The New York Times today takes a look at traditional supermarkets (requires registration), which, despite embracing technology, are losing ground to upstart rivals. We’d all like a clean, well-lighted place to shop, but do we really need to buy our food in a store that looks like an art gallery?

In that spirit, the Times’ Julia Moskin writes about eschewing Whole Foods for her neighborhood supermarket:

I embraced the assignment of learning to love my supermarket: grimy aisles, shelves of overprocessed food and all.

Maybe the Times is cutting salaries.

She managed, though, to cobble together a list of 13 packaged foods that pass muster. The good news: Some are hidden gems. The bad news: She mostly goes for the pricier offerings. No pasta sauce (a staple for many busy folks) except Rao’s (at the exorbitant price of $11) makes the cut.

For those getting started with their first kitchen, there’s also a nice primer on stocking your pantry.

But the feature’s main focus is analyzing the state of the old-school supermarket, a place where big changes are being made by desperate execs:

In 2003 Safeway began to remake its 1,772 stores into something it termed a lifestyle concept. Perishables and prepared food sections were updated, lights were toned down and wood floors were added in the produce section.

Serious cooks and eaters have always done their gathering in lots of different places, from farmer’s markets to ethnic grocery stores. When it comes to food shopping, bigger isn’t necessarily better.

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