Friday, February 15, 2008

On the Horns of a Dilemma

My ethics and my pocketbook are at war with one another. It's all over that evil but cheap commerical mecca, Wal-Mart.

We have been spending an ungodly amount on our groceries and try as I might, I just can't bring the expenditure down. I usually do our grocery shopping at the Kroger just down the street. It's convenient, clean, and has everything I need. The cashiers are helpful and friendly.

Unfortunately, it's not cheap. Oh, it's not the Cadillac of groceries, that would be Pulix or Harris Teeter, but it's no ugly stepchild either. I use coupons, I buy the store-brand items or items on sale, and I try to avoid impulse buys, but we're still spending a pretty penny each month.At dinner the other night, one of my friends explained how she feeds her family of three on a little over $300 a month.

Yes, you read that correctly, $300 a month.

This woman does 95% of her shopping at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. She also plans her meals for a month at a time and buys the majority of the month's food in one trip. I was dumbstruck.

We spend 3 times that much for our family of 3.5 (my 15 month old doesn't eat alot). We occasionally go to Sam's Club for things like tires or contacts, but I don't do much grocery shopping there.

And I almost never go to Wal-Mart. Both my husband and I are both ethically opposed to Wal-Mart's for the usual reasons: poor treatment of employees, anti-labor tactics, forcing companies to reduce the quality of their products and encouraging companies to move oversees. Plus I just don't like the stores. They are always crowded and dirty and I can never find anything. It's not an enjoyable experience.

I can't pretend that I can do all my shopping for a month at a time. We eat far too much produce for that and my 3 year old son powers through milk like a newborn babe. However, we have got to find a way to lower our grocery bill and thus, I am at war with myself.

Do I throw my beliefs to the wind to kneel at the altar of the Sam Walton? Should I cave in to save some cash? Is Wal-Mart really that much cheaper? Is it worth the hassle of shopping there?

I guess I won't know until I try so I have decided to give Wal-Mart a go for one month. I know it won't be pretty but I will gird my loins and do the bulk of my shopping there. At the end of the month, we'll compare this month's bill with last month's. It would be nice to do an item by item comparison on say, 50 things I regularly buy, but I don't have time for that. I buy pretty much the same things on each trip, so we should get a general idea of how Kroger and Wal-Mart compare. I'm crossing my fingers that Kroger will be comparable, but I have my doubts.

Billions of people can't be wrong, right?

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