Original Post from November 2013

It was hard to decide which store I would feature on my first blog. I didn’t want to break out the big guns on such an early post, so I let my stomach decide. It was a rainy night and I thought I’d pick up some stuff for dinner at a place I’ve seen for the past 2 months on my way home from work.

You can easily miss Amish Farmers when driving by on Grand Avenue in Franklin Park. As a graphic designer, I immediately noticed the clean simple logo along a stretch of blah signage. Their tagline: organic real food sparked my interest, too. I pulled into a free street parking spot and went inside. I was immediately greeted with “tak,” Polish for hello. Not what I was expecting, but then I realized it meant one thing: they’ve got to have great smoked meat.

I thought they would only carry vegetables, but they had a great selection of meats, dairy and dry and canned (literally through canning) goods. They’ve only been open for 3 months so far, and they carry products from Amish farmers in Indiana and Wisconsin. When I looked at above the meat display, “MEAT ONLY GIVES ASSISTANT!” I fell in love.

The prices were amazing. I bought 30 eggs for $6.50 and some gouda cheese curds for $2.25. They offered samples of the cheeses and the smoked meats, so l left with a little sampling of both. They had a great selection of dried goods and root vegetables. The woman who helped me said they have a larger selection of products on Fridays and Saturdays, similar to a Farmer’s Market. She recommended the brownies, but I said I’ll have to wait for next time. I’ll definitely be back, and you should, too.

 

Amish Farmers, 9711 W Grand Ave, Franklin Park, IL 60131. (847) 916-2483. Hours: Monday-Saturday 8am-7pm, Sunday 9am-3pm.

 

 


My first introduction to Coop grocery store was during college with the Neighborhood Co-op, located in Carbondale, Illinois. It was on the north side of town, in one of the more historical buildings, next to Longbranch Coffee House. It was a small shop filled with long-time residents (read: hippies, but in a good way) of Southern Illinois, where I could find vegetarian food and bulk dried goods. I spent a semester documenting the store for one of my photography classes.

After graduating I had gone back to eating meat (well, both my parents were from Europe…), and knew where to find quality food throughout Chicagoland, so my interest in co-ops faded away. Fast forward twenty years, and I came across an article on Chicago Market, a co-op in the organizing and start up phase to be located on the north side of the city. They were having an informative meeting the next day in my old stomping grounds of Sheridan Park.

Grocery Gal Chicago Market Coop Meeting

Saturday morning in Chase Park

Being a Saturday and coming from Jefferson Park, I knew I could get there faster on my bike than my grocery getter. I’m going to a meeting about a co-op, how dare I drive there!  I showed up at the Park District (albeit a little sweaty) to a group of about 15 interested people learning more about the concept of Chicago Market. Do co-ops make you think of granola, hippies, patchoulli and bulk foods? Well, that’s not the image of Chicago Market. Their nice, clean logo, well designed website and collateral material pulled on my graphic heart strings and screamed modern and urban, but by no means hipster.

Grocery Gal Chicago Market Logo

Gotta love good design

The brains behind the co-op, Greg Berlowitz, along with 5 or so members of their Steering Committee, told us more about their vision. They answered some really frank questions: What makes you think you’ll succeed? (My answer: they’re organized and passionate) If you don’t make your goal will we get our money back? (Their answer: Yes, after any startup loans have been paid off). They have addressed the ten most common questions on their website, so I won’t repeat them all here.

These people have their shit together; and while that might read as funny, it’s nothing but accolades. They’re organized, professional and passionate about making Chicago Market successful. They want to build community, small businesses and a sustainable way of life. I envisioned myself taking my stepson (or a bunch of girlfriends) to a cooking class hosted by a Chef Moya. I could see my friends at Molter Family Orchards selling their delicious organic produce at the store. I could share my suggestions on carrying some of the amazing (and affordable) homemade sausages from local stores like Montrose Deli and Amish Farmers, which not only exposes more people to their great products, but also builds these local businesses.

That’s why I signed up that Saturday to be a member (I’m number 206). It wasn’t something I planned to do. I didn’t have a spare $250 just lying around, but I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. Since the meeting, they’ve offered a more palatable payment plan, where you can spread the cost over ten months. Help Chicago Market reach their goal of getting 1000 members in 100 days by joining up now. Even if you’re not ready to commit, sign up for their newsletter and follow them on Facebook to see when their next informative meeting works with your schedule.

Chicago Market – A Community Co-op.


Over the past few years, local farmers markets have begun to gain momentum throughout Chicago. There are neighborhood and independent markets in many communities. Last Sunday I visited a new addition to Chicago’s Northwest Side – the Belmont-Cragin Farmer’s Market. I first found out about the market on Everyblock with it’s well-designed poster catching my eye.

Grocery Gal Belmont Cragin Market

A well designed flyer will always catch my eye

The market is ambitiously held every Sunday. It’s not far from the neighboring Portage Park farmers market which seems to interchange it’s weekends with the Jefferson Park Sunday Market. Do we really need another Farmer’s Market? With one like Belmont-Cragin, my vote is yes!

Belmont Cragin Farmer's Market Grocery Gal

Despite it being in a parking lot, it’s a great market

The market is located in the Belmont-Cragin Business District, directly on Belmont, east of Central Avenue (right by A&G Fresh Market) in a PNC parking lot. While it’s not the most glamorous location, it will hopefully gain many new customers from the Belmont traffic. It’s slightly west of the original Gene’s sausage shop.

