Because this is the Survival Guide, it can only mean that it's also that time of the year again. Yes, the time when one lucky intern gets the chance of a lifetime. He or she gets the rare privilege to traipse across town exploring the ins and outs of Albuquerque's many grocery stores for the annual Grocery Store Browser, using stealth and cunning to jot down prices and compare shallot freshness. It's an exciting task.
As this year's chosen victim, I have to say that my supermarket sweep wasn't as bad as I thought it would be—in fact, it was pretty amusing to haughtily manhandle produce, chat up baggers, and walk down the aisles taking notes, all without the stressful paper vs. plastic showdown at the end. I also had the opportunity to learn that not all grocery stores are the same. Even in a smallish city like Albuquerque, the variations between stores are noticeable and sometimes dramatic. Don't get me wrong, you can get the basics at all of the stores on this list, it just depends on what your personal basics are. If you need five flavors of rice-milk ice cream, for example, it's probably best not to head to Wal-Mart. But if you need trash bags and Oreos, you might want to skip Wild Oats. Navigating these stores is as simple as knowing what you need, and how much you are willing to spend for it. Each store on the list has its own charms, so go out and explore for yourself. It's fun. Believe me, I have hours of experience to back that up.
For the sample grocery bag, we chose 14 items that might land in your cart at one point or another. They are: a half-gallon of low-fat milk (Creamland or Horizon), a dozen AA eggs, mild cheddar cheese by the pound, lean ground beef by the pound, a one pound bag of baby carrots, a pint of Chunky Monkey ice cream, twelve flour tortillas (Mission or organic), a six-pack of Coke or Blue Sky cola, six bottles of Bud Light, a half-gallon of orange juice (Minute Maid or organic), one dozen glazed doughnuts, a baguette, a whole roasted chicken and a 12-pack of toilet paper (Charmin or Seventh Generation). Not all stores had all of the items or the same quantities, so the prices and final totals have been adjusted to account for the subtle differences (*). We hope that you find browsing through this chart as fun as strolling through the aisles. You don't have to choose paper or plastic here, either.