Obstacle one: Groceries

Coming to New York for the summer, I knew that one of my biggest difficulties was going to be food.

Food is everywhere here, but if you don’t want to spend a ton of money or eat a lot of fried, you might be in trouble. I live in midtown, where there don’t seem to be grocery stores. So my project for today was to find food. Hungry after moving in on an empty stomach this morning, I set off in search of nourishment.

First objective: breakfast. I stopped in a couple small delis before settling on one that gave me a yogurt and a banana for $1.50. Not bad.

Then I headed to the farmers market. Wanting to explore, I walked the 17 street blocks instead of taking the subway. There I found a nice assortment of plants and cheese, but not quite as many fruits and vegetables as I had hoped. Still, I found apples, spinach, tomatoes, pea pods and strawberries. Next problem: It’s all cash-only. My bank doesn’t exist in NYC, so I’m going to running up some big ATM fees if I don’t watch out.

About halfway through my meandering I realized that I’ve never really gone grocery shopping for myself before. I’ve lived in a residence hall or at home my whole life, so I don’t really know enough prices to know what’s a good buy. I just had to compare prices and hope the entire market wasn’t a ripoff. And as much as I’m excited about cooking on my own next year, it’s just a bit too difficult in this city without grocery stores. Plus, it’s hot, so I don’t want heavy meals, and because I’m only here for 10 weeks I don’t want to invest in a lot of ingredients or spices. So I plan to keep it simple: fruits and vegetables, yogurt and nuts, cereal and soup. Besides, even though I’m sticking to a budget, I know we’ll eat out fairly frequently as well.

So I headed back from the farmers market with a small but sufficient supply of produce. On the way back, I realized there are fruit vendors at pretty regular intervals along the street, and they have a nice selection. So I stopped to chat with one of them and survey his bananas, cherries, berries, grapes and peaches. The prices were comparable to the market and there was actually a better variety, so I picked up some bananas and grapes and felt a little silly for trekking all the way to the market.

At this point, I’m getting to the realization that I really can’t just eat raw produce and the almonds I brought in my suitcase. I don’t eat a lot of carbs, and I’m a vegetarian, but still, it’s not going to work quite like that. So Duane Reade was the answer. I pop in one of those (they’re on pretty much every block) for some yogurt, eggs, Honey Nut Cheerios and salad dressing — as well as the paper towels, toilet paper and kleenex we need — and I think I should be good to go for at least a few days.

So yeah, grocery shopping was an adventure. The farmers market — not everything I’d hoped for. But the fruit vendor — quite promising. And Duane Reade — reliable in times of need and easily located. What’s also promising is the online grocery delivery service one of my friends discovered. For just $5, they’ll deliver right to your apartment. That may be the best option for most of my staples.

That, or pizza.

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