Help me do basic things like feed myself
January 7, 2014 6:35 PM   Subscribe

I recently moved to the Dogpatch in SF. It's a great neighborhood for me - it's close to work and quite bike-able - except that it has no pharmacies or grocery stores. I don't have a car. Help me find reasonably priced ways to get food and DayQuil!

Hey MeFites. I moved from NYC to SF at the beginning of this past fall, and so far I've been having a great time except when it comes to feeding myself and filling prescriptions. I'm eating out for convenience way too much and I'd like to change that. I was definitely spoiled before, living within an easy and flat walk of Key Foods, Associated, and To The World Farm. But I'm having more trouble grocery shopping here than I was when I lived in the suburbs, and it seems like there just has to be a better way. SF denizens, hit me with the knowledge stick.

I live in the Dogpatch, around 10 minutes walk from the 23rd St. K/T, and work in Mission Bay. Overthought and heavy cans of first-world-problem beans follow.

So far, the options I've tried are:
  • Fancy bodega-type groceries in Potrero Hill. Problem: while theoretically "nearby," the grade (10-15% in parts) is too steep for me to bike with groceries, and it's also too far/hilly for me to walk with heavy bags. Also: more expensive, not open very late after work (I often don't leave until 7 or 8), don't stock pharmacy stuff, and not on the way to or from anything.
  • 4th and King Safeway, coming home on the T. Open until midnight and marginally more "on the way," though it's in the wrong direction on the K/T. But I just tried this and not only did it take 2 hours but by the end my bags were falling apart, I hurt all over, and I was exhausted. Not so great.
  • Going west into the Mission/Outer Mission. This would mean either biking down Cesar Chavez (which I'm a little leery to do at night because of big rig traffic, but maybe I'm being paranoid?), going "uphill both ways" across Potrero, or taking the 48, which only runs every ~20 minutes. Like Potrero, this is also pretty far out of the way for me and I have no idea where to shop - the places I've tried have been worse quality than P.Hill but just as overpriced. Suggestions are welcome though, I don't know the neighborhood at all really.
  • Zipcar. Zipcar unfortunately isn't particularly close to my apartment, and for the cost of a round trip I might as well take an $8 cab home from the grocery store instead. Which I've done, to my embarrassment.
  • Safeway on 16th and/or Whole Paycheck on 17th. Bypasses Potrero Hill. I'd thought this was a little far, but looking at the map again it's only 2.3-2.5 miles each way, with max 5-6% grades, so I guess I'm just lazy. I guess with an extra 50 lbs of beans/beer/etc it might not be quite so easy, though - is this worth practicing? Should I aspire to be eating this trip for breakfast?
  • Delivery. This is the best option I've found so far. The ones I know about are Safeway and Instacart. Safeway is okay but I'd definitely be open to something better. The cost is around what it would be to take an Uber home, and they are good for staples but their produce always seems to be right on the edge; they also often seem to be out of things I've requested, which is a little annoying. Instacart is interesting but horrifyingly overpriced - not just on delivery fees, but there's at least a 33% markup across the board in my experience. Too rich for my blood.
tl;dr, what are the most reasonable and cost-effective ways of feeding myself while living in this neighborhood? Are there options I'm not considering? Is it time for some grandma cart realness, or do I just need to suck it up and become a better biker? Am I doing grocery shopping totally wrong in general?

I am definitely thinking about moving somewhere with more amenities and/or getting a car, but it's going to take time to save up enough money for either of those, so I still need options in the meantime. (I also like my apartment otherwise and I lucked into some below-market rent, which I'm worried might be a hard trick to replicate.)

Thanks a ton for reading; any help you can offer would be appreciated.
posted by en forme de poire to Shopping (24 answers total)
Why not bike to the Safeway at 4th and King or the Whole Foods at 4th and Harrison? They're both about 2 miles from Dogpatch, but it's all flat. Better than going to the Whole Foods in Potrero Hill, that's for sure.

(Also, can you take your bike to work? That way you can head to the supermarket after work and then ride home.)
posted by asterix at 6:50 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

As far as delivery goes, there's also AmazonFresh, although that costs a flat fee of $299/year (which includes Prime).
posted by asterix at 6:54 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I used to live on the top of potrero hill. Tried biking up the hill once with groceries. Failed. Went and got a motorcycle.

