Step up your grocery game

Madison Fraitag

Not all grocery stores were created equally. Similarly, not all shoppers are searching for the same things. As college students, we must consider how far from campus we have to travel, the quality of food and products we are buying and of course, how much we are spending. Here’s one Bobcat’s ranked guide to grocery shopping in the QU area. – M. Fraitag

1. Trader Joe’s
Address: 560 Boston Post Road, Orange
Hours: 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Trader Joe’s is the happy medium that we’ve all been searching for. With delicious, fresh and affordable produce and proteins, this chain is worth the 20-ish-minute drive from Hamden. With an assortment of store-brand products for less than many big-name chains, it is easy to save a few dollars – if you want. On the other hand, it is pretty damn easy to go crazy in this aesthetically pleasing market, so the length of your receipt may shock you. With daily samples of coffee and fresh flowers greeting you at the door, it’s hard to leave this store without a smile on your face.

2. Aldi
Address: 2300 Dixwell Ave., Hamden
Hours: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.

This hidden gem is a bargain hunter’s haven in Hamden. Located less than 10 minutes off campus, Aldi provides affordable and attainable alternatives to name-brand products. The environmentally-conscious store requires a 25 cent fee to use a cart and either a 10 cent fee for plastic bags or six cent fee for paper bags at check out, encouraging shoppers to bring a durable reusable bag instead, which of course they sell as well. Overall, if you don’t mind off-brand products and a smaller selection of fresh produce, Aldi is a great option for students looking to save a few bucks. Fun fact: Aldi and Trader Joe’s actually have quite a storied past, being referred to as “estranged cousins,” “step-brothers” and “in-laws” by

3. Stop & Shop
Address: 2335 Dixwell Ave., Hamden
Hours: 24/7

If you’re seeking a unique grocery shopping experience, turn right around because you’re not going to find it here. Stop & Shop provides the stereotypical grocery store experience, with a deli counter, seafood section and 1 million shopping carts scattered around the parking lot like a makeshift obstacle course. Finding deals here is easy, and a free membership to the rewards program does make a difference at checkout. The produce is decent, and you can save a trip to the drug store with its self-care, beauty and home goods selections. All around, this is a pretty reliable stop for Bobcats based on location, variety and hours, taking home the title of the only 24-hour option around.

4. Thyme and Season
Address: 3040 Whitney Ave., Hamden
Hours: 8 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. (9 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Sunday)

If location is everything, then Thyme and Season is a shoo-in. This organic market is within walking distance from the Mount Carmel campus (if you’re up for it, of course) and boasts a small but mighty selection of healthy, ethical grub. From the locally grown produce to the apothecary section in the back, you’re guaranteed a unique experience that you simply cannot get at a chain. However, quality comes at a price. If you’re looking for tasty organic, vegan or gluten-free options and are sporting a relatively thick wallet, you’ve found the place for you.

5. ShopRite
Address: 2100 Dixwell Ave., Hamden
Hours: 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. (10 p.m. on Sunday)

I like to call ShopRite “Stop & Shop’s ugly sister.” The stores are extremely similar, with minor variations in selection, location and price. If we’re getting down to it, I’d have to commend ShopRite on its slightly lower prices, but at the cost of quality and shopper experience. The two neighboring stores even share half a name, which can truly lead to a complete lack of differentiation between the two, but alas, ShopRite lands at number five due to its grimier appearance and lack of parking due to the heavily trafficked strip of shops just next door. Heed my advice, go across the street.

6. Whole Foods
Address: 1686 Boston Post Road, Milford
Hours: 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.

Ahh, Whole Foods. Who doesn’t love this magical emporium of fresh food, Amazon Prime discounts and an actual section just for cheese? Well, college students 25 minutes away with a tight budget, that’s who. It is comforting to know that this is an option, but honestly, with dorm cooking and student loans, Whole Foods is the unattainable goal we all see in the distance. No one is arguing the quality of a trip to Whole Foods, but for the price and the time spent traveling, the spot tripped and fell to the bottom of my list.