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Livin' la vida Pobre

The Walmart Trap 
 
Jul. 6, 2010 8:35 am 
Updated: Aug. 13, 2010 9:30 am
I took a trip to the grocery store yesterday.  Not too crazy, right?  I mean, people do it every day.  But not me.  Sadly, I cannot recall when the last time was that I stepped into an actual grocery store.  I'm a Walmart mom.  I don't know when exactly this happened; it was a gradual decline in sanity and a need for convenience, that much I do know.  But I'm not sure when I actually fell into the trap.  It took a stroll around a beautiful, clean, quiet grocery store to snap me out of my Walmart trance.  I'm awake now, and it feels GOOD!

Back in the days before kids (and when I only had one to tote around) it was no big deal to hop from grocery store to grocery store to farmer's market to Costco in order to get the best deals.  It was actually fun to find great prices and save all that money.  I was the coupon queen, and would spend the better part of my Wednesday morning looking at the grocery store flyers, circling the best sales and sorting through my coupons while making my grocery lists.  Then, armed with my arsenal of papers and organizers I'd hit all the local stores usually making it to about six of them before the end of the day.  Maybe I'm just really weird, but it was always a thrill to come home, add up the receipts and then calculate the savings.  It's completely addicting. 

When baby number two came along it got a little bit harder.  Grocery carts will only hold one child, and pushing a double stroller while pulling a cart is a little bit disastrous through narrow aisles, not to mention inconvenient hauling a 40 lb stroller in and out of the back of a SUV while getting two kids in and out of carseats in 110 degree heat during the AZ summer.  When baby number three was born (that's three in three years, mind you) I gave up completely.  The siren's call of ad matching and one stop shopping was too much to resist.  I did my shopping at Walmart.  Most items were cheaper there than the regular prices at grocery stores, and items like shampoo and cleaning supplies were MUCH cheaper, so I stopped killing myself with multiple trips and settled in to a life of  suburban mom/Walmart shopper.  What I slowly started noticing was that even though Walmart would match the sales prices at grocery stores, the meats and produce were a little.....ugh.  It was easier to grab a family size bag of potato chips than a bag of apples that had a 50/50 chance of being mealy and tasting like cardboard.  Slowly slowly I became the lady that feeds her kids fruit rollups instead of fruit, and tater tots instead of carrot sticks.  Our beautiful organic whole grain and flax sandwich bread from the farmer's market got swapped for Orowheat potato bread.  Sure I noticed the funny looks that Hubs was giving me when I was serving our beautiful little boys corndogs and fries for dinner, but I had my Walmart blinders on.  By the time we've fulfilled our grocery list (and woefully few items on the list were sales ad matches) and thrown all of our treats/impulse buys/toys into the cart (we are shopping with three little boys in a store with a huge toy department, after all), I can't get out of Walmart for under $150.  In fact according to AMEX, we spent $700 at Walmart alone last month. And I don't do all of our grocery shopping there; about half of it is still done at Costco.  No wonder we're broke!

Yesterday I realized we didn't have any eggs, or lunch meat for Hubs lunches, so I left two bambinos at home and took our middle boy with me to the grocery store a couple of miles down the street.  It's the first time I'd ever been there, and we've lived in this house for over a year. I walked into a wonderland; a beautiful, clean utopia of displays, friendly people, and oh my gosh the selection!!  It was so quiet there; no overly harsh lighting, no television monitors blaring in my face; I didn't have to maneuver around huge pallets of stuff while people were stocking the shelves.  The deli manager stepped out to chat and tickle my little boy.  Did you hear me?  Someone SPOKE to us!!  I  wandered around for a good half hour in utter awe.  By the end of my trip I had purchased two dozen organic eggs, 2 lbs of lunch meat, a loaf of (good) bread, 3 lbs of golden delicious apples and a pound of gorgeous rainier cherries.  My grand total was $25.  What have I been doing all this time???  I fell into the inconvenient trap of convenience shopping.  This is how America ends up fat and broke, and as smart as I like to think I am, apparently I wasn't smart enough to see it.  I can't say I'll never shop at Walmart again, but I think it's time to make some serious changes to the way I've been doing things in our home.  We're going back to buying real food in a real grocery store with real people.  Last week I was Walmart's biggest fan, I really didn't see why they were so vilified all the time, but I get it now.  I'm so excited to go grocery shopping next week!
 
