Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Why I Dislike Warehouse Shopping, But Still Do It

These warehouse stores seem to enable us to super-size our groceries the way some of us super-size our fast food. Too often, we find a huge bill waiting for us at the cash register or unexpected surprises (tacked on memberships without prior approval and such). The only difference I see between these stores and a fast-food restaurant is this: no drive through window. At Sam's, BJ's, and Costco, you have to come in to get your food, and every order is to go.

Since moving the bulk of my shopping to a health food store (my local farmer's market moved out some time ago), I have noticed something. While at Sam's, BJ's, or even while at my military commissary (back when I could shop there), people seem to haul around super-sized packages of junk food, coupled with a case of little water bottles. (Like that's going to save them from the ravages of the junk food they selected!)

I know grocery cart contents are an individual choice, and I also am fully aware of what goes into those items before they hit the shelves (genetically modified organisms, pesticides, questionable ingredients, etc.). I wonder what these people would say if they saw themselves (and their carts) in a mirror? GMOs and pesticides have been in the news and are constantly on the web and in books, so it's not like these things are big secrets. These people seemingly are willing to trade in their health for perceived monetary bargains in bulk, and the bargains may not even be bargains at that!

The warehouse stores carry little organic produce and few organic products of any kind, unless they are pre-packaged. The product ingredients are of questionable origin. Presumably, the meat is either bought from the giant producers or from non-regulated countries like Mexico. Most of the produce certainly is! Nothing's listed for GMO status, pesticides, or FDA/USDA inspection, and worse, nothing's labeled as organic or originating from organic sources.

Do we really know what we're putting in those over-sized warehouse store carts? Are we really bringing home bargains? In terms of health, sometimes the true bargain isn't found on the front end of a purchase, but on the back end.

I would rather pay the piper now by buying organic meats and produce and products with ingredients I can easily pronounce and understand, than pay the piper later by making unhealthy purchases based on unit price and need when those items may wind up adding to my health care costs. Food is cheap compared to medical bills and hospital stays, so why not make the best choices based on long-term effects instead of short-term ones?

If the cost of organic foods is out of reach or seems to be, there are alternatives. You can grow your own, hunt your own, fish your own, or partner up with someone who does these things. The health benefits you'll be gaining will far outweigh the up-front costs, and the overall food costs will come down as a result. Perhaps they may even come down further this way rather than hauling a giant flatbed around at Sam's Club. I know my food bills have certainly shrunk more, and my family's been well for a real long time. My cooking time has dropped dramatically since we eat mostly raw foods and cooked grains I froze in meal-sized servings. Only the meat needs some sort of cooking, and the grain needs re-heating after defrosting. I chop, cut, slice, and grate ahead, and store in the fridge in two containers. One container is for salad greens, and one is for veggies. All are organic and ready for use!

At one time, I almost dropped my warehouse store membership, but then remembered why I hang onto it. I used to have a diabetic cat, and we got her insulin and needles from the pharmacy there (her pancreas is a victim of commercial cat foods). We also purchase their gas (it is normally about ten cents per gallon cheaper than other stations) with a gift card we load at the cash register. It was a tough call, though, with the membership fee and mileage to and from the store thrown in, but we ended up saving the membership amount just in the cost of needles per year. Insulin cost savings per year almost double it. Now that the diabetic cat is gone, the gas purchases, as well as Hubby's transferred prescriptions, make the savings.

Also, these stores are much like regular grocery stores, in that only the perimeter aisles are the most useful--the eyeglass center (big discounts, but sucky selection), the membership desk (loaded with unadvertised discounts on all kinds of things), the pharmacy (loaded with $10 generics for a 90-day supply), the produce section, the meat section, the dairy case, and just about everything on the perimeter except the snack bar, and the soda department (this depends on how your warehouse store is laid out). One big exception to this "perimeter plan" is the baking goods aisle--as in regular grocery stores, the baking goods aisle is a middle aisle, and sometimes yields things worth getting, like high-antioxidant spices, lemon juice, cooking oils, whole wheat flour (if you can eat wheat), and sugar alternatives, but that's about it.

Since the recession hit, the only overloaded carts I see nowadays are the small business owners picking up supplies. I did see lots of parents buying cartloads of crap right before school started, but that was about it. Now the big problem is who's waiting outside the store to assault me for money when I leave!


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