The 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.