Make a list. It's time to go grocery shopping.
Where are we buying? How much do we spend? What do we spend it on? What are we cooking? Are we health-conscious? Diet-conscious? What are our general philosophies about food?
I traveled to six supermarkets in six different neighborhoods and questioned 20-odd local shoppers about their shopping habits. This is what they said.
- Whole Foods, Hillcrest, Monday, 1 p.m.
- Grace Fisher, 30
- Spent $150 today.
- Cooks for two, husband and self.
"This week, I'll cook a couple of chicken dishes and a tenderloin dish. I get my recipes either online or out of Cooking Light magazine.
"I grew up on health food (in Santa Cruz), and I read about the nutritional values in foods pretty closely.
"I don't do coupons, and I only make lists if I'm trying a new recipe.
"I go down every aisle and make sure I don't forget anything.
"We grill a lot. But I have to say that we like variety: chicken, fish, lamb, pork, beef.
"I have a few favorite recipes. I have a stuffed chicken that I like to make. I sauté chicken, mushrooms, and shallots, blend it up in a food processor, and then mix it with fat-free ricotta cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. And then you poke a hole in the chicken breast, stuff all that in there, sauté it in a pan, and then there's a sauce that I put on top of it.
"I cook about four nights a week, and we go out the rest.
"I also shop at Trader Joe's. I come to Whole Foods weekly, every Monday, and I go to Trader Joe's about every other week.
"I buy about 80 percent organic. I try to buy all organic, unless there's just something I need that I can't find."
- Jake Tison, 37
- Banker's Hill
- Video producer
- Shopping with wife Suzanne and daughter Lily.
- Spent $35 today.
- Spends $60 to $80 a week.
"We shop once or twice a week, and at Whole Foods about once a month.
"We also shop at Henry's, Trader Joe's, and at the Hillcrest farmers' market.
"We read vitamin panels and are very health-conscious, because my wife and daughter are vegetarians. I'm a vegetarian at home.
"We use a lot of soy. That's what we were buying here today: a ton of fake meat.
"You can make all sorts of things. Spaghetti sauce, chimichangas; it doesn't matter. Whatever you'd do with meat, you can do with soy.
"Suzanne's a vegetarian for moral reasons, and has been since she was a teenager.
"It's much easier now to be a vegetarian, with all the foods available.
"Our favorite recipes are stir-fries and pastas.
"We like to eat, but we don't like to cook that much. But we eat in almost seven nights a week. We hardly ever go out."
- Tamra Miller
- Mission Hills
- Housewife, singer, and part-time paralegal
- Spent $350 today.
- Spends about $1200 a month on groceries.
- Cooks for a family of four: husband, self, and two kids.
- Cooks dinner about six times a week.
"Today I got ingredients for pea soup, a vegetable stir-fry, and a couple pasta dishes.
"I'm really good at making roast lamb. It's kind of my specialty dish. I baste the lamb leg with olive oil, cinnamon, garlic, lots of fresh herbs, walnuts, soy sauce, and teriyaki, and then I roast it in the oven for a few hours.
"I shop at Whole Foods and OB People's Food. These are gourmet markets that carry specialty items and organic foods. I also go to the farmers' markets. We spend about $300 on food every week.
"If you went through my basket, you'd see mostly whole foods that are outside of a can and outside of a jar. I'm very health-conscious.
"Standing behind these people in line at the checkouts in a lot of supermarkets, I get this impression of 'nothing living.' But I think the idea behind our food should be that it should capture as much of the sun as possible. Instead, most of it is designed for shelf-life instead of nutritive value. That's why I only eat organic. I try to eat something living that can transmute into my life. But most food today -- with preservatives and corn syrups and stuff like that -- is more of a deficit to your body than an enhancement."
- Albertson's, North Park, Monday, 2 p.m.
- Yolanda Martinez
- Golden Hill
- Retired pediatric case manager
- Spent $110 today.
- Cooks for self and husband, also retired.
"I shop big once every two weeks, with small supplemental shopping in between.
"I shop at Albertson's, and Costco as well.
"I cook a lot of things, but my favorite is green chili guacamole enchiladas. I make a sauce out of cream-of-chicken soup and long green California chilis that have been roasted and peeled. Then garlic, salt, pepper, and one or two jalapeños. Then cilantro leaves -- not the stems, just the leaves. And then I put it all in the blender, warm it up, and that's the sauce. The filling is shredded chicken, black olives, green onions, and jack cheese.
