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I do much of the grocery shopping for our family. My late father used to be a butcher at an A&P store in Columbia, Tennessee, so maybe the impulse is genetic.

I like checking the date on milk cartons and selecting nicely marbled beef steaks. I find it relaxing to push a grocery cart. If I get in a good walking cadence, I can even meditate. It doesn't take my entire brain to buy Lunchables.

Over time, I have formed impressions about most of the major grocery chains in Chattanooga, which all seem to offer slightly different user experiences. In another lifetime, I'd like to be a mystery shopper.

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Mark Kennedy

In the meantime, let me treat you to some of my probably lame, food store impressions.

Whole Foods

There's something about shopping at Whole Foods that makes you feel like part of the investor class. I once bought some fancy hot dogs there and then felt bad about not having any hoity-toity mustard at home.

That's the thing about Whole Foods: It makes you think your whole diet should be organic, healthy and of utmost quality. Sometimes I just want a hunk of fried Spam and some Velveeta cheese. I feel like that would raise eyebrows in the Whole Foods checkout line if I bought some romaine lettuce, a nice bottle of pinot noir and two cans of Spam.

Also, I'm not sure if Whole Foods is a grocery story or a buffet. (Incidentally: Whole Foods makes me crave Subarus.)

Publix

Publix is often ranked as one of the best places to work, and indeed the employees there always seem to be smiling. If Publix was a music genre, it would be cool jazz. The stores have a happy vibe.

I go to a Publix store for lunch about once a month. The location I visit is full of ladies in yoga pants who all seem to know one another from PTA meetings.

As a writer, I find it disconcerting that Publix is hard to pluralize. (Is it "Publixes"?)

I love the made-to-order deli sandwiches you can get at Publixes (see!).

But I always seem to get behind a customer who's a little too precious with their sandwich order: "Just one, half-line of spicy mustard, please, and seven jalapenos, and could you get some imported Dutch aged Gouda cheese out of the back. And could you cut the cheese with pinking shears and baste the jalapenos with a smidgen of pickle brine."

D'oh.

Too, Publix has extremely friendly checkout helpers who want to talk to you about your food selections.

"Sir, have you tried the lower-salt Spam?"

Food City

These stores are like the girl you knew in high school who has been married three times and you can never remember her (new) last name.

We Chattanoogans are used to this name-change issue. Some of us shop at Red Food/Bi-Lo/Food City stores and keep our checking accounts at Pioneer/AmSouth/Region bank branches.

I'm actually a big fan of Food City. I knew the new owners were my kind of people when I noticed the deli offering cellophane-wrapped trays of plain turkey sandwiches made with hamburger buns. Yeah, baby.

However, at my neighborhood Food City, they recently moved the bread and Gatorade aisles, which wrecked my feng shui. I actually ran into another dad I know. "Have you seen the Gatorade?" he called out to me. Promise.

Walmart

The best thing about Walmart is that they have perfected the art of impulse purchases. I feel like I could do all my Christmas shopping and prepare for a nuclear apocalypse just buying stuff in the checkout lane.

Contact Mark Kennedy at mkennedy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6645.

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