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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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June 15, 2008

Save a Few Bucks, Gain a Few Pounds

By Worker Bee
17 Comments

CostcoThe stories are everywhere on news broadcasts, mornings shows, and magazines. Bulk shopping, particularly as it’s defined by stock images of Sam’s Club and Costco, is the key to the current economic crunch, the newscasters tell us. Footage clip after clip show the enormous carts filled to the brim with essentials like toilet paper, diapers, Pepsi, potato chips, cookies, hamburger buns. Huh?

We fully recognize and applaud that some warehouse establishments now offer even organic meats and some produce in bulk, and even those that don’t likely sell something worth foraging for (nuts, eggs, etc.). But the pull of those snack displays are apparently too much for many folks. The price is, in most cases, quite a bit less than what you’d find in the grocery store. But the difference is this: people apparently eat more junk food over time if they buy it in bulk.

Brian Wansink, noted author on the psychology of eating offers an interesting bit of commentary on this phenomenon.

Our additions? Maybe people justify it because it’s cheaper. Maybe it’s just easier to lose track of how much they’ve eaten in the context of a 5 lb. bag of Lay’s. Probably both.

Perhaps what intrigues us the most is the tenacious, indissoluble relationship we seem to have with our junk food. We may (rightly) complain that we’re being driven to the brink of financial ruin, but there’s no way we’re giving up our daily soda fix. Sure, those mammoth bins of kettle corn are a cheaper stomach fill than organic greens and chicken. We get that, and that’s the hard part of the issue and the current times we live in.

But how can we not watch those junk food laden carts and not think (especially if there are seedlings at home), “This isn’t a legitimate answer.”

The fact is, there are better, healthier, more economically sustainable ways to stretch a dollar for good, filling eating. And it doesn’t even count out the warehouse stores, but it does necessitate some selective vision as you roam the aisles of any shopping establishment. We liked this article on the best and bust of bulk shopping.

But we’d add that a lot of us have more (and much better) choices than Sam’s Club. How about boosting local economies and saving some serious bucks in your own wallet by seeking out local farmers who sell real food in bulk: farmer’s markets, farm stands, CSAs, mail-order. Buy a share of produce or a half a hog. A deep freezer can be a lucrative investment. And it’s not just for meat. Use the summer to buy at peak as much as possible and then bag and freeze to preserve berries, tomato sauces, and other fruits and veggies long beyond their harvest (cheaper) seasons.

And then there’s the old “grow-it-yourself” option. It hasn’t been that long since most people grew something of their own to help support their families. An apple tree, a blackberry bush, a couple tomato plants, even a small herb garden can offer a respectable start.

Tough economic times definitely call us to re-evaluate and change our shopping practices. But we’d suggest taking all those newscasts with a grain of salt. There are much more creative ways to buy in bulk and maximize both health and savings.

Your ideas and thoughts?

AlaskaTeacher Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

You vs. The Mob: Mob Eating Mentality

Healthy Eating on a Budget

How to Get Sick and Die

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16 Comments on "Save a Few Bucks, Gain a Few Pounds"

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Moe
Moe
8 years 5 months ago

Good post, but I laughed a little because I realized that my family makes trips to costco almost weekly. Its actually not a bad stop for the modern caveman: We buy bulk quantities eggs, meat, fish, nuts, fish oil, vegetables, and fruits. Its a great way to save money on expensive meat and produce. We do go to the farmers market quite frequently, but sometimes it seems more economical to get certain things at the wholesale store than the market.

Sonagi
Sonagi
8 years 5 months ago
The fact is, there are better, healthier, more economically sustainable ways to stretch a dollar for good, filling eating. Yes, indeed. Canned collard, kale, turnip, or other nutritional powerhouse greens costs about 30 cents a serving. Some of the 300 mg of sodium can easily be rinsed off before heating. Frozen broccoli, cauliflower, or brussel sprouts are less than 50 cents a serving. A head of cabbage and a bag of carrots are less than $1. Apart from lettuce or spinach, other greens tend to have low pesticide residues and thus are a safe and affordable non-organic option. A surprising… Read more »
Jenn
8 years 5 months ago

What a good post. While buying the basics at Costco can save money, like Moe pointed out, I find the aisles pretty dang tempting. A huge tub of gummi bears is both awe-inspiring and terrifying for me. 🙂

p.s. This is my first time to the blog, and I love it!

