Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fresh and Easy in Phoenix

There's been a mini-explosion of new construction in the metro Phoenix area, in the form of about 2 dozen new Fresh and Easy food markets.

Think of them like a cross between Whole Foods and Trader Joe's - quality food at discount prices.

There are 3 new F&E markets within a 10 minute drive of my home alone. Find a Fresh and Easy near you on this map.

With the motto "A simple shopping experience with everything you need right in the neighborhood," F&E aims to make shopping easy and affordable again.

One of F&E's main goals is to open food markets in neighborhoods traditionally underserved by markets selling fresh produce, specifically low income neighborhoods.

The company's mission statement:

  • We create value for our customers so they will come back again and again.

  • We treat people how we like to be treated and nobody tries harder for customers.

  • We think fresh, wholesome food should be accessible and affordable to everyone.

  • We're a neighborhood market, so it only makes sense that we care about our neighbors and our environment. READ MORE

  • People who are valued are better able to value our customers, so creating a rewarding workplace is very important to us. READ MORE.

Personally, I like the Fresh and Easy near me and have shopped there several times. I also shop at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Safeway and Fry's. My rundown of the pro's, con's and personality of each:

Trader Joe's - earthy-crunchy-granola. Offbeat items, lots of organic foods, great wine & beer selection. TJ's caters to the hippie inside you with items from small, independent producers you can't find elsewhere. They're also a great source for pop in the oven quickly snacks for a party. My biggest beef? They don't carry Helman's (Best Foods) mayonnaise. They've got some wacky soy based "nayo-naise", a sunflower mayo and so forth, but not the real deal. What I love? I feel good when I leave there, like I got some great quality food and supported the local Mom and Pop food producers too.

Whole Foods - upscale organics. Tons of organic grocery items, meat, fish and poultry that can't be beat for quality, and they carry the largest selection of macrobiotic-friendly items I've ever found. My biggest beef? They're expensive. What I love? The huge selection of oganic produce. Organic produce really does taste better. Lettuce has a taste. Believe me. Try the organic varieties and you'll see what I mean.

Fresh and Easy - convenient quality. Many ready to heat-and-serve items, prepared lunches for busy bodies on the go, and a good variety of packaged foods and groceries in convenient small family sizes. Fresh and Easy carries a full line of products from groceries to health and beauty items. They have 2 to 5 different brands of each item they carry. My biggest beef? Their packaged salads wilt after 2 days in my fridge. What I love? Their self-checkout aisles. Scanners that read your items easily, a conveyor belt that speeds along without hurting your precious produce and friendly employees right there to help you if you need it.

Safeway and Fry's - traditional grocery supermarkets.

Many people will say that Safeway is a 'step above' Fry's in quality and selection but I'm not sure I agree. Fry's quality & selection can be spotty, depending on the location of the store. The Fry's near me is my favorite shop spot for everyday staple items. It's near the village of Sunnyslope, which is a heavily Latino neighborhood. Hence, they carry a lot of ethnic foods, unusual produce and packaged goods brands I've never heard of. A friend who lives closer to Desert Ridge says she never shops Fry's because the produce stinks, but the veggies in my Sunnyslope Fry's are the best around, without question. Many Fry's locations also carry household items and furniture, much like a Target or K Mart. Fry's also has a separate division called Fry's Electronics, and I'm certain you can guess what they sell.

Safeway is known for their friendly customer service: employees are always standing nearby ready to help and if you ask where something is located, the employee literally takes you there and asks if you need any other help. My particular Safeway's produce doesn't hold a candle to Fry's but I have friends who swear by their local Safeway. Find your local Safeway or Fry's by clicking the links in this sentence.

Hope this is helpful to new Valley residents!