Comments
Jul. 6, 2010 8:46 am
Awesome!!! You are so right! I have 3 boys myself so I can totally empathize. It's sooooo easy to falll into that trap esp. when the kids are picky and love pre-packaged food anyway. Keep fighting the good fight. There's a fresh fish market right near my local Walmart and I started going there again and the farmer's market on weekends. One step at a time even if they are baby steps.
 
Jul. 6, 2010 8:51 am
Awwww! I love this...I can see how it's easy to fall into the Walmart trap when you've got three little ones so close in age. I did it a LOT when mine were younger, but one day many years ago, I looked around Walmart when I was checking out and just thought, "I can't do this anymore." And I've never been back...don't miss it a bit!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:08 am
@ildefonso. Thanks for the encouragement! I don't know why it took this long, especially since I have dearly missed the farmer's market, but I'm going to get back to our healthy way of life even if I have to break my back to get there!
 
Janet 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:08 am
I think many of us have fallen under their spell and then one day wake up (so to speak). Convenient when the children are little for the one stop shopping. I always think that moms should be able to have some free time to go do the grocery shopping on their own. Don't get me wrong I am not opposed to seeing little ones in the stores but they can be a huge distraction and this is why moms resort to Wal-mart thinking this is the best solution. Trying to only take one or go on your own will make you able to jump from store to store and be that smart shopper you were before. Maybe you will be able to fit some time in to do the coupon cutting and ad browsing before you head out like you used to. You saw the "light", good girl, now go with it.
 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:09 am
@Lynna, I didn't realize until just yesterday how unsettling Walmart truly is. Rude shoppers, long lines, sub-par produce...and for what??? To spend even MORE money? Crazy!!!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:11 am
Bravo! Good for you, our local walmart does not sell produce or meat so there is no true Walmart trap for me. I know how it is with small children though, I have 4 under the age of five right now :).
 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:13 am
@Janet. The really sad thing is that we get the Sunday paper every week; I sort through and set the coupon sections aside and then never even clip them out! You save so little with them at WM that it ends up being a waste of time. I supposed I'll have to work out an arrangement with Grandma to watch the babies while I grocery shop, at least during the summer when it's super hot. Thank you for your words of encouragment!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:14 am
Way to go Rebecca! I have personally never been a Wal-mart fan...I love my grocery store, but I do see how this happens!! I'm excited for you to start enjoying this errand again :)
 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:19 am
I know people do it every day around here...but to go to MY wal-mart...you gotta be drunk, drugged or crazy! I do go there for a few things...but i'm in and out. On a typical trip you get offers to purchase EBT cards...a lesson in 'fashion'...the rudest employees in the entire city...and that's even BEFORE you get to aisle #1...lol!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:32 am
@Sarah May. I'll be right there with you come January, so I'm so thankful to have seen the error of my ways now, before making the same mistakes with baby #4. Thanks for your comment!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:33 am
@Kathleen-Thank you! I'm excited too; and I know Hubs is going to be delighted. BTW, I love your blogs; your daughter is beautiful!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:34 am
@Helzbelz-LOL!! Your comment made me think of all the silly little extras our Walmart has--it's got to be the only place in the world where you can go to buy groceries, ship a package, open a checking account, list your house for sale, have your taxes done, buy a car, and then get a pedicure while eating a Happy Meal. Now THAT is one stop shopping!
 
plzeat 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:46 am
I am weaning myself from Walmart. I am tired of watching local merchants leave our small town because they cannot compete with Walmart pricing. I am done watching Walmart replace name brands with great value until great value is the ONLY selection. I shop local because they employ my neighbors, pay taxes to our communities and actually care about our food pantry!
 
Janet 
Jul. 6, 2010 9:54 am
plzeat- very well put, I couldn't agree with you more about Wal-mart destroying the smaller businesses. Did you hear in the news that another top figure is retiring from Wal-Mart, they have had another quarter of no growth in profits. Maybe there are a lot more of us on the band wagon of boycotting and it is starting to hurt them. I know the economy is bad and that is exactly when they should be seeing profits. Having another key figure leave the company means that their ship could be sinking and no one wants to stick around to raise it. I personally do not feel sorry for Walmart because I do not believe they are good for anyone in any community.
 
