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The Sadness of the Grocery Store Flyer: Venting a Bit

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Old 05-07-2010, 12:01 PM   #1
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Default The Sadness of the Grocery Store Flyer: Venting a Bit

Yes, they're there again, right near my mailbox at the apartment building: The colorful pile of grocery store flyers with the specials & sales of the week. And so I take a handful for the stores that I customarily visit, because part of my healthier lifestyle includes planning meals, and planning means shopping with a mission in mind. These flyers help me make up a list beforehand, look up recipes, and avoid impulse buys.

But after I start flipping through the flyers, I always feel a bit of sadness & yes, even anger. Because about three-quarters of the stuff they advertise, I am not going to buy or even go near, and I'd be happier not even knowing that it exists.

All I want is the produce section, the meat & seafood section, a bit of the dairy section, and then selected stuff here & there from the packaged goods.

Mostly this flyer just serves to remind me how far off from the "mainstream" of the American Way of Eating I seem to have wandered in my quest to get & maintain a healthy weight. I feel so alienated from most of this stuff.

I can't be alone in this. (Am I?)

I don't even like looking at these flyers, but it's the best way I know to find out the best prices on strawberries, asparagus, crab legs & other seasonal treats. (Plus ours have coupons to clip lately.)
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Old 05-07-2010, 12:06 PM   #2
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I don't look at flyers but I also shop outside of the mainstream. I rarely go into a store that sends flyers anyway. I might have to go tonight or tomorrow to Safeway because they have the cheapest price on canned green beans for my dogs but last time I was in a regular grocery store for groceries was probably a couple months ago.
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Old 05-07-2010, 12:15 PM   #3
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That's the solution, Nelie. But this is what I've wondered: Do you think you spend more, shopping outside of the mainstream? My reason for going in these stores is the prices & the specials they run to get you in the door. I figure if I cherry-pick from the specials at several stores, I can save money. Maybe the price of that is my exposure to all the cr**p.
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Old 05-07-2010, 12:21 PM   #4
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I shop in mainstream stores and like you, I often marvel at how many of their products that I would never consider buying. Maybe 95 - 98%? There are entire aisles I never walk down and food sections I never shop in.

It's funny, I can't say I feel sadness or anger at the array. It's more like bemusement and a touch of disgust -- like "I can't believe people actually eat that!" or worse, serve it to their children. Fortunately I love what I eat and rarely miss any of those foods (though donuts always sing their siren song to me as I walk by )

It's easy to see why we have such a problem with obesity in our country when you shop in a conventional grocery store.
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Old 05-07-2010, 12:26 PM   #5
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You aren't the only one, Saef. I barely look at the ads because they rarely have what I want on sale. Even Whole Foods often has the organic version of junk I don't eat on sale.

My argument is that I save in the long run on health care costs, personal quality of life and happiness when I eat. I eat out less than I did, which saves me money, money I can spend on really nice fresh foods that I prepare well and eat with no reservations. It's hard to put a cash value on some of that, but I have decided that not buying 10 for 10 hamburger helper and noodle roni is worth it.

I like to think of my diet as "retro" - as in I eat what people ate before meat was extra cheap and things were over processed. Lots of veggies, beans, some dairy, local eggs from vegetarian hens and small amounts of locally grown, really nice meat when I can afford it.
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Old 05-07-2010, 12:27 PM   #6
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Actually I don't believe I spend more but I also have some pretty good options.

1) Grains and Beans - I buy these organic in bulk. They are usually cheaper than I can find (not organic) prepackaged in the grocery store

2) Spices - Again I buy in bulk which tend to be fresher and buy how much I need.

3) Veggies and fruit - I shop at a couple different stores. 1 is an organic/locally focused store. Their prices are pretty good and are pretty onpar with our local grocery stores for stuff that isn't organic. Once in a while I'll also swing by Whole Foods to see what they have on sale but it is rarely. Now is also the season for Farmer's markets and CSAs (I don't have a CSA this year) where you can get organic produce at pretty good prices. Lastly for things I can't find in either of those places, I go to the asian markets.

