I know....what a mundane topic to blog about. If you're coming to Homer and need to know where to go, this is a primer on where to do your grocery shopping!
Everyone knows Safeway. It's on the main drag through town on the Sterling Highway and it's a well-known chain. If we watch the sales fliers it has better deals than even Anchorage or Wal-mart in Kenai for fruit, meat or other perishables. The deli is a good option to eating out, though only slightly cheaper, and the little Starbucks cafe provides a place to sit and eat if we need it. The packaged foods are mostly "Homer expensive": not out of line for Homer, but expensive by some standards (Of course, any time I say 'expensive' I think of the prices of groceries in the bush and I just shut my mouth and stop whining.). Sometimes big boats will come in and line up cart after cart of food to stock up the boat's pantry for the summer, so we'll see a line of carts and a checkout dedicated to getting them through.
Save-U-More is one of those places that if you didn't know about it, you might not ever find it. It's a concrete brick building one block off the Sterling Highway with no sign pointing to it: just turn up a dead end street between ACS and GCI. It has the feel of a very rough warehouse. Dust covers the cans (makes me nervous!) and the layout of goods is not logical. I've been wandering around in there and run into friends also wandering and we ask each other, "Where's the taco sauce?" or "Do you know where to find mayonnaise?" and we have great fun going on a scavenger hunt for groceries. For whatever it's shortcomings, Save-U-More has the best selection of ethnic foods on the Kenai Peninsula. Russian, Thai, Chinese, Mexican.....it's a bizarre mix all thrown together but at least we have some of these weird things in Homer because New Sagaya and Mid-town Sagaya in Anchorage 4 hours away would be the next possible option, and even they don't have some of these things!
Save-U-More also contracts with a local butcher so we can order a cow or hog and request the cuts we want, getting a good rate per pound that way. The animals are grown in Alaska (that makes them local!), often are grass-fed and are very fresh. The meat sold in the store is also from McNeil Canyon Meats. I think it is interesting knowing where my meat comes from; it is less generic than, say, Safeway, where they would look at us weird if we asked them where the meat came from.
K-Hole is the final grocery store, located on the corner of Pioneer and Lake Streets next to Subway. Actually, the name is Kachemak Wholesale, and the first time I heard 'K-Hole' I thought it was some obscene name, but that's what the high schoolers call it, as that's where upperclassmen head for lunch since it is only a block from the high school. It is kind of like a warehouse too, though they've been making some physical improvements so it doesn't feel quite so low-rent. This is the source for bulk foods (great selection!) and health foods. When our health food store closed a few years ago, Kachemak Wholesale filled this niche and that is pretty much all I ever go in there for. They also sell mattresses, tools, toys and a weird assortment of stuff just as Save-U-More is the source for pet food and supplies.
Both Save-U-More and Kachemak Wholesale's produce sections can be iffy. At times the food is old or else really expensive. Save-U-More's bananas are almost always cheaper than Safeway's, but beyond that there is nothing that is consistently cheaper there as all the stores have great sales to draw people in the door. Save-U-More is a Costco supplier, so we shop there if we want the Kirkland brand, but we end up paying anywhere from $2 to $8 more per item there than at Costco. So it's not cheap enough to be worth the drive to Anchorage just to shop, but if we're already up in Anchorage we will always shop Costco first for all our groceries.
So each of these stores has a niche in Homer and they are different enough that they are hardly interchangeable. When we look at our grocery list we know which store we need to go to in order to get what we want. But living at the end of the road in Homer, I'm just happy we have choices. If we lived in Seward we would have just Safeway!