Jul. 6, 2010 10:04 am
I never could see the lure of Walmart. I can't stand to go there and my husband can't understand why. But, I don't like Sam's Club or any of those other wholesale places. I'm one of those old fashioned, small-town gals who likes the grocery store and farmer's produce stands where they know who I am when I come in. I don't even like (Gasp!!) Trader Joe's all that much...
 
Jul. 6, 2010 10:18 am
@Mother Ann. It's the lure of cheaper prices and one stop shopping. Unfortunately once you get out the door, more than half the stuff you buy is junk and things you don't need. I can't say it's all bad; if you're disciplined and only buy what you absolutely need it can be a real time/budget saver, but I'm starting to realize that I'm much like you. I like variety and the laid-back environment of the grocery store. And I'm not a huge fan of Trader Joe's, either, but Costco....that's a different story.
 
Jul. 6, 2010 10:19 am
@Plzeat-pretty sad when we have to "wean" ourselves off Walmart, no???
 
Jul. 6, 2010 10:39 am
On the topic of all the things you can have done at Wal-Mart...we can now add "going to the doctor" to that list. Our Wal-Mart just put in a walk in clinic. So, now every sick, sniffling, germ spewer around is hangin' out there, too. Just great!
 
plzeat 
Jul. 6, 2010 10:50 am
yes- sad, but I bought the one stop shopping lower price approach 100%. It wasn't until they closed all the small fabric centers, that they got my attention. When they were the only game in town, they raised the fabric prices. When it looked like they could make more money on electronics, they removed fabric. They are doing the same game with brand names now. I do not want to live in a great value walmart monopoly world.
 
Abbey 
Jul. 6, 2010 10:53 am
"Did you hear me? Someone SPOKE to us!!" <---- That made me giggle! lol, I'm very glad you were snapped out of your transe and took a trip to your local grocery. I myself have just stepped back into that world after being a Target shopper for 4 years. It's wonderful living in a city of 125,000 but I can go into my local grocery and feel like I am back home in a small town. It's good to know your cashier's name and especially your butcher's name and stay on their good side! :)
 
Jul. 6, 2010 11:01 am
I think this happens to most of us during our lifetime. I can relate. Like you I was in the trap and then the lights came on. Nice blog and I hope it will help others out there.
 
MK! 
Jul. 6, 2010 11:13 am
great blog! I'm looking forward to see your journey to keep up with the new plan :)
 
Jul. 6, 2010 11:27 am
There is much to chide Walmart about.. from the way they are reputed to treating their employees to the pressures they put on manufacturers to keep their pricing down, but if you look at Walmart as just another shopping option and you're smart about your choices, it can be an "OK" place to shop. I live in a large city, so Walmarts are everywhere. However, I grew up not experiencing pre-packaged this or that and these items were never part of our household and to this day, my adult children wouldn't dream of opening a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese. I like to buy high quality meats, organic produce and other brands, so it's not my first choice. I don't see the value in knowing my clerks name.. around here.. you never get the same person no matter where you shop. I choose where I shop because of quality, not quantity. I believe Walmart is a great option for alot of people who live on a budget and I'm glad they are there for them. On the other hand, it's also nice to support local businesses and support the local economy. Not everyone can have that luxury, however. But keep this in mind, if it weren't for Walmart, our local stores would not have much incentive to offer us killer deals on things. The value of competition is of benefit to all of us, so I am not hoping Walmart goes away. No matter where you choose to shop, just shop wisely.
 