4) Misc - sprouted grain bread, raw almond butter, etc - I buy from a mix of the stores above and I may also swing by Trader Joe's as their raw almond butter is a good price.
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Old 05-07-2010, 12:29 PM   #7
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Saef: Since embarking on my low-carb deit (well even before) i have found the same problem. In my small town there are 5 grocery store and each week we check the flyers. Most of the time we only find one for two things we actually want. The rest is filled with with junk food that we would never buy or now can no longer eat (you know the food i mean: bread, cookies, pretty much anything from the center isles). Plus there are usually one or two flyers each week which have absolutely nothing of interest.

When i lived i a big city i was able to find a small fruit and veg market with really great prices compared to the grocery store. But in a small town (where i am now) there is nothing like that (except the farmers market on weekends - and i'm not sure about the prices).

I would suggest - know your prices. know what you want and who usaull has the best price

I also agree - its a sad commentary on the way most of North America eats.
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Old 05-07-2010, 12:30 PM   #8
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There is a small complex about half a mile from my house. It has had many different restaurants and coffee shops in and out over the years. Currently there is a Morrocan restaurant housed there and DD (17 yo) and I went there for dinner Saturday night. In the complex, where coffee houses have started and failed over the years, is a new produce store. The sign indicated a grand opening this week. DD and I looked at each other and said "Awesome!!!" Produce makes us happy!

Fast forward to Monday evening when we had DS's Cub Scout meeting at a nearby park. Someone from the produce store must have been at the park right before we got there, cause some of the other Scout parents had fliers for the new produce store. Coupons and such. After the meeting, one of the dads asked, "Does anyone want these?" and some other parents asked, "What are they?" He answered, "I don't know. Some produce store down the road or something." No one was excited, except ME! How can someone NOT be excited by a small, local produce store??

I like the way things were in Paris....where you walk down the street and can stop at a produce store, a butcher, a cheese store, a bakery, etc. I would love that little shopping center to house a meat market and a bakery as well as the produce store. A little Hispanic grocery with beans, tortillas and chile in there, and I would be set. As it is, I go to many different stores off and on through the month to get what we need, and I would really like to add a small meat market that sells local, grass fed beef to the list. But wow, it is a pain in the rear sometimes.

I hope that little produce store makes it. I'll go this weekend. But back to the OP, I avoid more than 75% of the crap sold in regular supermarkets, too.
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Old 05-07-2010, 12:45 PM   #9
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One reason I really like the asian markets in our area, it seems like half the store is produce and everything else is just a compliment to the produce
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Old 05-07-2010, 12:47 PM   #10
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I know how you feel. My husband is diabetic so for as long as we've been together I skip over most of the packaged foods and sweets. I don't buy or bring home anything he shouldn't eat because I don't want temptation there, and I certainly don't need the sweets or junk either.
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Old 05-07-2010, 01:43 PM   #11
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My husband does the vast majority of the shopping for our family, since I am the one who works full-time. Last time I went to the store with him, a few weeks ago, he said that he regularly gets asked by employees there (this is at a Safeway) whether he is a chef because of all the fresh food that is in the basket Apparently only the cooks/chefs come in and buy that many veggies, fruit, and other non-processed stuff!

And indeed it is true, if you peek in other people's baskets, it's about 90% processed stuff.

Because I grew up eating "weird" (my parents were hippies, I was always the one kid at school who had whole-wheat bread on my sandwiches and so on), I guess I am used to the fact that the grocery store doesn't really reflect my life, at this point.

When I was in college I lived in Berkeley/Oakland, and didn't have a car, so did all my grocery shopping from small local stores on my bike. It was fun.

We pretty much live on the edge of poverty--we're the working poor, making just a little more than the income level that would mark us as fit for various government benefits--so we have to be very careful about where and how we spend our grocery monies. Generally, we can stretch our money pretty well by going to Safeway and Trader Joe's. Not buying processed crap, making our bread from scratch and so on, really helps to lessen the expense of food.

