Rainbow Grocery is a worker owned co-op in San Francisco. It's great for produce, bulk items, tea, chocolate, cheese, beer, and even "natural" beauty products. Just don't ask where to find chicken stock or other meat items are, unless you want the Rainbow worker to cringe and sneer. I made that mistake a few years ago, when I was a personal chef/shopper. It hadn't clicked in my mind that although Rainbow has mountains of dairy, eggs, cheese, and oils, they "like, would NEVER carry anything that caused an animal to perish," as I was sternly told.
It's a unique experience, shopping at Rainbow. Think of it as a great way to learn about healthy ingredients and dishes. There are many free vegetarian friendly pubs by the front door. Parking is almost always a slow process, requiring waiting for the hybrid vehicle or hippie style vw in front of you to park, while a homeless guy points and talks, looking to drum up donations. Some of the Rainbow crew doesn't seem to bathe often, or maybe the crystal deodorant rock just isn't working so well? Smile and stand a good five feet back, and you'll be fine. Moms (and an occasional Dad) tend to carry babies in those cotton slings rather than a Baby Bjorn.
Bring in your own bags and save ten cents a pop. Don't get stressed at the checkout when you realize you bag your own groceries. The vibe is usually hippie-friendly, so no need to rush. I like to first check out the dried herb, tea and spice bins, to the left of the door. Their selection is far reaching, at a great price (the Viva Mexico blend rocks).
Some products I've learned about and fallen for via Rainbow Grocery, and how I like to use them:
Non-Toxic Cleaning Supplies-Seventh Generation and other cleaners mean no fainting from the overpowering smell of bleach. Bon Ami is a favorite, because it's a hearty scrub. I don't think vinegar and water works (one green cleaning solution), but there are many other options to try out.
Yogi Ginger Tea-digestion aid, also great perk me up if sluggish or worn down by a cold or hangover.
Kale-in ribollita (Tuscan bread/bean soup) or lasagna, sauteed with bacon or other cured meat, blanched and served with chicken.
Sierra Nevada Cream Cheese-the usual bagels, toast, and other bread products. It's tangy and creamier than any other cream cheese I've tasted. The only bummer is the way it's packaged-wrapped in plastic, and a mess to put away after the first use. Note the cheese staff at Rainbow are friendly and helpful, and there's samples, along with small "try me" chunks for those times you feel like trying something new without dropping serious coin.
Cast iron skillet-Rainbow housewares of quality and not too spendy. The cast iron baby sautes meat and veggies beautifully. It took several tries, but getting the skillet super hot makes for great scrambled eggs.
Organic Ginger-apparently this is one root that has much more flavor when grown organically. Use in stir-fries, tea, and to add a wonderful aromatic flair to Asian dishes.
Rainbow also has unique and colorful journals, cards, toys, magnets, and gifts. For Mother's Day, I picked up some organic chocolates and teas for Mom, along with a snazzy heart card. She may not agree with Rainbow's politics, but that's our little secret.
Rainbow Grocery, 1745 Folsom, SF. T: 415-863-0620.