The decision about where to shop for groceries is bound to affect your weekly grocery bill. And yet, what are you willing to give up to shop at the supermarket that has the cheapest prices?
Will you drive more than five miles?
Will you bag your own groceries?
Will you give up access to organic fruits and vegetables?
Will you trade in a clean, well-lighted upscale place to shop for one that caters to a more down-market audience?
Money is tight in my house, and, for me, the answer to all of the above is yes.
I used to shop at Whole Foods or my local supermarket. But now I shop at the Pacific Northwest-based chain of low-cost supermarkets called WinCo. In my area, WinCo consistently has the best prices on staples. Butter is always $2.50 a pound. Milk is less than $2 for a half gallon. Broccoli crowns are invariably between 99 cents and $1.25 a pound. The whole wheat bread I buy is usually on sale for $2 a loaf. Moreover, WinCo is employee-owned and favors regional products, both a political bonus for me.
Yes, there are very few organic options at WinCo, so I try to stay away from fruits and veggies with the highest pesticide load.
Instead of soft lighting, a fancy deli with acres of prepared foods, and displays of wine and cheese, WinCo has an extensive bulk bin section (latest find: Guittard cocoa for less than the cost of Hershey's) and a warehouse look and feel. But that suits the budget shopper, too. With less to tempt you, it's easier to stick to your list...and your budget.
I don't feel as pampered shopping at WinCo. Sometimes shopping there I feel downright poor. But does it make any sense to pay 30 percent more for groceries just so I can feel swanky in the supermarket?