"I'm more aware of nutritional panels now, because both my husband and I are diabetic, and we've had to start to pay attention to that. I don't buy all the heavy stuff, like I used to. We eat heavy like that now maybe twice a week. Other times, if we have a good breakfast, then we'll have sandwiches for dinner. Or if we don't have a good breakfast, then we'll go out to dinner or I'll cook a big dinner. Usually, we don't have lunch.
"I lost 22 pounds since retirement by eating lighter and less often. My husband's lost a lot of weight as well.
"We shop together, my husband and I, always. Usually, he'll say not to buy something, but then if I get it, he'll still sit down and eat it. So that's how that goes. I say, 'I don't know why I listen to you. I should just get it anyway.' And then I do, and he usually likes it. So!"
- Rafael Quijano, 25
- North Park
- Delivery-truck driver
Today he got a bottle of white zinfandel for his girlfriend (for later) and a Caesar salad for lunch for himself.
Cooks once in a while, lives with girlfriend.
"She does about 75 percent of the cooking, and I do the rest.
"Most of the time, we shop together, but if I get off work early, then I'll go out for a lot of the little things. Usually for the big stuff, we go together.
"We shop at Vons and Albertson's mostly. Once every two weeks, we spend an average of $140 in a big shopping trip.
"We cook at home three or four times a week and eat out the rest. We also have breakfast at home but eat out for lunch.
"Usually we cook chicken or pasta.
"The best thing I can cook is Hamburger Helper. But my girlfriend makes a bomb lasagna.
"We have a weekly shopping list next to the refrigerator and go shopping when we need to.
"I'm health-conscious, but my girlfriend isn't, really. I try to get the low-fat and lean stuff, but she just goes for the flavor."
Kathy Valiquette, 61
Goes to school to learn upholstery
Today she bought some shrimp to make a pasta with shrimp, olives, garlic, white wine, and tomatoes.
She lives alone but often cooks for friends and for her family, who live nearby.
"I shop at Henry's, Vons, and Trader Joe's. But today I came to Albertson's because I thought the shrimp was on sale. It wasn't. But I got some anyway.
"I shop often, at least a few times a week, and buy a thing or two at a time. I spend about $75 a week, on average.
"I make a fabulous roast chicken. I'm Hungarian, so I make lots of good casseroles and cabbage rolls and things.
"I usually eat out for lunch and cook at home most nights.
"Sugar content and fat content matter to me, but calories not so much. I think if you eat moderately then you'll be okay."
Jeff Wolter, 38
at a nursery
Spent $150 today.
Shops about once a week on average and spends about $80.
"I moved to San Diego yesterday, from Atlanta, and came to Albertson's because it was nearby.
"I needed to fill an empty refrigerator but didn't make a list. Instead, I walked up and down every aisle and got what I needed: condiments, milk, cheese, bread, cereal, vegetables.
"I don't cook much. I'm a real good cook, but I don't like to cook. I make good seafood. But I also do a good roast chicken with spinach and rice and a little bit of cheese.
"I cook about once a week and go out to dinner most of the time. But my roommate's a chef, so she cooks, usually. I have to go buy the stuff, and then she cooks it.
I'm pretty health-conscious, because I used to weigh 350 pounds. I'm down to about 160 now. But I usually eat whatever and whenever I want, because I exercise a lot. I run about 15 miles a day.
"I like vegetables and salads, roughage, but my favorite thing to eat is buffets."
Tuesday, 2 p.m.
Kim Fox, 37
Spent $32 today.
Spends $60 a week on groceries.
Cooks for self and three kids.
"I use a lot of coupons. The twins are 18 months old, and my oldest is only four, so the groceries haven't started getting expensive yet. Our biggest expenses so far are baby food and milk. When the kids get older, it's going to be a lot more.
"I also shop at Henry's and Trader Joe's. I shop about once or twice a week.
"We eat in almost every night, but sometimes we do takeout.
"We eat pancakes or cereal for breakfast and usually leftovers for lunch.
"My favorite recipe is for a vegetable spinach lasagna.
"We don't eat a lot of meat, and my husband has high blood pressure, so we check the sodium content and make most of our meals from scratch. I also read labels for hydrogenated oils and trans fats, because all the snack foods for kids are loaded with bad stuff.
"I prefer to find snacks made with cane juice and all-natural ingredients, even though they're a little more expensive."
- Patie Hansen, 59, Pacific Beach
- Spent $51 today.
- Spends an average of $100 a week.
"I usually cook for two (myself and my significant other), but every Tuesday I have a dinner party and cook for 16 or so. Tonight's taco night, because whenever we have a birthday we have tacos.
