This week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Kroger is now the biggest seller of sushi in America, producing more than 40 million rolls per year at their stores, including affiliates like Ralph’s, Smith’s, and Harris Teeter.
“Americans purchased 43.7 million servings of sushi at grocery stores over the past year, mostly for quick lunches and dinners eaten soon after purchase,” the article said.
That’s no surprise to me since I have a habit of grabbing a roll or four every time I go to Kroger. It’s the perfect quick lunch, a light snack just after I unload the groceries but before I get around to prepping dinner, and an easy dinner for when I don’t feel like cooking.
It’s also not a surprise to me that sushi sales at U.S. grocery stores are up more than 70% in the past four years. Overall, I’ve noticed the quality of the rolls has gone up and the range of options has increased, especially at my local Kroger.
I’m a big fan of their spicy tuna rolls. And when I’m looking for something different, the Shaggy Dog is a fun concoction of tempura shrimp, avocado, crab meat, seaweed, and wasabi mayo. It’s crunchy and savory, with just a bit of sweetness and spice. A single roll runs around ten dollars, and a trio costs between ten and 15 dollars. It’s convenient, delicious, and affordable.
As an avid buyer of store-bought sushi, here are a few tips I always follow when buying grab-and-go sushi meals. Snag a couple of rolls for the family, throw in a seaweed salad and a poke bowl, and you can have a no-fuss meal any day.
1. Check the Dates
Many stores will have a “made on” date as well as an expiration date on the packaging. Stores like Kroger often do a high volume of sales and products rotate through pretty quickly. That means the sushi is always fresh. However, I always check the dates and pick sushi that was either just made or with the latest expiration date.
2. Don’t Be Afraid of a Sale
Reputable grocery stores don’t mess around with sell-by dates. My local Kroger will mark down items towards the end of the day or close to the expiration date in order to sell them faster. That just means a bargain for budget-savvy shoppers who can snatch it up in time. Most sushi, especially ones that use raw fish, is meant to be eaten the day it was made. I’ve noticed that the sushi at my local Kroger is typically made in the mornings.
3. Watch the Sushi Rollers
More and more grocery stores are employing full-time sushi rollers on site. That’s good news for sushi lovers because it means the sushi is fresh. Aside from being an entertaining diversion from the humdrum of a grocery run—especially for kids—keeping an eye on the folks making the rolls can offer some great insights. For example, I always pay attention to what they’re rolling right now. That’s obviously going to be the freshest meal you can get.
4. Check Out the Frozen Rolls
Yes! ALDI carries frozen shrimp and avocado rolls and California rolls. Trader Joe’s stocks frozen kimbap—a Korean seaweed and rice roll with vegetables and tofu— and BJ’s Wholesale Club also offers a few frozen rolls. Keep it in the freezer for when you need a quick and easy meal for the family, pop it in the microwave, and dinner’s ready.
5. A Smart Hack To Make Grocery Store Sushi Taste Better
Speaking of the microwave, it’s an essential tool for making the most of your grocery store sushi. Japanese website Sora News 24 shared a hack that could turn your grocery store roll into restaurant-quality sushi.
The hack claims that nuking your store-bought sushi for 30 seconds gets rid of the crunchy, sticky texture of refrigerated sushi rice. It makes sense: Hand-rolled sushi at a restaurant is served closer to room temperature than the icy chill of a grocery store case. I tried it and it absolutely brightened up my store-bought sushi. Don’t microwave it for too long, or it could cook the sushi.