lot, I heard someone joking on the radio that they nicknamed the store “Whole Paycheck”! They have high-quality food standards for what they sell, which is mostly organic, and they don’t sell foods with “hydrogenated fats or artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners or preservatives”. They sell a variety of foods in bulk: grains, granola, flours, and nuts. You can grind you own peanut butter!
There is a nice bakery, and in the bakery section (although not baked on site) and you can buy cinnamon flavoured crumpets! They have a large cooked foods section in a help yourself style canteen which they price by weight, again it’s quite expensive.
In their fish section they have smoked mackerel, and it’s the only store in the US that I have found selling it.
Whole Foods does a good job with making their store feel interesting to browse around, with their décor, and their employees are always friendly and helpful.
Overall this supermarket is a little on the pricey side too, but less so than Whole Foods. There is a large selection of international foods, including British. They sell Jamón Ibérico which is world’s most expensive ham ($200 per lb.); it’s similar to Prosciutto ham but with a richer and nutty flavor, if you’re ever in Seville in Spain you’ll see plenty of it there and much cheaper there, of course. Their employees are happy and well trained, they know their section. There is an extensive selection of imported cheeses and olive oils, with a tasting area too! There is a food court area with cooked foods. You can grind your won peanut butter here.
There is a diverse variety of organic produce. It’s a big store with a huge amount of produce, but they do well to not make it feel like a warehouse.
They have store brand products which they make on site, like tortilla chips, and they roast coffee beans onsite. Giant open sacks of coffee beans fill the area with their aroma.
You can buy a whole tray of Tiramisu here, and it’s magnificent.
Fairway stores are mostly in New York, a couple in New Jersey, and the only one in Connecticut is in Stamford.
Stew Leonards is the Disneyland of supermarkets. If you have kids, then this is the either the best or possibly the worst place to bring them. At the entrance, there is an ice cream shop selling whipped ice cream (like a Mr. Whippy) or as they call it here – soft serve ice cream. It’s a bit of a maze to walk around the shop; quite literally, this supermarket isn’t designed on a grid system with aisles like the rest! They give away some food samples, there are singing puppets, and if I remember correctly I once saw a person walking around dressed as a cow. Their produce is nice, but they don’t have a lot of organic produce.
They have three stores in Connecticut and three in New York.
Relatively small, but it could be just the one I visited in Milford. They mostly sell their own branded foods and ready-made foods. They are the quirkiest of the bunch, selling green tea ice cream, coffee syrup, and their own brand of pop tarts or as they call them “Frosted Toaster Pastries”. They are reasonably priced. Their staff is very friendly, helpful, and I found them to be pretty funny too.
They have stores in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.
Edge of the woods
Edge of the Woods is a vegetarian supermarket, so there is no meat or fish, but they aren’t vegan so you can buy dairy. They are relatively small compared to most supermarkets but very well priced, and they aren’t a chain store, so there is only one and it’s in New Haven. They sell organic produce, some foods you can buy in bulk by weight: grains, granola, flours, and nuts. They sell freshly ground Tahini, and you can grind your own peanut butter. There is an onsite bakery, and a food bar selling salads, sandwiches, coffee and freshly squeezed concoctions. There is a health section on top selling vitamins, chemical free cosmetics, homeopathics, tea that you can buy in bulk, incense, and candles.
Big Y & Shop Rite
Both Big Y and Shop Rite are similar in size and produce. Both are large warehouse-style superstores. They both have international food sections, which include a British section with Marmite, digestive biscuits, Crunchie bars, and PG tips. They are the cheapest of the bunch to shop at; I’d say they are similar to a Sainsbury’s or Tesco.
The Big Y near us has a fish and chip shop built in to the fish section where you can buy battered cod and chips. They sell freshly made sandwiches which they build on the spot for you, hot pizza, and soup.
Big Y has stores are all around Connecticut and Massachusetts. Shop Rite stores are in Connecticut, and also in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
Of all the stores, I have the most affinity for Fairway with their interesting produce. For anything that I can’t find in grocery store I usually either search for it on Amazon, like the Prawn Cocktail crisps, or I have to wait to enjoy it back in the UK (scotch eggs, sausage rolls, M&S coffee flavoured milk, and basically any picnic food!).
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below, and stay tuned for more in the series.
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