"My best recipe is for beef Wellington. It's a filet mignon inside a puff pastry crust, stuffed with goose paté.
"I shop at Ralphs, Costco, and Vons.
"I'm low-carb, and my boyfriend's low-fat, so we have a compromise: lots of fresh fruit. We eat cereal with fresh fruit and nonfat milk for breakfast. And I often won't eat much for lunch.
"I cook at home about five times a week.
"My only philosophy about food is to pick out fresh ingredients and your dishes will usually turn out okay."
- Phil Martin, 32
- Mission Beach
- Installs garage doors
- Spent $25 today.
- Spends about $75 a week on food.
Lives with four roommates.
"I eat in almost every night. Sometimes I cook for the house, but everyone cooks. I make a lot of seafood dishes.
"My best recipe is a 'surf and turf': filet mignon and lobster.
"Usually I just wing it and throw ingredients together. My mom gets mad because I just wing it and I cook better than she does.
"My roommates don't touch my food. We have our own areas of the refrigerator, and it works out pretty well.
"I also shop at Trader Joe's and Henry's.
"I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. I read labels. I like to try to live a healthy life. I try to eat whole food, nothing that's processed, and very few things that are premade."
Rose Caro, 47
Spent $136 today.
Spends about $100 a week on groceries.
Cooks for four to six people, depending on who's staying for the weekend (cooks for three kids and her mother, as well as her boyfriend and her boyfriend's daughter).
"I eat in four to five times a week.
"Today I bought a lot of frozen foods so the kids can snack on their own. Cheeses, breads, and a lot of liquids, water, iced tea, and juices.
"I shop at Albertson's because it's convenient, but otherwise I always go to Ralphs. The prices are better; they have what I need; I know the store.
"I don't make shopping lists, I just go up and down every aisle.
"I barbecue a lot. My best recipe might have to be a beef roast. I marinate it with teriyaki, put in lots of vegetables, and then roast.
"My philosophy of food is not too much junk or sugar. I save that stuff for the weekend as a treat. I don't buy the stuff to keep around the house on a daily basis, because it'll go quick."
- Jonathan's Specialty Market, La Jolla,
- Tuesday, 4 p.m.
- Karen Kessler, 65
- La Jolla
- Retired director of adult education
- Spent $76 today.
Couldn't say how much she spends in a week on groceries. "It varies. I go out a lot, so I really don't know.
"I cook at home for myself and my husband maybe a couple of times a week.
"My husband doesn't eat breakfast, and I usually have eggs. I always eat out for lunch.
"Tonight I'm making a fish dish, so I bought the ingredients for that. I also bought some household products that we needed.
"My favorite recipe is for a shrimp dish that Dobson's Restaurant makes. You shell and devein fresh shrimp, then sauté in olive oil with garlic and onions, then put in a little sherry and salt and pepper and red pepper. Then sauté mushrooms and put it over gourmet brown rice, which I get here.
"I shop mainly at Jonathan's, but I also go to Ralphs, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and Vons. But Jonathan's is very convenient for me. I live nearby and it's quick. I'm in and out.
"I'm very health-conscious, and I know what I want. I usually just buy fresh produce. Everything has to be fresh and low-fat.
"I'm going right now to the fish market to get fresh fish."
- Carolyn Young, 55
- Rancho Bernardo
- Spent $50 today.
- Spends about $150 a week on food.
Cooks for herself, because her sons are in college.
"I eat out probably about 75 percent of the time. Or I order out and bring food home.
"Usually I get a sandwich at Jonathan's for lunch, and it'll last me for two days.
"When I do cook, I make chicken usually, and I also make soups.
"My best recipe is a shish kabob over rice pilaf. You marinate it in all sorts of herbs and spices, garlic and oil, paprika, and you put on lots of vegetables and you grill it.
"Today I bought some wine and a sandwich and some Clamato juice. I come here for the Clamato juice, because they have the small cans, and nobody else has the small cans. I can't drink the soda-sized cans. It's too much.
"I go to Vons once in a while, but I've been driving down here to Jonathan's to shop for about 15 years. I come here because of the quality, the atmosphere, and they do have things, like the small Clamato juice, that I can't get anywhere else.
"I don't usually read nutrition labels. I feel like I can tell. I've been around a while, so I know what's what. I don't really think that I have to be too health-conscious because I don't indulge in the things that one should not indulge in."
Stan Chodorow, 63
Retired college history teacher
Spent $55 today.
Spends about $500 a month on food.
Cooks for his wife and himself.
"Today I bought lamb for a stew.
"I shop at Vons, Whole Foods, and occasionally Henry's. I also go to the Fishery in PB for fresh fish.
