Gone are the days when the only groceries available on the Cape were found in stores no larger than today's coffee shop.
Large supermarket chains now dot the length of the Cape, but more significant, the list of alternative food sources is growing.
Large retailers like Walmart in Teaticket and Target in Buzzards Bay are putting the squeeze on traditional supermarkets with pricing 9 to 14 percent lower than familiar chains like Stop and Shop and Star, according to a 2011 price survey by Checkbook, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C..
It's not just discount chains offering more choice on the Cape. Nearly every town has a seasonal farmer's market and entrepreneurs are opening gourmet food boutiques in the villages, capitalizing on the increased interest in home cooking.
A dozen farms offer Community Supported Agriculture, or CSAs on the Cape that sell shares of their harvest in advance of the summer growing season. There is even a fish CSA offering the "top of the catch" off boats in Cape waters and delivered to various pick up points on the Cape.
Dollar stores with food items are now part of the Cape Cod landscape, and the regional discount chain Ocean State Job Lot imports unique canned and boxed food items from other countries. In addition, health food stores sell products, organic produce, nuts and seeds not normally found in traditional supermarket settings.
In Hyannis, Trader Joes on Rt. 132 has famously loyal customers who purchase the store's brand of produce, meats, frozen seafood, gourmet frozen pizza, imported cheese, frozen foods and coffee. That store will be joined later this year by stiff competition from Cape Cod's first Whole Foods Store moving into the former Border's Books location across the street.
Also in Hyannis, on Attucks Lane, BJs Wholesale Warehouse sells bulk foods for shoppers with several mouths to feed or who simply like to stock up. This particular location has an enormous lobster tank with highly competitive pricing.
In Dennisport, Ring Brothers grocers pride themselves on their European-style market with in-house boutiques similar to the Whole Foods chain. The Chatham Market on Rt. 28 has a similar small-town market with personalized service.
Even convenience stores and pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS carry some food in their stores. In fact, food comprises 20 percent of what Walgreens sells, according to Jim Jensen, Walgreens divisional vice president.
Shoppers habits are changing. Some prefer to pick up milk where they pump gas rather than hoof it through supermarkets the size of football fields to get a few items. Coupon use is down too, experiencing a 17 percent reduction nationwide last year.
Got 30 minutes of spare time? Head to sea with a Chatham fisherman to witness the day's catch.