Through a series of unfortunate events involving a fair amount of procrastination, I've spent far too much time this year visiting supermarkets in and around Cambridge. On my travels, I've had many experiences—some positive, some negative—which have affected me in more ways than could possibly be counted in a single article. Here, I'll try my best to provide a basic rundown on the many supermarkets so you can make a reasonably well-informed judgment regarding where to spend your (dwindling, if you're anything like me) student loan.
Perhaps the most famous of the shops is the so-called "Mainsburys" on Sidney Street in the centre of town. Mainsburys is both a key selling point for Sidney Sussex applicants, and an unwavering staple for the town colleges’ inhabitants, many of whom consider Midsummer Common to be a far-off wilderness. As a result of this, Mainsburys is more than just a supermarket. It's a social space, more akin to a common room or day club. This popularity brings with it some disadvantages, however. There is rarely any bike parking space outside, and you're just as likely to run into last night's mistake as you are a friend. Additionally, the tight space means the range here is often more limited, and traffic can be an absolute pain, especially on Saturdays and Sundays.
Other "townie" shops include the M&S on the market square (does anyone really shop here though?), and the smaller local shops – such as Tesco Express and the Cooperative. Notable shout out goes, of course, to the Sainsburys Local opposite Downing. While these may not initially look like much, over time you'll begin to appreciate the 11 pm closing times on Sundays and the proximity to the various sites.
The hill colleges are not forgotten. The Aldi near Medwards is very cheap and provides a nice alternative for those at altitude. Packing your bags here is less peaceful than Mainsburys unfortunately, with items literally being thrown at you – it's a good way to improve your reaction times for those without a college gym. A little further out, and an amazing new selling point for Girton, is the new Eddington Sainsburys. One of the larger shops in the area, this is a beautiful shop which is less cramped than its brother in the town center. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it's near Girton. Maybe some other time.
In your time at Cambridge, you may be roped into rowing by one of the many boat clubs. I'm so sorry. One positive of this poor life choice (or for those who live in Jesus – whether this is redundant is up to the reader's discretion) is the presence of two huge supermarkets nearby – Tesco and ASDA. ASDA, in what I can only imagine is an attempt to gain interest from boaties, opens at 6 am so by the time rowing is over it'll be nicely ready to welcome you back into the world. ASDA is also notable for having the cheapest pumpkins I could find – a fact likely to excite those in the run-up to Halloween.
Unfortunately for those who decided that 2 am was a good time to go shopping (mmm) all of these shops shut overnight. If you've got a craving at night, however, you aren't out in the cold. In the far north, rumour has it that there is a second Tesco in Milton, which is open 24 hours a day Tuesday to Saturday – why you'd go this far out, I've no clue – but it's good to know that it is there.
Some of those reading may be distraught at the idea of frequenting these shops. “Where will I get my essential brussels pâté?!”, you cry! Luckily for you, there is a special gem to the far south of Cambridge – the Trumpington Waitrose. A scenic route through Grantchester allows you to arrive here in style, where you can find one of the nicest supermarket bakeries I've ever seen. For those who don't fancy this bike ride, there's a smaller "little Waitrose" in the Grafton Centre.
Whether you love or loathe exercise, live on a hill or in town, have money or are living in an overdraft, there's a supermarket for you. Why not go and break the rut and visit a new one – or just stick to what you know and love!