"We don't go out much. I do all of the cooking. Say six or seven days a week.
"I do a lot of pastas, various kinds, either baked pastas, or clam sauces, or primaveras, or whatever. I make about one stew every couple weeks, for nights when I won't be available. I do fish, various kinds, scallops. My best recipe lately has been an osso buco.
"For osso buco, you take a veal shank, and you chop up carrots, onions, celery, and garlic. I also take the rind of a Parmesan cheese. So you brown the meat, and you soften up the veggies, you put it all together with wine and a chicken stock, and then you braise it for a couple of hours.
"I started cooking in about 1975, when my wife's business (she's a real estate broker here in town) got so busy that she mastered the three-minute meal. So I took over the cooking. Well, first I took over the shopping, and once you take over the shopping, then you take over the cooking. I knew nothing. But, in the last few years, I've gone twice to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, for boot camps, and that has transformed my cooking. I was a decent cook. I am now more than a decent cook.
"My philosophy for food, in a word, is 'fresh.' I'm very health-conscious. I'm cycling now, doing about 250 miles a week on a bike. So it doesn't matter what I eat, it gets burnt away. But I like to vary it a lot. And I buy very little processed food. I buy everything fresh."
- Vons, Normal Heights, Friday, 3 p.m.
- Madonna Floyd, 18
- College Area
- Spent $87 today.
- Family spends about $80 a week on food.
"Four people eat in our household: my mother, my brother, my boyfriend, and me.
"I'm the cook. I cook tacos, chicken, a lot of things. My best recipe is tacos. I put in onions, garlic, salt, pepper, oil, and ground beef, and I cook it up in a pan. Then I buy corn tortillas and I fry them myself.
"Today we got cereal, sandwich meat, yogurt, peanut butter and jelly, creamer, and a loaf of sourdough bread. Oh, and we got milk. My mom got 1 percent and I got whole milk.
"My mom's health-conscious. She buys yogurt and tries to buy stuff without a lot of sugar in it. There's not a lot of snacks in the house.
"We also shop at Food4Less and Ralphs and Albertson's. We cut out coupons sometimes. If the coupon's something that we usually buy, then we cut it out.
"We shop about once a week.
"We eat at home almost every night. We hardly ever go out.
"I eat what I like, and I don't cook what I don't like."
Charles McPherson, 66
Spent $68 today.
Spends about $60 a week on groceries.
Lives with his wife and his daughter.
"My wife does most of the cooking. We eat in most nights of the week. I shop; she shops; we both take care of that one. We rarely shop together, although it happens.
"We don't keep lists. We just buy what we need.
"When I cook, I might cook chili. I think I make pretty good chili. I use ground beef, or sometimes I might use soy. We don't eat a lot of meat.
"We usually shop at Vons, because it's nearby.
"We are into organic foods, as much as we can get that. And Vons is starting to get more into organic products. I would rather have free-range meats and so forth. I don't want to eat hormones. We also try to stay away from trans fats and that kind of stuff. And we like soy. Although some soy products are better than others. Some soy tastes like rubber, but some of it is actually good.
"I'm not into food that much. Food is not the main event. It's an event, but not the main one. The main event is music!"
David Gunther, 51
Spent $15 today.
Spends $50 a week for himself and his girlfriend.
"I do most of the cooking. I cook anything and everything. But I really like to make homemade pizzas. I even make the dough and the sauce. I usually purchase volume from Costco and make a whole bunch of sauce and dough at one time and then store it in jars and keep it in the freezer.
"I'd say we eat in five or six times a week. The other two nights we might have fast food. For lunch, I'll usually go home and make a sandwich. Or maybe I'll just go out for fast food.
"I am health-conscious. I usually only eat whole-wheat bread. And I try to stick to fruit and vegetables. I also watch my carbohydrates, because I'm trying to bring my weight back down. I play a lot of tennis, but I injured my knee. So I've been out of tennis for about a month, and I've put on a few pounds. As my knee heals, I've got to start watching what I eat.
"I go to Costco, Albertson's, Vons, and also Food4Less. I'm usually out and about gardening, and I'll go shopping when I decide what I might want for dinner. I'll just stop by whatever market is close, and I'll buy what we need.
"I want to try to become more of a vegetarian. I'm trying to cut down on my intake of meat. I've got a lot of friends who are vegetarians, and they seem to be a lot thinner and healthier."
Mona Najimy, 55
Retired Parks and Recreation employee
Spent $100 today.
Usually spends about $40 a week, shopping for herself and her partner.
