Day Three: The Grocery Experiment

As a way to trim a little fluff from the budget, today I took a list of our typical groceries to all the neighborhood stores. We’re equidistant from three: a regular-old grocery, a Whole Foods, and one that’s something in between, with mostly Whole Foods level products. I had a gut feeling that we were probably not doing ourselves justice with the way we usually shop, and I wanted to check it out.

Two hours and three stores later, and there was no stunning moment of truth. Produce was much cheaper at the regular market, but the quality varied a lot. Some things were just as good, some things weren’t. My beloved brand of canned tomatoes are cheaper at Whole Foods. Flour is cheapest at the in-between store. Still, the total list price for buying the whole list at one store varies by $6, $3.00 of which is attributable to putting down (I think) the price for regular oatmeal at one store and organic at the next. If I were to run all over town, getting the cheapest items from each store, I could save $4-$7. These aren’t things that I need *all* of every week, so the savings would in fact be less.

I did leave off some obvious things that we can only get from one place or the other, and quite a few of our household staples weren’t available at the regular store. (For the record, I don’t cook meat, aside from the very occasional fish, which would probably have altered the results a good bit.) This is also leaving aside the point that easily turns Whole Foods into “Whole Paycheck”: where can you resist temptation? Is it a whole stack of processed cookies that gets you, or a bottle of top-notch vinegar? I’m an excellent by-the-list shopper.

And what, you might ask, does all this over-thinking and running around have to do with slower living? Quite simply, this: it isn’t worth beating myself up over. If I’m out of flour, and I’m not at the “right” store, I can just take a breath and let it go.


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