Judy
Judy
8 years 5 months ago
Great points! I’ve been reading lots of tips on how to save money on groceries, and read a story about a woman who sometimes only pays $10 for a week by using coupons, doubling coupons, etc. The problem with all those tips is that most of the food was crap! I look through the coupon sections of our local paper, and went to one of the coupon websites, and almost all of the food coupons were for junk food of some sort. (I could have used the toothpaste coupons, I suppose.) I think I’ll keep spending what I do to… Read more »
charlotte
8 years 5 months ago

We canceled our Costco membership a couple of years ago after I actually crunched the numbers and decided that it wasn’t saving us any money. Sure their average prices are cheaper but I can get the same stuff (if not better) on sale at the grocery store minus the yearly fee. Now I just go twice a year with my mom to load up on the few items that make buying there cost effective (laundry detergent, garbage bags etc.) Plus I’m not tempted by the huge (both calorically and monetarily) impulse items:)

Jerry
Jerry
8 years 5 months ago

Well, I love Costco and will remain a member. I find that it saves me a lot of money as I’m only going shopping once a month. And while there is always room for improvement in my grocery shopping I’m pretty good at passing up the unhealthy temptations. To each his own. 🙂

MikeB
8 years 5 months ago

Timely post, I just discovered that at the farmer’s market for local organic farmers there is a couple there that sell organic grass fed beef. I justify the extra expense due to the fact I eat less IFing.

Dave C. - DaveGetsFit
8 years 5 months ago

IFing

My favorite new verb!! 🙂

SB
SB
8 years 5 months ago

For me the main cost savings with Costco have been on the non-grocery items:
– reduced homeowners and auto insurance rates through Amex
– zero deductible broken glass coverage – had to use this when someone put a golf ball through my window. Saved about $300.00
– Costco’s awesome return policy. Once returned a camcorder about 1.5 years after I bought it when it suddenly stopped working. No questions asked.

Brett_nyc
Brett_nyc
8 years 5 months ago

Just thought I’d post a quick thanks. I was introduced to your site through the Crossfit community and I’ve become a daily visitor since. Keep up the good work.

Mark Sisson
8 years 5 months ago

Don’t get us wrong – we love these clubs for a lot of other reasons. In my case, I get great new wines at Costco, as well as great prices on hard goods and electronics, etc. Can’t walk through without getting three new things I hadn’t realized I “needed”.

Heather
8 years 5 months ago
All good advice, although I will be another to say that I still do well shopping at Sam’s. I get cheaper gas at their gas station, and much better prices on fruits, veggies, tuna, raw nuts & cheese. I don’t buy anything else in the store beyond the occasional DVD or piece of clothing. I’ve found gorgeous winter coats for great prices. I also get my photos printed there because Walmart is the only other option and they’re beyond incompetent. I’ve made it a mission this year to find local farmers & other sources of decent food. Haven’t been able… Read more »
Andy
8 years 5 months ago

Great article. While I do think that you can get some value at the Sam’s and Costco’s of the world, if you just look at how “out-of-shape” most of the Sam’s shoppers are, you have to think that people aren’t buying health food.

Heather
8 years 5 months ago

Andy, I can’t disagree with that. Although I don’t personally buy the junk at Sam’s, almost everyone in there has a cart full of garbage, and most of them are very large. I’ve actually had people make comments at the register when they see that all I have is fruit & vegetables.

Jerry
Jerry
8 years 5 months ago

I don’t know, you see out of shape looking shoppers at the regular grocery stores as well. I think that’s a stereotype to say most of the shoppers look out of shape at Sam’s.

I know there are plenty of people like myself that combine the Costco shopping with places like Trader Joe’s, Sprouts, etc.

tatsujin
8 years 5 months ago

My last run to Costco.
2 pound bag of spinach (that’s a lot spinach, it hardly fits in the fridge)
At $4.79. it’s really some of the cheapiest around and is homegrown (not organic)
5 hass avocado’s, bag of baby cucumbers and a large bag of broccoli.
1 large bottle of eco-laundry detergent for $12.
The small one of the same brand at whole foods and others cost $9.99.
I love Costco, but you have to be a savy shopper.
If I even look at the macadamias in the aisle……they end up in my cart. 😉

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