Once college students leave the dorms, they become modern versions of hunter-gatherers. Whether they are content with keeping their kitchen cupboards full of easy, boxed meals of the instant variety, or prefer to have them stocked with essentials to create Food Network-worthy creations, every meal starts at the grocery store.
For those who can no longer enjoy the everyday comfort of the campus dining commons, or those who just wish to add some variety (or complexity) to their at-home meals, here is a breakdown of the grocery options available in the Davis community.
Davis Food Co-op
620 G St.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
This locally and cooperatively owned store located north of downtown Davis offers a wide range of natural and organic foods while also providing a vast selection of products to serve the general community. It even accepts Aggie Cash. The majority of fresh produce is grown within 100 miles of Davis and can be expensive, but cheaper, conventionally grown produce is available as well.
“If you shop seasonally, it makes a big difference,” said Melanie Madden, marketing coordinator at the Food Co-op. “When food is seasonal, it can be cheaper. You won’t have to get your tomatoes from Chile.”
Local, fresh produce is clearly a highlight of shopping for many at the co-op, but it also has a section for on-the-go lunches, a salad bar, sandwich counter, hot food bar, a sample-friendly olive bar, and a self-serve bulk food aisle which includes items such as candies, almond butter and coffee grounds. It also has a gourmet cheese section, featuring products that comply with the Food Co-op’s highest values: local, made by small producers, or made by other co-ops.
“We’re so proud of our cheese department,” Madden said, adding that one vendor even knows her goats by name.
Product for comparison: Clover Stornetta 2% milk: $4.39/gal.
Random product: Rising Moon Organics Butternut Squash Ravioli, $3.99/package.
885 Russell Blvd.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Relatively new to the Davis area, many students flock to this location in the University Mall for the unique items distributed under the Trader Joe’s brand name. The store is a famously pleasant place to shop, and while lines can be long during peak hours, the welcoming atmosphere and sample table located at the back of the store easily pull in customers from all over Davis.
“All the workers are super friendly; they always make my day,” said Ani Ucar, a senior psychology and communication double major. “I fall for the samples every time. They are to die for.”
Ucar also appreciates that Trader Joe’s carries a large amount of healthy products.
“There’s no junk food aisle to be tempted by at Trader Joes,” she said. “Also, the prices are lower even though the food is healthier.”
Most students are enthused by the amount of different snacks the place seems to have, which can provide a refreshing change from the usual grocery offerings.
“There’s a ton of options for such cheap and good food,” said Nick Brown, a University of San Diego student doing post-baccalaureate work in Davis for the summer. “I really love those peanut butter-stuffed pretzels.”
Product for comparison: Trader Joe’s 2% milk: $3.49/gal.
Random product: Wild Mushroom & Black Truffle Flatbread with Mozzarella Cheese for $4.99
1431 West Covell Blvd. and 2121 Cowell Blvd.
Hours: 24 hours
With two convenient locations, this supermarket is as popular in Davis as it is around the country. Prices are competitive, especially after the Safeway Club Card Member discount (only a phone number is needed to get into the ‘club’ and receive discounts), making it a good choice to buy a large amount of groceries.
“I like shopping at Safeway with a Club Card. It makes me feel like I’m not spending a ton of money because everything is discounted,” Ucar said. “Even if the items aren’t actually cheaper than they would be elsewhere, I feel better spending more here.”
Because Safeway is a chain and carries mostly mass-distributed products, shoppers can usually recognize all the brands on the shelves, making shopping simpler for some cooks.
“It’s nice to see name-brand things on the shelves,” said Eddie Hackett, a senior animal biology major. “You’re already familiar with the flavors and you have a better idea of how things will turn out. You can put a meal together more easily.”
Safeway offers made-to-order sushi, sandwiches and a full range of hot and cold deli options Additionally, they have at least 15 or more available choices for packaged deli soup.
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, quite a few shoppers roam Safeway’s aisles even at three in the morning. There is also a Wells Fargo branch inside both stores.
Product for comparison: Lucerne 2% milk: $4.19/gal.
Random product: Skippy peanut butter for $2.50.
1900 Anderson Rd.
Hours: 6 a.m. to midnight daily
Even though this store flies lower on the radar than other grocery stores in town, Save Mart is still a popular stop for those living in central and north Davis. It features fresh, local produce (while also offering cheaper, conventionally grown options) that can sometimes be found at a fraction of competitors’ prices. For example, avocados are 79 cents each.
Save Mart also has two Redbox movie rental kiosks inside the store and is also one of the only grocery store in the area to offer a self-checkout option, meaning lines are short and, at times, non-existent.
Product for comparison: Sunnyside 2% milk: $3.99/gal.
Random product: Fresh deli jalapeño corn bread for $2.99.
1414 East Covell Blvd. and 409 Mace Blvd.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
This family-owned business has nine locations in the greater Sacramento area, two of which are in Davis. The stores are not small, but still have the ambience of a local market and features organic, fresh produce from nearby farms. Although the Nugget has a reputation among Davis students for being a more high-end and expensive grocery store option, their prices seem to fall consistently lower than those of Safeway, its top competitor.
“I love the Nugget for its wide selection of healthy food,” said Megan Maurano, a senior animal biology and Italian double major. “I especially love the arugula.”
The Nugget, like the Davis Food Co-op, caters to a healthy and sustainability-conscious population. Many are aware that choosing to purchase these sorts of products can be more costly, but the price difference is less significant at the Nugget.
“I like that I can find all that organic food that the Food Co-op sells, but cheaper,” Maurano said.
And while the store has a wide range of raw products that allow cooking enthusiasts whip up delicious creations from scratch, it also carries items that require less preparation.
“I love the Nugget’s chicken that you can get already marinated,” Hackett said. “I hate cooking. This way, 90 percent of the work is already done for me.”
The store also has a deli, sandwich counter, and salad and olive bar. It also has a reasonably priced grain bar ($7.49/lb) and a variety of unusual to-go items, such as flank steak burritos ($4.99).
Product for comparison: Clover 2% milk: $4.99
Random product: Earth & Wine Provisions’ Chipotle Honey Lime Mustard for $5.99.
LANI CHAN can be reached at email@example.com.