Selective Shopping

by Brooke on May 1, 2012

I saw this video a few weeks ago, and it cracked me up.  I also tend to grocery shop at multiple places.  I buy most of my produce and bread at farmers markets and Stanley’s Fruits & Vegetables.  I buy my milk/milk alternative, peanut butter, jam, cereal, etc at a general grocery store like Jewel or Mariano’s Fresh Market.  I buy frozen vegetables and a few selective frozen dinners at Trader Joe’s.   Sometimes, I even pick up soup, salad or shrimp spring rolls at Whole Foods to make me feel like I am eating a nice dinner out.  All of this shopping can be exhausting though, so I try to space it out over the course of a week.

The interesting thing about this concept is that it is now labeled as “selctive shopping” in the research community.  I had the opportunity to talk to Summer Porter, a PhD candidate at the University of Illinois in Chicago, whom is conducting research on nutrition environments, child feeding practices, and food choices in Dr. Angela Odoms-Young’s lab.  Summer said that selective shopping occurs when one shops at several retailers, which often may be miles apart in an effort to extend the food budget.  In 2010, she performed a qualitative analysis of interviews obtained from low income African American caregivers in Chicago. She looked at the strategies used and the barriers these families face to feed their families, while operating on a tight budget. Summer said she had noticed a trend that many of us shopping on a budget, in an urban environment, can relate to selective shopping instead of one stop shopping. According to Karen Glanz, cost has been reported as the second most important factor in food decisions, behind taste. Summer stated that,

For those of us who use selective shopping, it is not uncommon to travel to four or more stores in order to get the type of food we want for a lesser cost. Compile this time consuming strategy with environmental barriers such as not having access to a car and having to take 2 buses to get quality produce, and one can begin to understand the effort burden of eating healthy on a limited income.In the context of public health initiatives and awareness surrounding the obesity epidemic, the food environment is an essential component of understanding the complexities behind eating behaviors.”

The selective shopping concept is very interesting, because one stop shopping would save time and effort.   You have probably heard of the phrase “time is money” yet we still like traveling to multiple locations to get cheaper specific food items and produce.   It makes sense that the two most important factors in food decisions are taste and cost.  I like traveling to multiple locations not only to save money, but because I feel like I am spending my money wisely on tastier and healthier food choices.

Are you a selective shopper?  How many places do you stop at?



Porter S, Odoms‐Young A , and Zenk S. Budgeting and food insecurity among low‐income African American caregivers: A qualitative analysis. Oral Presentation: APHA 139th annual meeting and exposition. October 2011.

Glanz K, Basil M, Maibach E, et al. Why Americans eat what they do: taste, nutrition, cost, convenience, and weight control as influences on food consumption. J Am Diet Assoc. 1998;98:1118–1126.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Tanya @ Dine, Dash, and Deadlift May 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I am not at all a selective shopper. With the exception of hitting up the Farmer’s Market in the summer when I have the time, all of my food comes from the same store! Boring, I know!


Brooke May 7, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Hi Tanya, It is not boring if you get everything you need and want in that stop. Thanks for sharing!


julie May 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm

I’m absolutely a selective shopper, though it has not much to do with cost. I go to a most excellent cheap farmers market in an obscure ugly corner of San Francisco, and this I drive to, mostly because the route to get there is especially ugly, the whole area is NOT bike-friendly in the least, and I buy most of my weekly stuff there. There’s a “Mexicatessan” where I get my tortillas, because they are the correct size and don’t have strange ingredients such as trans-fats, or trans-esterified fats. I get my dry and bulk stuff at a grocery store where I can bring my own jars. I go to a different farmers market for oranges, strawberries, meat (expensive but I eat so little that I buy it this way) and microgreens. I do all by bike or walking, except for that Alemany farmers market (I notice you touristed out here, probably didn’t hit that area – not the tourist farmers market, for sure). I can’t find anything I like at TJs, except for one particular kind of cheese, vodka, beer and wine. The food seems poor quality and not fresh, my cat won’t even eat the cat food. I don’t get that place at all.


Brooke May 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm

Hi Julie, I normally do most of my shopping by walking too. I have a favorite seven mile walk I make at least once a week and stop by multiple stores on the way to pick up most of my food.


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