Sunday, November 17, 2013

Grocery Shopping -- Carless Rating #4

One of the more daunting tasks of being carless is ensuring that you have access to groceries. More specifically, it is important to have access to healthy foodstuffs. A person can survive off of junk food, but at the expense of their health, and thusly convenient stores are not sufficient outlets for food purchase. You need vegetables, fruit, meats, dairy, etc. Everything you’ve learned since you first saw the food pyramid (whether or not the proportions are correct) needs to be attainable within a reasonable area. There isn’t a full-service grocery store in the immediate downtown area of Oklahoma City, but there are options that are close-by.

Grocery Shopping Walk: 20/25

Affordability has been very important for our grocery shopping since we moved here at the end of September; there are a lot of costs in moving and furnishing an apartment. Luckily, the Homeland grocery store at 18th Street and Classen meets all of our needs in terms of access to healthy foods at an affordable price. Homeland isn’t the closest store with produce and meats (that would be Native Roots in Deep Deuce) but it is a very nice balance of product and price. It is around 1.5 miles from our apartment building, which is about a 25-minute walk at our pace, and the walk goes through some of the more beautiful and interesting areas of the city. For an able-bodied person this route is completely manageable. But, at this distance, it would not qualify for a true urban grocery shopping experience.

For a grocery experience to be truly urban, it is necessary to be able to walk to the store, buy groceries, and carry them back home. This limits the amount of groceries you can purchase during a single trip to the store, but because of the convenience, it is not an issue to visit your local grocer several times a week. When I lived in Paris for 9 months during my study abroad program in 2008-9 this was how grocery shopping was conducted. I would walk down the street, probably no more than a half-mile to the Fran Prix grocery 3 or 4 times a week and purchase what I needed to make dinner for a couple of days, and try to stock up on lunch, breakfast, and snack stuff. Not only was I able to walk to the grocery store in Paris, but I could also ride the tram system if I didn’t want to walk back with a bunch of groceries in my hands. Many people own rolling grocery carts that allow them to travel more easily with their purchases.  The benefit of this style of grocery shopping (other than what I’ve already mentioned) is that you are able to purchase and consume food at its freshest level because you are not holding food in the freezer for days or weeks on end. I’d imagine that this creates a higher demand for quality fresh foods, which in turn leads grocers to stocking and sourcing the freshest quality products.

When a grocery store moves into the downtown area of OKC, this would be the way I would grocery shop again. But, as it stands now, the Homeland is just far enough away that it’s not reasonable to walk there more than one time each week, and by that time we need more groceries than we can comfortably carry back home.  We often call a taxi to take us home, and because our transportation expenses are so low, spending between $8 and $10 for a weekly taxi ride is still wildly more affordable than taking on a car payment, car insurance payments, fuel costs, and maintenance costs. There are several taxi services in Oklahoma City, but we use Yellow Cab exclusively because of their courteous service and the quality of their taxis. Thunder Cab have been very rude to us, and they are not good at fulfilling their end of the service agreement. One instance in particular: We called for a cab before we checked out of the store, and the driver said he would be there in 15 to 20 minutes. We get outside in 10 minutes to wait, and 20 minutes rolls by, and Beth noticed she had missed a call when we were bagging our groceries inside the loud grocery store… it was the taxi driver. So we called the driver, and he said he had gotten there early and we weren’t there, so he left! And then he wouldn’t come back to pick us up… needless to say, we will not be using their services.

So, let’s rate the carless journey to and from the Homeland from our perspective, that of a weekly shopper:

At a distance of 1.4 miles, this trip is on the lower end of a B on our scale.

The pedestrian infrastructure varies along the way, and generally gets less amenable the closer you get to Homeland. In particular, Harn Park in Heritage Hills has very little accessibility for people with disabilities, and the intersection of Western and Classen can be dangerous. From downtown, through midtown, and up to around 15th Street, though, the sidewalk infrastructure is very good. I’ll give it a C.

There are many different ways to get to and from the grocery store, but they all are contingent upon outside factors. Biking and walking become difficult when you have lots of groceries; the bus system doesn’t run on Sundays, limiting its usefulness; but cars and taxis are convenient at all times. Today we saw a guy riding an adult-sized tricycle with a basket for carrying groceries between the back two wheels, and it seemed like a pretty useful way of transporting groceries without a car. I’ll give this a C since proper planning could make it easy.

The land use choices along the way to Homeland are some of the best in Oklahoma City. Passing through the trendy Hudson district is pleasant. The Midtown Plaza is on the way, which is home to many local restaurants, shops, bars, and offices. Heritage Hills is a gorgeous neighborhood, and Harn Park is very pretty. This gets a solid A.

The atmosphere is also very nice along the whole distance, and only makes me somewhat uneasy when walking along Classen Drive. I will give this an A as well.

So that is 2 As, 1 B, and 2 Cs, for a total score of 20 out of 25. I look forward to a full-service grocery store moving into the downtown area for convenience, but for now, Homeland and Native Roots provide Beth and me with 99% of the products we need to eat well and live happily. 


  1. This is great! As an avid pedestrian (though not car-free) and a resident of Heritage Hills East, I get tons of weird looks and disparaging comments when I opt to walk rather than drive. Kudos to you two and keep up the great work! I hope this idea continues to spread. For a better walk, you may want to consider taking Walker all the way to 18th -- you can avoid Classen while enjoying Mesta Park / Heritage Hills and the time/distance should be about the same. And, after reading about y'all's mattress ordeal, if you two ever find yourselves in need of a ride, Heritage Hills East isn't far & I'm happy to help!

  2. Joel, thank you for the generous offer. It's great to see that there are others in the community who support walkability, and I fully understand the bewilderment many people seem to have with the idea of walking/biking instead of driving. I can't tell you how many times we've been told that you can't live in OKC without a car, but it really comes down to where you choose to live. Heritage Hills is a beautiful area, and I always enjoy walking through there, or when I go on runs; nice sidewalks, old trees, and fantastic houses.

  3. I've walked farther to places downtown (e.g. the boathouse district is 2 miles away from the Regency), but have never walked to the homeland, mostly because I usually catch it on the way home from getting my daughter from dance practice or coming home from other errands, but even the times I go straight from home, there's the grocery carrying issue. I've considered taking my bike, but the bike parking infrastructure at that homeland leaves a little to be desired. But I've been going to that store for 7 years (used to live two blocks north in the Classen before moving downtown), and while many knock it, it generally does the job. I do go to native roots when I can as well, but it's challenging to get everything on my list there at times.