Monday, August 3, 2009


When transitioning to a car-free life, I found that one of the biggest challenges was shopping for groceries. Of all the types of shopping one can do, getting groceries is probably the one that you do most often and the one that is most important to your survival.

Luckily for me, I live within walking distance of several food stores. I prefer Hannaford's, which is a pretty quick 3/4 of a mile each way from my apartment. Should I become desperate, Paul's Food Center is almost around the corner. Also nearby is the public market and several convenience stores should I need to pick up a basic food item on-the-go.

I talk mostly about walking for groceries, since that is what I do, but a lot of these issues are also faced by those who bike or take the bus to get food.

Some thoughts about groceries...

Buy only what you can carry - I really do sympathize with people who have a family to feed but don't own a car. I am fortunate to only have to feed myself, so I can usually carry two bags of groceries once a week with no problem. I suppose a few ways around that for people who need to feed more than one mouth is to borrow a car, carpool, carshare, or make more trips on foot so there is less to carry each time. Downtown Portland has quite a few places to get groceries, such as Shaw's, Hannaford, and Whole Foods so we are lucky there.

Beware of Weather - I was going to focus on the challenges of carrying groceries in the winter with the ice and snow, but it is certainly a challenge in the summer heat as well. In the winter it can be dangerous and quite the workout walking through a foot of snow before public works starts on clearing the sidewalks. I will certainly have some posts about the challenges of living car-free in the winter once that season arrives. In the summer, one way to go is to wait until later in the day when the sun is setting and the temperatures cool.

Healthier? - I would say that due to walking to the grocery store, I am a little healthier. Obviously, the walk provides some good exercise. It also makes me more picky about what I am buying (is it worth the extra weight I would have to carry?) and it causes me to make less trips to the store (that saves money, too).

Does anyone else have some thoughts about these topics? I don't plan on buying a car, but having one to get groceries would be a big selling point for me.

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