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Convenience at the New Supermarket

There are lots of double-income families and single-parent households out there. And stay-at-home parents are often busy shuttling kids to and from various activities. The bottom line is that most people today are either pressed for time, or simply not interested in spending lots of time in the kitchen.

Supermarkets and food companies have answered this call for convenience by selling ready-to-eat items, like rotisserie chickens, deli salads, salad-in-a-bag (many even include the croutons and dressing), presliced apples, ready-to-bake or ready-to-eat pizzas, and prepared gourmet dishes. Many markets have help-yourself salad bars, fruit bars, olive bars, sandwich bars, and hot entrée bars.

Need to pack bag lunches in the morning? It's a snap with individually wrapped items like presliced fruit, cut-up veggies with dip, snack bars, and preportioned cookies and crackers.

Of course, the ultimate in convenience is one-stop shopping. And if you think about it, the modern grocery store is really 10 stores in one. When you enter a supermarket in most any city in America, it's like going to a sandwich shop, a Starbucks, a pharmacy, a restaurant, a bank, a bookstore, a bakery, a florist, a liquor store, and a movie rental store -- all in one place.

Prices at the New Supermarket

While all this quality, variety, and convenience often comes at a price, bargain shoppers don't have to be left out.

Some of the big supermarket chains now offer offering "premium" house brand items, with exotic flavors or organic ingredients.

And there's at least one supermarket chain whose focus is offering unusual gourmet food items at bargain prices. At Trader Joe's, $50 will buy you bags full of groceries. But you won't find many of the items sold there at other stores -- the vast majority are the Trader Joe's store brand.

This is a dream supermarket for college students or young adults, because it has lots of "hip" convenience items like Middle-Eastern-flavored veggie burgers and frozen Thai appetizers -- but with an eye on cost. Although the company is based in California, you can find Trader Joe's stores all over the United States.

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