But yeah I agree with asterix. Two miles is nothing on a bike. Personally I don't think Ceasar Chavez is too bad for a bike, but it's certainly personal preference. You've also got a pretty flat ride over to Trader Joe's (9th and Bryant) and Rainbow Coop (14th and Folsom), both of which are about a mile further from the Safeway in question.
posted by MillMan at 7:10 PM on January 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another option could be using Safeway delivery for staples, and getting a delivery of a CSA (community supported agriculture) box for produce--since you're in California, might as well take advantage of the amazing local, seasonal produce.
posted by three_red_balloons at 7:12 PM on January 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Have you tried a route that would take you north on one of the goes-all-the-way-through state streets (Indiana?) to 16th, and then to either the WF at 17th and RI, or the Safeway at 16th and Potrero? It would be fairly flat, and taking the state street rather than 3rd would keep you out of most traffic (truck and MUNI especially). This will depend on exactly where you are in Dogpatch.

On preview: For CSA-type delivery, we use Planet Organics, which also has a grocery selection; we get eggs, milk, and yogurt, in addition to veggies. Orders are customizable.
posted by rtha at 7:14 PM on January 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

You've also got a pretty flat ride over to Trader Joe's (9th and Bryant) and Rainbow Coop (14th and Folsom), both of which are about a mile further from the Safeway in question.

Yeah, I was just coming back to suggest both of these. They feel like a completely different part of town, but they're really not that far from where you work.
posted by asterix at 7:14 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Farm Fresh to U can delivery fresh veggies every week. We use this to keep our need to go to the green grocer or rainbow down.

Cesar Chavez is better these days after the new bike lanes went in, but I think it's still a death trap (as someone who bikes to work every day on SF city streets)

No shame in taking a taxi, people do it all the time.

I used a granny cart all the time when I used to go to the mission/castro safeway.

If it was me, I'd do a combination of safeway delivery and a cab for the staples and then FF2U to get veggies delivered every week)

You can get them delivered to work or home as well if you don't have a safe place to leave them out.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 7:14 PM on January 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

No shame in having a granny cart, especially when you don't have time to go too far out of your nabe. I have one for Trader Joe's runs and have schlepped pretty heavy loads up and down hills in my part of SF.
posted by so much modern time at 7:22 PM on January 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

What rtha said. Planet Organics.

Trader Joe's, Costco, Rainbow, Safeway, and the Potrero Whole Foods are all within a few blocks of each other, and it would seem a pretty flat trip to you, depending on where in Dogpatch you live.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:26 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

rtha, yup, I take either Indiana or Illinois to work actually. It's a good tip, especially now that they're done replacing the sewer system over there or whatever.

wow, Costco and Rainbow! I'm dizzy with power. I hadn't really considered that part of SoMa/Mission as being accessible, but you're right, it's a really flat ride. Planet Organics and FF2U look like good options too. Thanks a ton, guys.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:38 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

for the cost of a round trip I might as well take an $8 cab home from the grocery store instead. Which I've done, to my embarrassment.

Why are you embarrassed? Our closest full-service grocery store is 1.14km (.7 miles) from our house. We walk down to hill to get to it, and if we're carrying anything heavier than a bag of sugar, we take a taxi back up the hill to go home. However, if we're going to be getting into a taxi, we make it worth the taxi fare by doing a full weekly shop. Most weeks we opt to get a grocery delivery instead, but some weeks this is what works better, and they cost the same. That €6 a week is basically just household overhead and we budget for it accordingly.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:01 PM on January 7, 2014 [5 favorites]

Also, if you're on the 48 bus route, the 48 goes down 24th St., past Casa Lucas, for Mexican/Central American groceries, and La Palma Mexicatessen, with the best handmade tortillas ever. It also goes to the Noe Valley Whole Foods, but I don't like that one compared to the Potrero store.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:15 PM on January 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ah San Francisco. Such a small city yet things are so far away!

Have you thought about Google Shopping Express? It's free for 6 months and while you can't get anything cold or perishable, you can definitely get a lot of food and staples as well as household and personal stuff.