What I liked about the market was it’s European Market flavor, featuring sustainable and artisan goods including jam, pastries, granola and cheeses, in addition to produce. As the growing season progresses, there will be more produce available, but on the second week there was still fresh asparagus, a variety of herbs and tons of gorgeous flowers for sale. Every vendor there had a purpose. There weren’t any corporate sponsors – like Directv or Xfinity – who were at the Portage Park Farmer’s Market that same Sunday.

Grocery Gal Belmont Cragin Farmer's Market

Herbs, vegetables and lots of beautiful flowers

I bought a delicious chocolate croissant from St. Roger Abby and the most incredible Pain de Sophia from Katic Breads. Where I’ve been reluctant in the past to buy a $6 loaf of bread from Eataly, I cannot wait until this Sunday to try another loaf of their amazing bread. The Pain de Sophia was recommended to me by Michael from Brightflower Farm, and he was spot on. The complex flavors of anise, cumin and fennel interspersed in organic wheat flour are addicting. I’ve had two slices of the bread for breakfast everyday this week with just a touch of butter. If you’re living gluten-free, there were tons of sweets from D-ology, too.

grocerygal-belmont-farmers-6I’m not traditionally a granola person, but Spice Roads Granola sucked me in with their sweet curry walnut granola. I eat it with plain yogurt and love it.

Grocery Gal Belmont Cragin Farmer's Market

Pain de Sophia and Spice Road Granola!

As a new market, Belmont-Cragin will need a steady stream of customers to stay successful; it doesn’t have the deep pockets that other markets have for advertising. However, they keep it real and aren’t bringing in the corporate sponsors the same said markets are. This is a Farmer’s Market – I’m not looking to choose a satellite provider! Keeping their focus on local, sustainable and artisan goods supports local  businesses along with giving residents something special in their own back yard. And, many of the vendors have great samples, too! Even if you’re not near the Belmont-Cragin neighborhood, take the time to visit them some Sunday. There’s something special happening here, and Grocery Gal wishes them a lot of success!

Grocery Gal Belmont Cragin Farmer's Market

The hand painted sign gives it a definite European feel

Belmont-Cragin Farmer’s Market. 5446 West Belmont Ave…rain or shine. Every Sunday 10am-2pm until October 26th.


I love sharing my Grocery Gal experiences to others. But sometimes it wears me out being Grocery Gal. Between my job and it’s commute, I have no energy to stop and shop – I just want to get home to my family. I also know of many readers who rely on public transportation, so this could be a good option for them. So I’m straying away a little from Grocery Gal’s original roots to highlight a food delivery service I use to help me keep a little sane and eat a little healthier.

I think I started my first organic food delivery program in 2005. For six years I used Timber Creek Farms Organics. They were a local business that delivered a box full of organic fruits and veggies to my condo every other week. It was great, but I felt at times I was stuck with a lot of food I just couldn’t eat before it went bad. A bag of apples and a bag of pears were great, but it was just too much for me. I felt like I was throwing out more food than I was consuming, so I stopped it. The folks there were very helpful and I felt like they knew me. The only downside was I felt like the food had to be consumed within the first few days, especially berries, or they would go bad. Granted, I have not used them in at least three years, so those experiences could have improved.

A coworker of mine sent me a link to try the company she uses, which was Door to Door Organics. She raved about them, saying the food was always of outstanding quality. If she ever had a problem with it, she would send an email, and Door to Door would send her a credit. I was still hesitant. When I finally realized I wasn’t buying as much fruit as I should be, I signed up for my introductory box.

When I first logged onto the website, I was very impressed. So many times before, I’d get some random produce in my delivery, say a persimmon, and I wouldn’t know what the hell to do with it. What’s great about Door to Door is they have tons of recipes on their website, highlighting what’s to offer that week. You can bookmark them and refer back to them easily.

Grocery Gal Door to Door Organics

Door to Door’s recipes are inspiring

The website is very user friendly. They also sell a full range of groceries here if you’re so inclined to shop this way. I’ve purchased additional eggs, but nothing else. I get the Bitty Box delivered every other week. It’s well packaged, which includes frozen packs in the summer. Just leave the old packaging out for them to reuse/recycle at the next delivery.

Grocery Gal Door to Door Organics

At home delivery. Save the box and packaging – they will recycle it!

Even better than the recipes, though, is the fact that you can substitute up to five items in each delivery. Not feeling grapefruit? Go sub it for some kale. You want two organic kiwi? Then trade in your gala apple for that second kiwi. Already have a garden full of zucchini? The last thing you need is another one from Door to Door. Go substitute it for a delicata squash.

The thing is, it’s a better bang for your buck to sub out to get more exotic items than say more onions, potatoes and garlic. I was running out of staples during my last delivery and added those as my substitutions. When I unpacked the box I felt a little cheated. However, there was no one to blame except myself.

Grocery Gal Door to Door Organics

In hindsight, I should’ve ordered more fruit and less staples

Starting in the Spring, they offer local produce boxes, featuring produce from local farmers like my friends at Molter Family Orchards. Like that logo? I designed it. The local box gives you the variety you want while supporting multiple local organic farms.

For me, spending the extra for organic food delivery is best when I focus on buying foods that really benefit from being organic: leafy greens, grapes, apples, celery, squash, berries and peppers. Save the onions and garlic for when you’re shopping at Amish Farmers. You’ll get outstanding quality with Door to Door, and have the convenience of just picking it up outside your door.

www.DoorToDoorOrganics.com