Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Win WinCo October

Our neighborhood mall is going through an identity crisis right now. For years it was anchored by a Macy's on one end, and a Gottschalks on the other. Various mall-like stores filled out the rest, with Ross anchoring the middle. When Gottschalks closed down, the mall looked like a teeter-totter with only one kid on it. Then Ross left, and Macy's was the lone hold out. Macy's closed this year. A Planet Fitness went in where Ross was, who knows what will happen to Macy's but it was the Gottschalks space that made the biggest transformation.  

They propped up the walls, took out the entire second floor and turned it into a WinCo. I was so disappointed! A WinCo? Right across from the world's grossest Walmart? The Walmart where people barely put clothes on to shop? The Walmart where tube tops are considered formal wear? How many low-end-boxy-stores can we take? I let out a huge groan and lamented, "There goes the neighborhood. We now live on the edge of a shoe desert!" There is not a decent store for miles to the east of us where one can find a cute pair of pumps, sandals or ankle boots. Flip flops from Walmart do not count. 

I had been in a WinCo before, and was not impressed. Immediately upon entering, one is hit with the Great Wall of Snacks. It's impossible to avoid. You have to pass by processed, fried, sugar-coated, salt-encrusted, non-food-food items just to walk in the place. It is not Whole Foods, It's not even Half Foods. It could be called Food Particles.

But I certainly don't want the place to fail and give Walmart smirking rights, so after our 99 Centember Vegan Challenge, where we shopped exclusively at the 99 Cent Store for one month, we were up for another challenge. WinCo it is. In October. It's WincOctober!

I ventured into the incredibly weird entrance. Imagine taking a department store that had had a front, back and a mall entrance and turning it into a grocery store. They had to do some maneuvering, and it seems more like you're walking into a really ugly airport terminal. But once you see it, it all makes sense and eventually you walk into the store.

Grab your cart and pick up some serious speed to whiz by the Great Wall of Snacks. You may see some semi-real food nestled in with the plastic barrels of Cheese Doodles, but keep going, the real food is inside. I promise, if you're very careful you won't end up with a shopping basket full of deplorables.

The first section I hit was the produce. Not bad, not bad at all. It's not all gorgeous and fancy like a Nugget Market, but it will certainly do. The prices are great, the produce is fresh and any place with fennel, bok choy and fresh herbs is plenty fancy for me. I grabbed lots of very hardy winterish veggies - carrots, celery, cauliflower, potatoes, peppers, mushrooms and sweet potatoes, I had no idea of a menu, I just wanted a base of vegetables that don't wilt when I turn my back. For fruit I stuck to bananas and apples. We have a secret source for pomegranates. Shhh.

After produce, I went to the bulk area. Wow. Very impressive. Again, you have to look past the first row of bulk stuff - giant vats of gummy worms, gummy bears, gummy everything. It's an assault on the senses, it made my teeth hurt just looking at all that neon candy. But I kept pushing my cart and I found some real food. Beans, beans, beans. Rice. Bulk raisins. Bulk cereal! Oatmeal for an army. And enough cinnamon to get us thru pumpkin smoothie season. I think the bulk section is the best thing going at WinCo.

They also have a pretty impressive vegan plant-milk area. I chose from rice, soy, almond, oat, coconut and they even had hemp milk. A place that has hemp milk is tops in my book. I hate the stuff, can't stomach it, but still I find it's impressive when someone carries it for the 0.0000015% of the population that likes hemp milk. You go, WinCo!

A few cans of this, some cartons of that, some coffee, tortillas and I was ready to hit the door. I bought a lot of food, or rather I bought a lot of potential food. With much washing, soaking, chopping, mixing and cooking, we have many many meals on hand. October is going to be a Win WinCo situation.

My basket full of adorables.