I guess what I'm saying here is that my life is 90% dissimilar to the rest of America anyway, so the grocery store issue doesn't really bother me so much.
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Old 05-07-2010, 01:49 PM   #12
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You are not alone in feeling far off from the American mainstream diet. I feel the same way when I occasionally go to the local Ralphs. While sometimes the junk in the bakery section looks really good, I am usually not sad. Rather, I look at what other people are buying and am so glad I do not eat that junk. I never look at flyers or coupons because I would never eat the stuff that goes on sale.

As to spending more ... I don't know if I do. We belong to a CSA and about half of our food volume comes from our weekly box of fresh produce. We get most of our non-produce food products at Trader Joe's, and I have found that their prices are usually better than the local grocery store on the more healthy items we eat such as low- or non-fat dairy items, lean cuts of meat, nuts, whole grain products (what comes to mind right now is Kashi cereal, which is significantly cheaper at Trader Joe's). Even if we were spending more, I think our health is worth it.
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Old 05-07-2010, 04:40 PM   #13
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My husband and I are also on a very tight budget. We're on disability, and because we had good jobs (and hubby had an additional disability insurance policy) our disability income is by a small margin above the poverty level.

We live above our income level by shopping extremely carefully. We shop around for almost everything we buy and we buy dicounted (often used) whenever we can. Bargain shopping is our rule, and there are few exceptions.

We spend far less (and eat far better, healthwise) on groceries than we did when we were both working, but we also found the cheapest sources for almost everything we use.

Bargain hunting in the grocery store (and anywhere else) isn't hard, and doesn't even take up nearly the time you expect it to, you just need to be open-minded. You need to be able to take a risk on something a little unfamiliar, like a store brand or a vegetable you've never tried before.

I shop the flyers, but like the stores themselves (at least in our area) - the whole foods are usually around the perimeter. The cover pages have the whole foods advertised, and the center pages are mostly crap. I compare the cheapest proteins, and the cheapest produce and I shop in a particular order based on my experience with the prices (but I make special trips if a store has an especially good price on something). I shop by my list, but I substitute if I find a better bargain.

Cabbage shows up almost every week, because it's usually the cheapest veggie (next to onions, but I really don't "do" onions as a solo veggie).

Just a lot of little habits that add up to a lot of savings.
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Old 05-12-2010, 05:04 PM   #14
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I usually dump the flyers into the outside bin before I get inside. Sometimes there will be a cheap protein, veg or fruit, but I have enough ethnic markets, farmers markets and stands around that those sales would not even save me money. I do go to several stores, but they are all close by so I just rotate them into my errands and I take a cooler with ice packs in case I am delayed. What really gets to me is the overconsumption. My 87 year old dad and his wife wanted to split some fresh trout at Costco with me yesterday (they come in packs of 4 whole fish). They kept wanting to buy me other things I might "need" and just could not understand that I rarely use packaged products and that I prefer to select my produce, getting just what I will use, rather than the mega mega packs. I am convinced people throw vast quantities of food out because they over buy. That said, dad does eat healthy (no meds except low dose Lipitor just recently) so he is buying things like 2 packs of 18 eggs because the low price allows him to toss the yolks. When he pays more he can't bring himself to do that. They also check the sat fat % and fiber content on things like granola bars- kinda cute. One thing that warms my heart is the fresh produce at the 99 cent store (chain with 200+ stores in California, Arizona, Texas and ?) Everything is 99 cents. They have bags of lemons, often 2 large eggplants in a pack, several bunches of scallions, fat bunches of asparagus, etc. Yes- they have lots of packages stuff, but I see people just swarming in the produce section and piling their baskets full. You can see eyes light up and animated conversation as they say "Look at these" or "Lets make X". There is hope!

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Old 05-17-2010, 05:25 PM   #15
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I have a similar experience with coupons. I flip through the coupons every Sunday, but it's all highly-processed convenience foods. Usually I'll find some for razors or shampoo or something, but nothing food-wise.

My grocery store purchases are getting to be less and less, with more purchases from local butchers and farmers, and with making more of my own items, like bread, and growing more of our veggies.

Some items are more expensive this way, some less. I figure it balances out.

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