Sunday, December 7, 2008


Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market - have you heard of/seen 'em? We hadn't, until we arrived in Loma Linda. They are physically distinctive and a new one, not yet open, is going in a few blocks from Mission RV Park - which got me curious.

On Saturday, we returned to the nearby town of Yucaipa, the site of our wet Thanksgiving hike, to enjoy it in clear, sunny weather - and to visit the Fresh and Easy store we had noticed in Yucaipa the first time we visited. Before we left for our hike, I did some menu planning and made a short grocery list for a stop at the store after the hike (a 5-mile loop that turned into a 6.1 mile loop).

How many of you think of a grocery store as a “Point of Interest”, a stop to look forward to on a day of sightseeing? Quite a few of the RV'ers, I’ll bet!

In the RV, our kitchen/pantry space is at a premium, so we don’t keep backups of backups on hand (no twelve packs of paper towels in the hall closet, no stashes of sale items in the garage, no deep-freeze full of chicken thighs bought at a good bulk price). And, in spite of the proliferation of generic malls and chain restaurants, there ARE regional foods - and you frequently find them in the grocery store, especially a local chain.

I’ll never forget the hog lard - on sale - that we saw at a small market in Abbeville, Louisiana. Too bad for us, we don't have the space to buy lard in gallon containers. :) Foodie that I am, I love a long, slow, browse through an interesting, well-stocked grocery store!

Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Markets have an interesting concept that combines several leading edge ideas: organic food; prepared/semi-prepared food; environmentally conscious buildings and practices; fair wages and benefits for employees; lower prices; small, easy-in/easy-out stores with wide aisles, good lighting, and a good-but-not-overwhelming selection.

Our grocery list was short but diverse, "express lane" length: salad greens, peeled garlic, a red pepper, scallions, a dozen eggs, a can of unsweetened pineapple, a jar of pasta sauce, a box of chicken broth and 2 rolls of paper towels. That is my LEAST favorite time to visit a supermarket, when the sheer size of the store and it's offerings are overkill compared to my needs.

Because we were going to Fresh and Easy, which I knew from web research specializes in ready to eat foods, the last item was "something for dinner tonight". I had my doubts that we would find everything on the list.

Not to worry. Fresh and Easy truly seems like a timely update to the concept of the "neighborhood market". Once you get the hang of their system, your shopping experience would likely be speedy, reasonably priced, and pleasant. Check out these pictures (double click on the collage to enlarge it).

First off, get your cart from OUTSIDE the store before you go in. We didn't and, after our 6+ mile hike, neither of us wanted to go back and get it! I guess I looked more pathetic than Odel, as he went and brought the cart after we exchanged looks.

Straight ahead is the produce section. All the produce (except winter squash and bananas) is packaged, something I hate at Trader Joe's (the pre-packaged quantities are too big) but liked at F&E, where the quantities were reasonably small. Nice selection of salad greens, many varieties of apples, various herbs - all the items on my small produce list (including peeled garlic) were there and many others, too.

Next I browsed the extensive selection of prepared and semi-prepared foods, while Odel went off to find eggs, paper towels, and chicken broth. He returned shortly, with a bottle of wine (NOT on the list!) - a Reisling, cold, for $4.99, had snagged him. It sounded so good after our hike that I was tempted to screw the top off and chug it right there in the nice, wide aisle.

Refrigerated cases abound. The least "prepared" foods are the meat and fish, but even they have some element of pre-preparation. Ground beef was formed into patties, and sometimes packaged with bratwurst in a "grilling pak". Some meats and fish had been marinated, some skewered, some paired with complementary sauce packets... and all are packaged in reasonably portion-controlled sizes, for two or four. Cooking directions are included for all.

Another cold case is filled with "Mix and Match" foods - fully cooked entrees and sides (with heating directions), portion-controlled for two, that can be combined into an appealing meal. "Something for dinner tonight" translated to a pound of pork tenderloin medallions with Dijonnaise sauce (saute the pork for 10 minutes, add the sauce and cook until it bubbles); mashed potatoes (about 3 cups, nuke for 4 minutes); and green beans mixed with peas and a small scoop of herb butter (nuke for 3 minutes). I had my doubts about the vegies - figured they would be overcooked, but was hungry enough to give 'em a try.

While I picked out dinner, Odel scored a coup - a 4 pack of Scott's single ply toilet paper, the most cost-effective TP for RV use and not available everywhere. Wow - F&E was really beginning to impress us! We finished up the shopping - found everything on the list and more - and moved to the checkout.

Uh, oh. It's all DIY - do your own scanning, do your own bagging. Yep, that slowed us down! With the assistance of the checkout supervisor, Odel stepped up to the scanner and we had a lesson in Do It Yourself checkout. Not bad - I'm sure we could handle it easily and quickly next time (or maybe the time after that). F&E has both cloth ($2? each) and recycled plastic ($0.20) bags for sale - if the plastic bag wears out, you can bring it back for a free replacement. Of course, they have standard free bags, too.

Then we were out the door and headed home. Dinner was easy and surprisingly good - and the vegetables were perfect, not overcooked at all. We paid $5.99 for the pork, $2.99 for the mashed potatoes, and $3.49 for the green beans. This could have been stretched to feed 3 small-to-moderate eaters, but we two hearty hikers consumed it all, washed down with Two Buck Chuck - about $15 for a very good dinner for two. It's the niche between "time and cooking utensil intensive" from-scratch cooking and dining out, both in time and cost - probably twice the cost of cooking from scratch and definitely less than half the cost of dining out. We were impressed.

After we got home, I researched their website and found a $6 off coupon - with a 12/9 expiration date. We had been given two $5 off coupons when we left the store, also with soon-to-expire dates. It's a smart ploy to get you back soon, and I am sure we would be if the store was actually in OUR neighborhood.

Lots of good ideas at Fresh and Easy, well presented and executed. They have grand expansion plans - I hope they can make it in these troubled financial times. If you live in California, Nevada, or Arizona, check out their website for a store in your neighborhood, or coming soon (to Sacramento!).


  1. We have several Fresh & Easy stores that have just opened in Phoenix and your review encourages me to get out and try one. I've been wondering what they're like and it sounds perfect for those times when you don't want to take the time and energy to do a full-out cooking session but don't want to go out. Thanks!

  2. Hmmm, and I thought I was the only one who could make grocery shopping an adventure! Jack and I the junk food nuts had a blast in the Loma Linda Health Food store.

  3. I just checked to see if there were any in Walnut Creek, every one that was in the general area is opening sometime next year. If we're back here selling trees next year, I'll have to check it out.

    Hugs, Sharon & Ron

  4. Nice fun post. This Blog - Fresh & Easy Buzz - writes all about Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. Might find it interesting.

  5. Greetings:

    A reader of our Blog, Fresh & Easy Buzz, informed us of your post. We read it, enjoyed it, and have posted a piece about it on the Blog.



    Wednesday, December 17, 2008
    Two Motor Home Nomads, Laurie & Odel, Visit and Review A Southern California Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market Store In Yucaipa

    Enjoy the road.