The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Exploring the Suburbs at Stop & Shop: It's Fuggin' Huge

This post originally took place on December 23.

Stop & Shop doesn't need any stinkin' windows.

Last month when I visited my mom and brother in New Jersey for Christmas, we took a trip to a local Stop & Shop because there's only so much you can do late at night in Bergen County.

...And it was also for nostalgia's sake. While growing up in Franklin Lakes, the Stop & Shop in Wyckoff was the supermarket my family shopped at the most. It was also where I got my first "real" job in 2003 near the end of senior year when I figured I may as well attempt to make a few bucks before going to college. What role did I aim for? Bagger, aka "the easiest job you could possibly get at a supermarket." I wasn't aiming to make a lot of money, just something that wasn't from my parents. $6.50 an hour for methodically placing food in plastic and paper bags didn't seem all that bad. (I hated bagging large bottles of soda though; too goddamn bulky. Cereal boxes were quite nice.)

I'm probably one of the few employees in the history of Stop & Shop who found bagging a fascinating window into the eating habits of mostly white, upper-middle class America; it was pretty different from the diet imposed by my Chinese health conscious mom. That I was taking an anthropology class at the time and was on a raw food diet probably contributed to that fascination, though. (I remember taking tabs on the customers who bought fruits and vegetables and those who didn't. Because that's what you do when everything you eat is raw.) But baggies of luncheon meats and gallon jugs of milk can only captivate a 17-year-old with a short attention span for so long—a few months, in my case. I can't remember what I did in the period between end-of-work and beginning-of-school, but it probably involved sleeping excessively and eating loads of fruit. After I stopped working there, going back to buy groceries felt awkward.

This supermarket is fuggin huge.
FOOOOOD. forward about six years. The Stop & Shop I used to work in is no more; the strip mall it once resided in got a full makeover. While the location is the same, the new building is larger—think "Walmart-esque"—and the design is friendlier and more welcoming. I rub my eyes and, through slack-jawed mouth, utter something profound, like, "Whoaaaaa." If you're accustomed to the tight aisles of New York City's supermarkets, you would too.

This supermarket probably isn't anything special to most people—hell, maybe most new Stop & Shops look like this. But all I could think is, "This place is fuggin' huge." I happily cruised the mostly empty aisles with my brother. Here are some things I thought were worth photographing.

You can have races down these things.

Really wide aisles. Nice.

There's a reason its 99 cents. Yeah.
Kids will drink anything.

That's not antifreeze; it's 99¢ gallon jugs of a "Wildberry" flavored beverage by Guaranteed Value™. I'm a fan of generic packaging; water-high fructose corn syrup-preservatives-raspberry juice-blue food coloring blend, less so.

Lots of Raisin Bran
Hope you like Raisin Bran.

Six different Raisin Bran box designs in one section. All purple. How will you choose?

Pop Tarts, anyone?

As zigwaffle commented, there's some impressive facing going on in the Pop-Tarts section. (I think I've only tried a Pop-Tart once in my life when I was a kid—I didn't like the thick layer of frosting. Or the thin layer of filling. But I didn't like the "healthier" version from the health food store either for tasting too healthy. Toaster pastries, you cannot please me. But that's okay, because I don't have a toaster.)

British section

The "International Foods" aisle was definitely a new addition. I was impressed by how well stocked the British section was (I didn't get it all in this photo). Who's buying all these Heinz Baked Beans, Digestives, PG Tips, and Jammie Dodgers? I dipped into the supply by grabbing a pack of Jammie Dodgers to relive the trip I took to England in 2004, during which I discovered and overdosed on biscuits. It's easy considering the vast variety in existence, and that biscuits are so pleasantly easy to snack on. Too. Pleasant.

hooo man look at all that Jell-O and stuff
I suddenly have a craving...

Holy shit it's JELL-O TIME! And pudding time. I like the idea of Jell-O more than actually eating it. Growing up, my mom would rarely buy the mix, but instead combine fruit juice with Knox unflavored gelatin. It wasn't the same. Damn my infantile mind, so enraptured by artificial colors and flavors. (It still is, sort of.)

corn muffin mix

It's that Guaranteed Value™ brand again, this time bringing you five boxes of corn muffin mix for $5. Damn. I almost wanted one.

Soda, Part 1.

There were two aisles of soft drinks. I'm used to there only being one per supermarket.

Ka Pop?
Ka Pop.

Just because I liked the name.


"How do we make this white tissue paper more exciting?"

"Add an exclamation mark!"

I didn't know shopping carts had cup holders
Don't drink hot liquids.

This was the first time I had seen a shopping cart with a cup holder. I wonder how many kids have gotten burned by their parents hot beverages.

