Tahoe’s food shopping dilemma: Quality, convenience & prices

Fresh produce at the indoor Tahoe Farmers Market at Boatworks Mall. | Katherine E. Hill

I recently ran into a local store to purchase organic chard. The leafy greens were limp, a clear sign that the vegetables were past their prime. Food shopping in Tahoe is on a lot of people’s minds. The rising cost of food is a top concern as is the quality of food. Convenience, location and the shopping experience are also issues.

There are several ways to shop in Tahoe: chain supermarkets, natural food stores, farmers’ markets, CSA and farm boxes, and smaller specialty stores.

As a private chef, I purchase and prepare a lot of food. Not only am I concerned about the cost of food, but quality is imperative. I shop at several stores, purchase a CSA box from Mountain Bounty Farms and shop at the Tahoe Food Hub. Produce needs to be as fresh as possible and last as long as possible in the cooler.

Fresh produce
Lisa Boudreau coordinates the Tahoe City Farmer’s Market. She brilliantly moved the outdoor market indoors to the Boatworks Mall open every Thursday until Dec. 21 (no market on Thanksgiving).

Jill and Steve Rozier own Lake Tahoe Markets, which provide fresh farm produce year-round. Located in Zephyr Cove, the family-owned and operated business delivers produce to South Lake Tahoe, Meyers, Stateline, Incline Village and Crystal Bay.

“When you walk into the produce section of a store, you should be able to smell the vegetables. That just isn’t the case. There is no scent, and most of the produce is old,” explains Jill.

Lake Tahoe Market offers three types of farm market bags and delivers to clients. Unlike a CSA box, there is no subscription or weekly commitment. In addition to produce, Lake Tahoe Markets also sells meat products and offers citrus boxes. The company is toying with servicing Tahoe City in the future.

“If you are going to pay a premium price, you might as well get premium quality,” Jill adds.

How locals’ shop
I posed the question asking about shopping habits and concerns to two different groups on Facebook. Court Leve posted his concerns about prices, freshness, availability, ease of parking and the ability to get in and out of a store fast. He is partial to Raley’s O-N-E Market in Truckee and says they have better food, a clean store and there is rarely a line. Leve adds that they have a working self-checkout and a good grab-and-go section. He likes New Moon but feels their selection is small.

Alyssa Ganong is a single mom. Food cost is a top concern for her. She doesn’t have the time to go to several stores and wants to shop close to home. She says driving across town with gas prices topping $6.49 is prohibitive. “Is it expensive in Tahoe because we are a tourist town? Is that why so many people go to Reno to shop?” asks Ganong.

Movement educator Gretchen Corbin shops at several stores. She purchases her produce from the Tahoe Food Hub or the farmers’ market. Holly Jacobson, co-owner of Tahoe Mountain Properties, also shops at multiple stores. “My strategy is first go to Grocery Outlet to buy as much as possible then New Moon for the rest. In the summer, I do the farmers’ market,” says Corbin.

Quality is a concern for many South Lake Tahoe residents. Jamison DeLallo shops at Grass Roots Natural Foods for most of his goods. He also purchases from a local farmer. David Stewart gets a CSA box from Mountain Bounty Farms, goes to farmers’ markets when in season and shops at Whole Foods.

Specialty markets
There’s also a plethora of specialty grocery stores and markets to choose from throughout the region. Pick up the freshest seafood and meats from local meat and seafood markets, while Mexican grocers in the region offer authentic items and spices to choose from. Look for curated selections at spots like Cork & More and the Pour House along with house-made specialty items like Tahoe House’s dizzying selection of marinades and dressings.

New stores for Incline Village
When Save Mart in Tahoe City lost their lease, people were worried. Safeway will move into space next summer yet this creates another issue as shopping options become limited, forcing people to shop at one store, a concern in a vacation resort community where stores are already busy during holidays. Last summer also saw the closure of one of two Raley’s in South Lake Tahoe.

Incline Village is bucking that trend, however, with two new grocery stores opening. Grocery Outlet in the former Village Market location will open on Nov. 16 and the Natural Grocers currently under construction will open in January.

Where to shop local for food in Tahoe