Also I don't think it's unreasonable to take a cab or Lyft or whatever home from the grocery, especially if you stock up and get a lot of groceries. And don't be embarrassed about getting a granny cart either!
posted by radioamy at 8:39 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

To be sure, if you're regularly buying 50lb bags of beans and beer, you're going to have to go grocery shopping more often than you might otherwise. You could also get a bike trailer and/or panniers.
posted by rhizome at 8:54 PM on January 7, 2014

You've probably thought of this, but: if you have any room to store things, I might get a month's worth of "beans and beer" (i.e., non-perishables), taking a cab for that, and then bike once or twice weekly for fresh produce/lettuce/etc that weighs less and needs to be fresh.
posted by amtho at 8:54 PM on January 7, 2014

I've been really really happy with Good Eggs for produce (and other things!) they recently dropped their delivery fees to 1.99/per delivery. I recommend them wholeheartedly. Good people, great product.
posted by mollymayhem at 9:29 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're already passing 4th and King on the way back from woek, what you can do is stop off at the Safeway there and take the Caltrain to 22nd. You should be able to bike from 22nd back to your house. It costs 3 bucks and you'd have to check the timetables to make sure you don't wait an hour for the next train, though.
posted by Qberting at 10:38 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

It helps if you buy a little bit of stuff often. Some pasta and jarred sauce and parmesan one trip, salmon and soy sauce and garlic the next. You can slowly build up your pantry this way and restock with common items you can find at non-fancy corner bodegas. If I'm just carrying one bag walking up and down San Francisco's hills is a lot more tolerable.

Also taking the 48 (or any other bus) is not that bad. Especially on off hours it's pretty predictable so you can schedule everything on the weekend. Just use NextBus or some other app to time it. At least with the whole foods in Noe Valley (or you could just walk up and down Mission St for all the grocery stores there, there's a pretty well stocked butcher/fishmonger near 22nd and mission) there's plenty of stuff to do while you wait for the next bus. You could grab a coffee or a beer.
posted by rq at 11:02 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks again, guys. Great ideas in this thread - I kept thinking that there was no way I was going to get any responses because it seemed like such a specific question to me, but I am happy to be proved wrong.

I had figured something like the staples 1x/wk and perishables/CSA 1-2x/wk was probably the best idea, but didn't have the logistics down. (Asterix, I have no idea why I didn't think of biking to 4th and King.) The 48 and the 10 aren't bad and I do take them some, but as rq said they're a lot better on weekends so I'm definitely happy to learn about all of these biking options as well.

Qberting, that is a particularly innovative idea, especially since you can take bikes on some Caltrains... I think I am probably too disorganized to time things that precisely, but I will definitely keep that one in the back of my head. Could come in really handy if I get a flat.

Also, inspired by this thread, I just biked down Cesar Chavez to get cold medicine, and it was mostly not scary after all! Traffic on a late weeknight seems pretty minimal and they have also constructed additional pylons around the bike lanes.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:15 PM on January 7, 2014

So I love where I live now (Seattle) but this thread's made me miss Potrero Hill and Rainbow grocery. Rainbow is in a weird, almost no man's land but is actually very convenient for several neighborhoods, including yours due to the flat route. It is also a spectacularly good store, especially if you like buying in bulk (bulk olives! bulk fresh ground peanut butter! more beans than you thought existed!)
posted by R343L at 11:34 PM on January 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also live in Dogpatch. Most of my usual options have been mentioned already, but also note that the 22 will take you near both Whole Foods on Rhode Island and Safeway on 16th, as well as through the upper reaches of the Mission and near the Safeway on Market. My roommate frequents the Trader Joe's on 9th and Bryant, which is also reasonably bike-accessible. The liquor/convenience store on 22nd and 3rd (next to Dogpatch Saloon) is surprisingly well stocked - it's where I go for emeregency flour, butterm and cheese. Finally, there is a Foods Co. in Bayview if you're looking for cheaper options.

Once you get more used to biking in the city you can do advanced things like taking the Wiggle through to Divisadero and all the wonderful things at Bi-Rite Market.

In addition I strongly recommend you check out the Alemany farmer's market on weekends and sign up for Mariquita Farm's Mystery Boxes if you really really enjoy interesting vegetables.

Memail me if you need any help finding your way around!
Also keep in mind sometimes it really is easier to just walk.
posted by casarkos at 12:10 AM on January 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I haven't really explored it, but there is a new website called hillmapper that might be helpful for navigating on foot/bike.
posted by radioamy at 9:45 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

The 48 also stops right at the Walgreens at Potrero and 24th, for when you need cold meds and aren't up for getting on your bike.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:59 AM on January 8, 2014

Seconding the Mariquita Farms Thursday mystery boxes (usually at Piccino or Chocolate Lab). They also sometimes have sustainable pork and salmon. Andy and Julia, who run the farm, are extraordinarily nice.
posted by purpleclover at 10:48 AM on January 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

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