And that's my random supermarket tour. Stop & Shop is much nicer than I expected, has a huge variety of products, and is quite inexpensive (I think I got a box of clementines for $5). It's something in between a regular supermarket and a Wegmans, perhaps? I wouldn't mind having that in the city, where I usually shop at either Whole Foods or street vendors in Chinatown.

Next post: REAL FOOD.


Super Stop & Shop
327 Franklin Avenue, Wyckoff, NJ 07481 (map)


Emily / January 27, 2010 3:06 AM

It's amazing how living in NYC and generally outside suburban America makes me appreciate these ginormous supermarkets. What I miss the most right now as I live in Japan is grocery shopping in America. Grocery shopping here is great, but I really miss the 10 minutes of waffling I'd do in the cereal aisle back home trying to decide between the 20+ brands of cereal, haha.

Have you ever been to Stew Leonard's, by the way? Now THAT is a grocery shopping experience...

Nicholas / January 27, 2010 3:23 AM

It's incredible... Morton Williams can charge 5 dollars for a box of Raisin Bran and get away with it... yet just across a bridge it's 2 bucks. Sometimes I bike across the GWB to buy candy, true story.

kim / January 27, 2010 7:55 AM

wow, you were on a raw diet? What prompted you? I tried, but I still preferred cooked CHinese greens. :) Do you miss it?

veronica / January 27, 2010 8:50 AM

i agree with emily, stew leonards is amazing! maybe one of the few reasons i would venture back up to westchester.. hmm roadtrip?!

Al Attanasio / January 27, 2010 9:20 AM

Oh my goodness! I've been reading your blog for about a year now (on and off) for the amazing reviews- definitely found some gems through you. But I never knew as a children we shopped at the same grocery store! Its so crazy how monstrous it is now! Remember when it was Grand Union?

Michelle / January 27, 2010 9:27 AM

I'm glad I'm not the only one who runs around the grocery store taking pictures..People tend to get weirded out. Maybe it's that I'm taking pictures of 2" stuffed panda next to the various products though...

Amy / January 27, 2010 9:36 AM

This big box supermarkets are swell and all but my heart belongs to Trader Joe's. They have a decent variety, good value, and their placards are informative.


Olivia / January 27, 2010 10:17 AM

Hey, remember when you and I went grocery shopping for my movie? Pretty sure we raced down one of those aisles...AT THE SAME GROCERY STORE

roboppy / January 27, 2010 10:19 AM

Emily: I have a very vague memory of going to Stew Leonards when I was really little; I remember the cartoon cow. But that's it. I'd wanna go back!

Nicholas: You deserve a reward after biking over the bridge! :)

Kim: Health reasons, mostly. It helped that my mom was on the diet too; it would've been really hard to start doing it by myself. I couldn't go back to it though. At the time I really believed it was how I wanted to live my life, but...uh...after I got off it I realized "NOPE, I LOVE EATING EVERYTHING!" So. Yup. I miss being healthier, but not enough to actually eat healthily. ;_;

Veronica: ROADTRIP! I'm down with that.

Al: No way! Yup, I remember the Grand Union days. I used to shop in Boulder Run ALLLL the time and eat at McDonald's. :)

Michelle: I take more photos of supermarkets when I'm on vacation, haha. WE'RE NOT WEIRD, NOOOPE.

Amy: If it were less crowded (just thinking about the NYC one though) and had more produce, I might wanna shop there more often. :[ I think the thing I've bought the most there is...soap. I like their soap!


Lisa S. / January 27, 2010 12:35 PM

Wow, I didn't know you grew up in Franklin Lakes! I grew up in Pompton Lakes and West Milford, but my dad worked in Franklin Lakes. I now live in IL, and no one's ever heard of where I grew up. Awesome! (Sorry, I'm a dork.)

Rebecca / January 27, 2010 4:51 PM

I drag my husband into supermarkets whenever we go on vacation! You're right, it's a good glimpse into people's lives. I've realized over time that NY'ers are soooo spoiled for variety, quality and value. In an Australian supermarket, Rice Krispies cost $15. I brought home lamb flavoring packets from Mongolia to make khuushuur(dumplings) only to realize that the instructions are only in Mongolian. Sigh.

Sandra / January 28, 2010 12:40 AM

Hey, it's the same brand logo as the Giant supermarket chain (in MD, where I am)! The company recently remodeled all the stores in my area so they all look freaking huge compared to before (despite not expanding the space). *Hmm, just wikipedia'd it, looks like both chains are owned by the same company now* Way back when I lived in Taipei, I remember the "supermarkets" in the city, which were 1)underground, 2)packed to the brim with products, which I guess makes sense seeing the scarcity of space in the city. Made for a cozy shopping experience though, heh.

