The question I get asked most often about our “biking lifestyle” is: How do you grocery shop on your bike? Do you shop every day? Can you really carry enough for a family of four? I think people can wrap their brains around getting from here to there, but dealing with the stuff is a whole ‘nother thing. It just seems too daunting.
I’d say we shop a little more often than we used to, but not much. I shop frequently any way because I love fresh produce, I’m a terrible planner so I usually miss something we need, and I like to have stocked cupboards all the time. I don’t want anyone to go hungry so I make sure we always have more than enough of everything. And now that we pedal to the store, it’s so easy to pop in and pick up a few things if I happen to be out and about – no parking, no hassle, so why not?
Sometimes the kids and I just need to get out of the house and we’re looking for a destination. The grocery store is an obvious one – you can always find something you need and the kids, are ever hopeful that they might get a cookie or ice cream or something, are usually game.
We are fortunate to live within close biking distance of eight different grocery stores. It’s one of the reasons we love our neighborhood – the grocery choices are great. There’s something for everyone within a mile or two of our house.
I used to choose a store based on the quality of produce and the beer selection, etc. While this is still important, ease of biking is now number one.
Here’s my quick grocery store checklist:
- Is the store at the bottom or top of the hill? (I’d much rather bike up the hill to the store and ride down on the way home with my grocery-laden bike)
- What’s the rack situation? It’s one thing to lock up to a post or a fence or whatever when you’re running into grab a cup of coffee. But when you come out of a store with four or five or six grocery bags, you need some room to load up. A spacious rack situation is appreciated.
- Is the store close to anything else? Can I make a few other stops before or after I shop? Can I make a loop out of it?
While Seattle is no Portland, where stores seem to all have excellent biking facilities, it’s not terrible. Most grocery stores have at least one rack in the front of the store. Some are better than others but it’s rare that you can’t find something to lock to.
Our local Whole Foods has been winning these days. (small uphill to the store, covered bike racks, other stores near by, makes a good loop and has good food choices). It may cost a pretty penny to shop there, but because I don’t buy gas much anymore I can do my best mental accounting and justify the extra dollars.