Jul. 6, 2010 12:01 pm
@Belle--we live in the same neck of the woods, so I know what you're saying. I'm pretty sure I could set up a cot and live in the produce section of a local grocery store and they would still never know my name. I also agree that Walmart is a good option for certain families; ie the many folks here in AZ that use public transportation and can't hop from store to store. There are items at Walmart that are SO much cheaper than anywhere else--King Arthur flour, my beloved Tillamook cheese, Sriracha....the list goes on. I'll probably never completely stop shopping at Walmart, honestly with all of the grocery stores that have closed sometimes when I'm driving around they're the only thing I can find. But the people at the top of the foodchain at WM aren't stupid; they're depending on harried mothers such as myself to come running in and start throwing stuff in the cart. We all have to be responsible for our own spending habits, of course, but WM just makes it so darn easy to overshop!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 12:58 pm
@1gdcowgrl--I guess that makes sense. I saw a story on the news a while ago when they had shopping carts at WM swabbed and sent off to a lab for testing. More than half of them had traces of poop on the handles. So you can get sick at WM, get treated for your sickness, fill your Rx from the clinic, and pick up some chicken soup on the way out....pretty ingenious if you ask me!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 1:25 pm
I get my KAF there whenever I happen to be in one, but I rarely ever go in there. It's such a long trudge from the parking lot into the store.. and then you walk into the Walmart.. and it's as huge as far as the eye can see. I'd rather just spend a few extra $$ to get it somewhere else. I love those wipe dispensers at the grocery store entry.. they are fantastic and I use them every time. I've never been a big germaphobe, but then again people used to wash their hands before leaving a bathroom.. a trend I see has been on steady decline! ewww!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 1:27 pm
Rebecca, I see you're a neighbor! I live in Gilbert. My favorite store is AJ's.. the one on Val Vista & Ray is fantastic. They have incredible products that are so hard to find. My Fry's discount card gets most of the workout though. Stay cool neighbor.. supposed to get hotter this week and monsoons this weekend! Whoopie do!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 1:28 pm
Astoria, OR???? WOW!! I lived in St. Helens and Hillsboro for years! We'd get out fresh tuna off the boat there in Astoria and of course, hit the oyster festival there each year. Yummo!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 3:41 pm
welcome back from the dark side, Rebecca. My neighbour was a Walmart mom and I watched her with 3 children doing the exact same thing. I have to admit that I was a Walmart shopper (sort of) when they first arrived in my area-I loved the prices. Watching the mom and pop shops close in a small town where I do some shopping made me open my eyes. I rarely step foot in one now. I love the grocery stores and always watch for sales and stock up on deals.
 
Jul. 6, 2010 3:50 pm
I went to my local WM and the place was a Mess! They are remodeling and it shows. I shop at the reg market and Costco too. trader Joes is also a good place to shop as well. I am so glad your blinders are OFF! Now grab those coupons and shop baby shop!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 3:54 pm
I had no choice but to shop at Super Walmart for quite some time as our only grocery store (P&C) went bankrupt. During that time frame I bought some chicken and a pork roast that was BAD. The pork roast really scared me, it smelled so bad when I opened the package! Then, today, I went into Wal-mart to buy my water (it is cheaper there!) I decided that I would just get everything I needed since it was just fruits and veggies. Well, they had no summer squash or zucchini! And this is the season! I still had to stop at the new grocery on my way home. Walmart might be good for some things price wise, but quality wise, for my groceries, I will go to the grocery store!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 4:14 pm
The Kroger where I live actually has cheaper prices on many things. When Walmart first came to our town, the prices were way cheaper, but they slowly inched their prices back up (and the other stores lowered their prices a little) and now Walmart is not really that much of a bargain.
 
Jul. 6, 2010 5:34 pm
@Belle--yep, we're right down the street; hooray for monsoons! It can't come soon enough, I tell 'ya. Even after all these years this PacNW girl can't deal with the Arizona summers. My little trip to the store was the Fry's on McQueen and Riggs, and it was Beautiful-wood floors and everything! I love AJ's, it's always a fun shopping trip but so darned expensive, and the one over here at Fulton Ranch has closed. I probably wouldn't do much shopping there anyway; $20 for a pound of halibut is more than I'm willing to pay, especially growing up somewhere where you could get all the freshest seafood for FREE. Perhaps one day I'll make my way over to the location in Val Vista Lakes. Maybe we'll run into each other!
 
Jul. 6, 2010 5:37 pm
@Honeybunch--I've found the same thing several times; when cucumbers are on sale at the grocery store 5 for $1.00, they magically disappear from WM so they won't have to price match them. They've done it with several other items I've noticed as well. There are lots of things that are much cheaper at WM, and I'll continue shopping there for just those items, but I agree with you, fresh produce and meats are better purchased at the grocery store.
 
Jul. 6, 2010 5:39 pm
@Redneck Gramma- LOL, the dark side! That's so true. It's not such a bad thing, really, we all do what we have to do. I'm just shocked with myself. I've always been so health conscious and I'm ashamed at what I've been feeding my family for the sake of convenience.
 
Jul. 6, 2010 5:41 pm
@Patty Cakes. I'm going to dig out that coupon organizer, I promise you!
 