"We don't do much cooking anymore. I'm sort of on a diet. I've lost about 27 pounds so far just eating low-carb, low-sugar, and low-fat. Mostly I'm living on Special K and oatmeal, pretty much. And once in a while, I'll have a tuna sandwich.
"My mom does all the cooking. I'll go visit her, and she cooks Lebanese food, which is pretty healthy. But I don't cook at all. I just make cold food or oatmeal.
"I used to eat out, but I don't anymore, because of my diet. I just eat cereal and sandwiches. Or low-fat yogurt spread on pita bread. Maybe once a month, we'll go out to dinner. I used to have pizza all the time, but I only have pizza about once a month now.
"This is a lifestyle now for me, so I intend to eat this way forever. I had a little diabetes scare, and I decided to change everything.
"Today I bought fruits and vegetables, water, some Snackwell's cookies, and one luxury: popcorn.
"I usually only shop at Vons, because I live right here.
"You can find healthy foods in any store, if you know how to look. You have to read the labels.
"I think what you eat depends on your age and your lifestyle and how much you exercise and biologically what your issues are too. If you have high cholesterol, that's usually genetic, but you have to eat differently. So you have to pay attention to your issues and eat accordingly."
University Heights, Sunday, 2 p.m.
Linda Bright, 46, and Kristin Westerman, 42,
Spent $71 today.
Spend about $45 a week on food.
"We spent more today because we needed zucchini in bulk. We're making chili on Wednesday for 50 people for church.
"It's just the two of us in our household. We both cook, but Linda does about 75 percent of it.
"We usually plan to eat at home four to five nights a week. We're vegetarians, and right now we're making a lot of soups. Our best meal is pumpkin soup. We use potatoes, a can of pumpkin, the three Cs: coriander, cayenne, and cumin, avocados, tomatoes, cilantro, and sour cream on top.
"We read labels to avoid partially hydrogenated oils. We also eat a lot of fiber and fruits and vegetables."
Said Bright: "I just try to eat what my grandmother used to eat."
Said Westerman: "I just like to eat a lot of everything. I really like to eat."
Karen Marshall, 49
Mental health therapist
Spent $50 today.
Spends about $65 a week on food. Shares household with her partner.
"I do most of the cooking. I'm vegetarian, but my partner's a meat-etarian, so I cook kind of a combination. Sometimes two meals at a time.
"The best thing that I like that I cook is spanakopita. You get thin sheets of phylo dough, butter them, put in spinach with ricotta cheese and feta cheese -- and make sure the spinach is really drained, otherwise it gets soggy -- and you layer it and put it in the oven and bake it.
"Everybody says my meat dishes are pretty good, but I wouldn't know. The last time I ate meat was 1982.
"I eat in probably six days a week.
"A lot of times I get organic food. I shop at Henry's and Trader Joe's.
"Today I got a lot of vegetarian TV dinners. They're actually pretty good: all-natural and health-conscious.
"I try to make my food healthy and not add a lot of calories and stuff to it. I also don't use a lot of spices. To me, it's great, but a lot of people think it's boring."
- Karena Endrizzi, 41
- Normal Heights
- Merchandise analyst
- Spent $160 today.
- Spends about $160 a week on food.
Cooks for self, husband, and daughter.
"I cook chicken, fish, and we eat a lot of salads. My husband might think that I don't have any 'best recipe.' And now that I try to think of one, nothing comes to mind.
"We probably eat out twice a week.
"I shop at Henry's, Trader Joe's, and sometimes Whole Foods. We try to avoid the big chains, because the quality of food doesn't seem as good. You can't get as much organics.
"We're somewhat health-conscious. I read labels for fat content and sugars. I like to look for whole grains and things of that nature. We try to stay away from hydrogenated oils."
- Jesse and Shantala Cryns, each 27
- Mission Hills
- Spent $70 today.
- Spend about $100 a week on food.
"We eat out about three or four meals a week, including lunches.
"Both of us cook, but she cooks more, maybe about 70/30. His spaghetti sauce is the best, but we make tons of different stuff. The key to a good sauce is to make everything from scratch. It's full of vegetables, and it takes about three hours.
"Today we got ingredients for Chicken Marsala. We often shop together, but we try to stay away from these places on the weekends, because they're too busy.
"We shop at Henry's, Trader Joe's, and sometimes Whole Foods. There's only three things we buy at Vons: yellow mustard, regular ketchup, and booze.
"We won't buy anything with hydrogenated oils, because your body can't process them. And we try to stay away from high-fructose corn syrup too. We try to go as organic as possible; it doesn't always work, though."