I’m fairly lucky in the location that I live to be within walking distance from a number of stores:
Trader Joe’s – almost all their food is a generic Trader Joe’s brand which is a much lower cost than you’ll find at many other locations
Whole Foods – super expensive, but for the specialty items (especially cheeses) that are hard to find elsewhere
South End Formaggio Cheese Shop (http://www.southendformaggio.com/) for special occasions
Star Market – your typical grocery store (like a Kroger, Cub, or Rainbow) except at ridiculous Boston prices.
Harvest Co-op Market – I think this one will be for bulk grains or more local foods, like apples, in the fall.
I am also looking into joining a CSA next year with a few other graduate students. A CSA (stands for “Community-Sponsored Agriculture”) is a program where you pay a farmer money, and he/she will bring you produce or you will pick it up at a predetermined location. A standard CSA for two people is $300 for the summer into fall, and you can also add plans for meat and dairy if you choose. Farmers also partner up to provide their customers with a greater variety. I love the idea of being able to support local farmers, as well as eating fresh food all the time. In the meantime, I’ll be hitting up the various Boston farmer’s markets:
I’ve also been doing a lot of reading this summer about cooking and food: I highly recommend the book “Cookwise” by Shirley Corriher for a comprehensive understanding of the chemical reactions behind how foods interact, as well as the book “Omnivoire’s Dilemna” by Michael Pollan to raise food awareness. I am not vegetarian, and do not plan to become one, but having a better sense of where my food comes from gives me the ability to be a more conscious consumer.
So, below is the list I’ll be using to stock my kitchen: (also, please let me know if you think I'm forgetting something...I probably am...)
-flour (all purpose, cake, and bread flour)
-extracts (vanilla, peppermint, almond)
-maple syrup (local)
-baking soda (two boxes – one for cooking, and one for deodorizing the refrigerator)
-vegetable oil spray
-vinegar (white, apple cider, red wine)
-tea (green, mint, sleepytime)
-cereal (kashi, chex, etc…)
-spices - curry, sea salt, salt, pepper, ginger, cream of tartar, cajun seasonings, cardamon (and anything else I need that I can't grow in an herb garden)
-green and black olives
-natural peanut butter
-mixed nuts (natural)
-chocolate fudge (from Wax Orchards; made with only fruit and cocoa)
-various kinds of beans in cans (my two attempts at soaking beans failed miserably; maybe the third time will be the charm?)
-fresh fruits/vegetables (whatever is in season)
-whole wheat tortillas
-Bolthouse Farms smoothies (good during the winter when craving fruit; kind of like Naked juice but less thick)
-mustard for cooking
-ice cream/frozen yogurt
-seafood (easy to cook; depends on what is local and what is fresh)
As far as restaurants go, Boston is the home to absolute food SNOBS. So, food is expensive, but it’s almost always fairly good. For guidance, there’s a great website called Chowhound which can point you in the right direction (http://www.chow.com/places/regions/12).