Janet 
Jul. 6, 2010 6:13 pm
Rebecca: you have started a great blog, this topic is certainly interesting to a lot of AR readers. Thanks for starting the thread.
 
Jul. 7, 2010 12:51 am
Interesting blog, Rebecca! I've been *Wal*Mart Free* for over 7 years now and, honestly, forget it's even an option (and I live in small town/rural PA, where Wal*Mart is a way of life...). While I don't have the 3 extra little people to deal with (and I really don't know how you moms do it; I'm in awe!), I have found I get better deals (and better product) grocery shopping elsewhere. A few minutes Sunday morning w/the grocery circulars, coupons, and AR (for menu planning) saves us money (and time!) grocery shopping.
 
Skuba 
Jul. 7, 2010 12:46 pm
I stopped shopping at walmart the day I heard the mother say to their child "If you don't stop doing ....(I can't even remember want the child was doing) I'm going to smack you silly" I know it is not walmarts fault but I can't put up with the people who shop there.
 
Janet 
Jul. 7, 2010 12:53 pm
Skuba: Has anyone sent you and e-mail "People of Walmart?). Just google this and see some hilarious pictures. Some are just too funny.
 
Jul. 7, 2010 1:06 pm
@Skuba-- I've seen some shocking (and also some hilarious) things while shopping at WM, and Janet, after seeing that website I always make sure I look okay when I go in--I don't want to be one of the "people of walmart"!
 
Jul. 7, 2010 1:10 pm
@Lovestohost. Thanks for the tip; your idea about checking the sales fliers and then planning a menu before shopping is a very smart way to do things. I wish I could be so organized! I usually plan meals after I shop based on what I've purchased.
 
Nanabooboo 
Jul. 7, 2010 7:08 pm
Rebecca...you are one amazing girl....from your biggest fan....your old Mom. When Walmart came to town 10 years ago I was working at a small locally owned grocery store chain...10 stores, about 60 people employed at each store. Before our new Walmart superstore opened they sent head hunters to our store to see if they could steal our employees for their staff. Their comment was...we will close you down in a year anyway, so you might as well come to work for us now. Some of our employees did....and were treated shabbily...only to ask for their jobs back at our store within a year. The idea that they planned to close down all of the local competition left a bad taste in my mouth, and for the last 10 years has kept me out of our fabulous Walmart superstore. It's way too big, too impersonal, and do you really want to buy your tires and your tomatoes at the same place anyway? I'm proud to still be working at our local indepent store...I've been there 1 years now...and for the last 8 I have been the deli manager where I at least have some control over what is served. Can anyone at Walmart Deli claim that? I will continue to shop my local store for all of my groceries....and I'll go to Les Schwab for my tires. Keep up the good work Rebecca....and kiss those beautiful grandbabies for me...Next time I come to visit I'll bring more home grown tomatoes and zucchini.....Walmart can't match that price.... I love you Mom
 
Jul. 7, 2010 9:33 pm
Awww, thanks Mommy, it's always nice to have a fan. I somehow thought you'd be happy to know that I've ditched Wally World!
 
Jul. 8, 2010 7:54 am
Becky, I am so glad to know that although we were raised in the same house of homeade EVERYTHING, I am not the only one who has crossed over to the dark side. I hate that I have become the "whatever is convenient" Mom, but as you know, I have been working on that for a long time, and am happy to say that I am doing better. Dont be to hard on yourself, it is easy to fall into that trap when raising kids. Sometimes we just need a little help and it seems that these pre made, pre packaged foods are just the thing that we are looking for! It seems though that as time goes by we become more and more dependant on them since all that time we are saving from cooking frees up our precious time to do some of the other gazillion things that mommies have to do! I dont think that all " Convenience " foods are terrible, and in fact, are probably OK in moderation, but certainly fresh reuit and veg are ideal, and should be incorperated into the diet whenever possible. Make the changes where you can, but dont feel like a bad mom if you ever use convenience. I think that the little changes help, and before you know it, all of those little changes add up to big changes. So again, dont be to hard on yourself, you are a great mom! Love you!
 
Jul. 10, 2010 9:19 am
Amen!
 
Aug. 13, 2010 9:30 am
Rebecca, is the food from costco better than Walmart?
 
 
 
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My4NonBlondes

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