Staff of Life Natural Foods
This local health-food haven has been providing Santa Cruz midtownees responsibly produced bulk and health food since the 1960s. The self-proclaimed “natural foods supermarket” has a hot bar, deli and vast produce section with locally-grown fruits and vegetables. A variety of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free ingredients and prepared foods make Staff of Life especially appealing to shoppers with dietary restrictions. Prices are comparable to similar stores and the sense of community and ambiance is priceless. 1305 Water St., near Soquel Ave.
New Leaf Community Markets
This small chain of conscious, consumer-friendly vendors has five stores in the Santa Cruz area. The shelves of every New Leaf market boast local produce and baked goods. Bring your own shopping bag to earn a token from your cashier to donate ten cents to the local organization of your choice. Downtown: 1134 Pacific Ave., Westside: 1101 Fair Ave., Capitola: 1210 41st Ave, Felton: 6140 Highway 9, Boulder Creek: 13159 Highway 9.
Its proximity to UCSC makes this source of natural food groceries and snacks readily available to students living on campus. Although it is not the best financial option, this site boasts local produce and baked goods as well as items available in bulk. Shelves are loaded with everyday food products. This rather small locale packs in the punch with its closeness to campus. Sister vendor the Herb Room shares the lot with Food Bin and provides easy, earth-friendly access to bulk personal hygiene products as well as homeopathic health supplements. 1130 Mission St.
Another Santa Cruz landmark, Shopper’s Corner embodies the essence of this city’s love for locally produced and sustainably nourishing food. With a store inventory including international foods, organic produce and an old-style butcher’s counter, Shopper’s Corner can meet all of your local shopping needs. 622 Soquel Ave., on the corner of Branciforte Drive.
This national food chain caters to economically-minded shoppers looking for household staples, sweets, treats, deli meats and cheeses and international cuisine. Its convenience and affordability make it a one-stop-shop for any student on a budget. 700 Front St.
Farmers’ markets provide an affordable, engaging way for shoppers to learn a little more about where their food comes from. Taking the time to stroll through the aisles of one of Santa Cruz’s several markets is a great way to people-watch, enjoy the sun and support your local farmers.
Aptos (Cabrillo College): Outside the city line, Santa Cruz’s neighbor city Aptos hosts yet another farmers’ market. Poised atop the Cabrillo College parking structure, this three-tiered smorgasbord of locally grown and sold fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, eggs and prepared foods attracts the family crowd. Locals and students alike can indulge in earth- and body-friendly fun, snacking on dates, sampling seasonal fruits and shopping for a health-conscious week of eating well. Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive. Saturday, 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Westside: Most days of the week the parking lot and the shabby, grass-covered clearing aren’t much to look at, but swing by on a Saturday morning and you’ll be met with the bustling crowds of farmers’ market shoppers. There are several booths of prepared food, as well as countless local produce vendors. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the raw chocolate vendor (hidden in the front corner), and say “hi” to Tony at the Santa Cruz Pasta Co. table. The market will let you take a minute to learn about local agriculture businesses. Western Drive and Mission St. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Downtown: Infamous for the drum circle made up of local transients, you’ll never have the same experience twice at this farmers’ market. Local farmers and food vendors sell their wares at this bazaar-like open market at the Cathcart and Cedar intersection. Often frequented by students, the mid-week downtown farmers’ market is a great venue for socializing, snacking and shopping. Lincoln and Cedar streets. Wednesday, 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.