Replacing the Car: Groceries

My mother would do the shopping once a week, filling her cart and car with groceries. We would dutifully unload and put away all the food we may or may not eat over the next week, as this was just how things were done. As an adult, I kept the same practices. Of course I needed my car – how else do you get groceries?

But what happens if you don’t want to use your car? Driving to get groceries is a pain. From traffic to annoying parking lots, shopping was an event I needed to plan my schedule around each week. With so many of my other trips being replaced by bikes, buses, and walking – why couldn’t grocery store shopping be done without a car, too?

Leaving my car behind for grocery shopping took a mental shift, but it’s something I do not regret. The following are ways which have helped my partner and me be successful at car-less grocery store shopping, year round:

  • We choose to live where we can walk to grocery stores. Of course, not everyone has this luxury. However, living in a walkable, bikeable community continues to be a top priority for where we live. Our East Isles condo puts us within walking distance of a variety of grocery stores.
  • We have changed the way we shop. No longer do I plan to get all of the groceries I’ll need for the next week in one trip. Instead, we shop for a few days – only purchasing what we can carry back. Because we can walk to the store, it is not an inconvenience to pick something up for dinner midweek. Shopping this way has also helped reduce food waste, and makes storing food easier in our condo.
  • We have supportive gear. My partner purchased a 40L Mission Workshop Fitzroy AP. With this backpack, we’re able to fit a large grocery bag full of stuff – it truly fits a lot of groceries. Of course, we sometimes overshoot and have to carry things in our backup reusable bags. But having a big, reliable backpack that we can both use makes it easy enough for picking up lots of things – CSA shares included. For our bikes, we have a 28L Signature Urban Pannier and Banjo Brothers Grocery Panniers – useful for a special trip to Trader Joes.
  • We buy things differently. Because we’re walking, we buy smaller quantities of items, and usually avoid heavy things without planning ahead. Instead of walking a box of sparkly waters several blocks home, I may opt to grab smaller quantities from Walgreens, a much shorter walk away.
  • We’ve given up our Costco membership. While we could bike to Costco and haul what we need on our bikes, purchasing large quantities of stuff no longer fits in our lifestyle. Furthermore, we’ve found the prices aren’t much of a deal compared to our normal shopping. The only thing we miss are the hotdogs.

When we started leaving the car behind to get groceries, we mostly wanted to avoid annoying parking lots and the stress of driving. What we didn’t expect was additional benefits! Not only do we save time, but our grocery options have expanded. If you don’t need to do all your shopping at one place, then smaller, specialty grocery stores become a more viable option. And since so many grocery stores are a short walk away, we’re less likely to order take out when we can easily pick up a few items to throw something together for a meal.

Christy Marsden

About Christy Marsden

Christy Marsden lives in Minneapolis, where she tries to bike, bus, or walk wherever she can. Christy works in horticulture, teaching others how to grow and enjoy plants. As the 2023 Streets.MN co-chair, she is looking forward to making sure Streets.MN can continue to be a place to share people-forward stories about the places we live in.