Jennifer / January 28, 2010 1:42 AM

Blech, jammie dodgers. A friend and I were soooo excited to get a pack of those after watching Glorious the first time. But the jam part was texturally disgusting, like a thinner, grosser fruit leather. The biscuit part wasn't all that great either. The chocolate-covered digestives were much better, but still kind of boring. Bad British cookies, yuck!

roboppy / January 28, 2010 9:19 AM

Lisa: When people ask me where I grew up, I say "somewhere in NJ you've never heard of." I do feel a tinge of excitement when someone has actually heard of it. :D Although the last time that happened it was because The Real Housewives of NJ takes place in Franklin Lakes...yay.

Janet: If only we could have a TEA AND DIGESTIVES PARTY!

Rebecca: We do have lots of variety, although not necessarily the best value (compared ot..well, NJ). No $15 Rice Krispies though. :)

Sandra: Oh man, I loved the supermarket near my apartment in Taipei! Underground and full of..everything. Way more than just food. It felt more like a warehouse in some way, but not Costco-sized. I was also fond of Wellcome.

Jennifer: Aw, I like Jammie Dodgers! I feel like there's just the right amount of goo to go with the cookies, and the goo isn't too sweet so it's a nice..not-to-sweet nibble.

wix / January 28, 2010 12:10 PM

All this variety (biscuital and otherwise) reminds me of a Fresh Air story from last week, all about being "pathologically indecisive," e.g. when buying Cheerios:

My friend Kimberly heard the story, decided that *she* was pathologically indecisive, and I have been sending her cameraphone pics of cereal aisles nearly every day since. ha-HA!

Anyway, it's a good listen--or good read, as I just noticed the entire transcript is printed below the audio player. "(Soundbite of laughter)"

Chris H / January 28, 2010 12:23 PM

This is fascinating, actually. The epic aisles, the packed in preservatives, the lowering of expectations... it simultaneously warms my heart and fills me with dread.

The Value Pack! thing is awesome.

PJ / January 28, 2010 1:28 PM

haha -- KaPop! and two aisles of soda!?! good gawd!! anyway love the photo comments -- hilarious :)

auntjone / January 28, 2010 1:52 PM

Screw the kids! Do you know how many times I've almost burned myself with hot beverage while grocery shopping?? I want a cup holder!

I love grocery stores.

Danny / January 28, 2010 4:30 PM

Man if we could just get that in Manhattan or Brooklyn! One of these days I'm going to go inside of the Brooklyn Costco and see what heaven looks like.

roboppy / January 28, 2010 7:08 PM

Wix: Thanks for the link! I'll check it out.

Chris: I'll have to do a photo tour of a NYC supermarket for comparison. Non epic aisles, weeee.

PJ: I should've taken a photo of the other popcorn's like, "How many ways can we say 'pop'?" Not sure what would come after KAPOP.

auntjone: I'd probably spill something on myself if I were carrying a cup and shopping at the same time. ..So I don't do it. :)

Danny: Ohhh costco...I haven't been to one of those in ages! I loved the candy aisle.

Sandra / January 29, 2010 12:16 AM

Wellcome!! That was the name; I couldn't remember what it was called in English. I lived right around the corner from one (along with like five 7-11s).

And @ wix, I liked the old Giant logo/motto as well (I'm in the Rockville area too :)) The first time walking into a "new" old store was definitely bizarre.

curiouseater / January 29, 2010 8:45 AM

Ha! I love your blog! I have been lurking for years and might have posted the odd comment but you blog always makes me laugh as you can have an amusing turn of phrase. You are also the only other girl I know who has read Scott Pilgrim. Funnily enough the last time we were in New York my husband bough the latest copy from the comic shop opposite Shake Shack. I think I felt the way you felt at Stop and shop the first time I went into a Whole Foods, I just couldn't get over the quantity and quality of the produce. And I agree, Jammy Dodgers are too good.

Edd / January 29, 2010 1:40 PM

I agree Jammie Dodgers are good they remind of being a kid because I never had them at home but got them at friends houses, But I dont know who moves from the UK to the US and misses rich tea biscuits which have to be the dullest and bland biscuit around

roboppy / January 29, 2010 6:12 PM

Sandra: I MISS CONVENIENCE STORES SO MUCH! I guess the equivalent here is bodegas, but that is so not the same. :(

curiouseater: Thanks for delurking! There must be loads of us Scott Pilgrim readers out there...alas, I don't really know any either. I bought a book for a friend as a gift though, so there's another one (in training). I think the movie is coming out in August WOOHOOOOHUHh!

Edd: TEA BISCUITS! Also tasty. ...But I think part of the appeal for me is "This is all British, weee!"

Jamie / February 16, 2010 10:55 PM

Sandra: Yeah Giant and Stop n' Shop are both owned by Ahold (I giggle every time I mentally say that name). So that's why it all looks the same. Sigh... everything is owned by a few companies now. =(

Something random from the archives