Battle of the brown bag: Where to buy your groceries

Everyone does it. It’s unavoidable, especially on a college budget. It’s part of adulthood. Pushing a cart down those long aisles with an empty belly is a rite of passage!

Yes, I’m talking about grocery shopping.

It was not until recently that I made my habit productive. Usually I would only make the voyage to grocery-land if I was desperate — late Tuesdays, early Saturdays or after I wake up to find the only morsel of food in my entire cabinet is Cheese-Its. Not anymore. I have made a real science of it; I make lists and everything!

That’s right fellow culinary enthusiasts, grab your grocery lists and your walking shoes. We are going shopping.

I am not exaggerating when I say there are literally more than a dozen places to buy groceries in this town — and that’s just off Mission Street alone, excluding places like Walgreens and Rite Aid.

I don’t know about everyone else, but where I’m from there are a total of two grocery stores in my entire town: one on the northern edge of the city and one on the southern part of town. One could understand my hysteria when I came here and found more stores than people in a five-mile radius.

Which begs the question: Which one to choose? I will let you decide.

The options that made the final cut were as follows:

Ric’s Food Center, Meijer, Wal-Mart, Green Tree Co-op Grocery, Save-A-Lot and Kroger.

Without further ado, let the battle begin.



Since I started grocery shopping I have probably chosen Ric’s about 75 percent of the time. The reason has less to do with being an intelligent shopper and more to do with where I live. I can and have walked to Ric’s from my house and I only drive when I need more groceries than I can carry, so obviously I’m a little biased. That being said, it is an awesome grocery store. Not too big, not too small, it has an awesome deli and it is never crowded. I have never gone there and not been able to find something I needed. They’ve got it all: snacks, meats, spices, fresh produce and booze-a-plenty. I know grocery stores tend to be infamous for alcohol but Ric’s really does have just about everything you can think of.

But don’t take my word for it.

“I come here when I need to pick up a couple of things,” said Mount Pleasant resident Robin McQuaid. “It’s easy in and easy out.”

Personally though, the best part about Ric’s — even better than the deli with pretty girls that cut your meat — is the bottle return! It is awesome, you don’t have to deal with lines or crappy machines, it’s quick, easy and they don’t even take a cut for helping you out.


Out of the six grocery stores I went to, Ric’s was the most expensive next to Green Tree, which shouldn’t be that surprising considering both are local establishments.

The one thing that bothers me more than anything else at Ric’s is the entrance. For some reason the automatic ‘in-door’ is on the left and ‘out-door’ is on the right, which would not be a problem if it were not for every other entrance/exit in America being the exact opposite. And yes, I’ve tried walking in on the right side expecting it to open, only to be embarrassingly disappointed.

Despite that slight architectural flaw, all in all I’d say it earns a respectable A-.



It’s fast, convenient and they have just about every product under the sun for cheaper than dirt.


For me it is the farthest away — which is a huge inconvenience — but I guess the prices balance out the gas money. The problem is everything at Wal-Mart is just mediocre; from the produce to the deli, nothing really stands out. I can’t say I have ever been disappointed but I have never really been surprised either. Plus, there is always some weird guilt that boils up inside me after shopping at Wal-Mart. Anyway, in the name of mediocrity and five-dollar jeans, I give it a C.



Local, organic, friendly — what’s not to like? They have plenty of great snack foods, granola, cereal, cookies, fruits and vegetables galore — all of the essentials. They also have the best (and most diverse) selection of coffee and tea you will find anywhere. The best part though is the guilt-free feeling of walking out the door knowing that you just did your body a favor.

“I basically buy all my organic food here and everything else at Meijer,” said Central Michigan University senior Joshua Grove. “A couple years ago I read a book that educated me on the dangers of corporate food and from then on I went full-on organic. It didn’t take much, I like to think I have common sense.”


Green Tree’s selection is pretty limited and if you are looking to relive your childhood nostalgia in a box of Gushers, Fruit-by-the-Foot and Teddy Grahams, you are going to be disappointed. The prices are steep in comparison to those ‘corporate’ grocers, so unfortunately treating your body like a temple is going to cost you a pretty penny. No deli either, or booze. (I know, I was as surprised as you were.)

A+ for atmosphere and overall I would say they earned a respectable B.



Save-A-Lot is located in the heart of the town, which means it is about the same distance for everybody — definitely a plus. Everything is very easy to find and as far as prices are concerned, it’s the hidden gem of town. You can’t beat ‘em: Save-A-Lot has the cheapest bread and milk anywhere.

“I come here for the prices,” said Coleman resident Kitty Karr. “For me it’s worth the drive, it is so much cheaper.”


The store is very small and the selection is limited to the bare essentials. If you’re looking for a bigger assortment, you might want to go across the street to Gordon Food Service (GFS, which earns an honorable mention) where variety of products reaches the ceiling.

Based on the price and location, Save-A-Lot has earned itself a solid B+.



If you want beer, shop at Kroger. I know that sounds bad and it is probably not the type of reputation Kroger is going for, but they have a deal on “tall boys” (24 oz cans) that will set you back only a little more than a dollar per can. On top of that, they have an incredible selection of wine and spirits that are also very reasonably priced. I have to admit, I am also a little biased because there was a Kroger a block from where I lived, so I like the familiarity of home. They have an excellent deli — perhaps the best of all of them — and who doesn’t have a Kroger card? It should also be noted that they have prepared hot food and an organic section.


Not too many complaints in this department. It’s Kroger — pretty much a staple of the Midwest, kind of like the Great Lakes. Other than the location, which is a little bit of a hike, I really have nothing bad to say. Granted you can’t buy a bike here for $19.99 (cough, cough Wal-Mart) but let’s not forget we are grocery shopping.

I give it an A+.



At Meijer you can get clothes, books, movies and your groceries! Not to mention the sales extravaganza happening 24/7. Definitely the preferable choice when it comes to shopping in the wee hours of the morning. It’s also a well known fact among the locals that Meijer has the best produce around, bar none (pssst, don’t tell anyone, but it’s all locally grown).

“I can get anything I want here,” said a Mount Pleasant resident who wished to remain anonymous. “It has more than just groceries; I can find everything I need on sale.”

Meijer also offers bountiful amounts of booze and a decent deli.


It is generally a busy place, but they have like a bagillion check-out lanes so that’s not really an issue. Again, much like Kroger — I can’t really say anything bad about it. If you can afford the drive out there, it is a safe bet.

I give it a solid A.


Kroger is the winner by my standards, but it really depends on preference — and it just goes to show that nine out of 10 people will choose convenience over anything else. Happy Holidays shoppers.