You can tell a lot about a grocery store by its parking lot culture. I think it will truly determine what type of shopping experience you will have, what choices you make, and how those choices impact your overall nutritional health. Earlier today, we were on a family outing when we took a wrong turn and found ourselves in the parking lot of none other than the mecca of bulk food shopping, Costco. Needless to say, the weaving of cars through lanes, the jarring movements of bumpers, as cars nearly collided pulling in and out of their stalls with great speed, and the line ups to enter and leave the space were enough to dampen the mood. To top it off, we didn’t even plan on shopping there in the first place.
The Costco culture breeds this sense of urgency – buy now, buy more, buy often, because heaven only knows, stocks might run out, or the waiting game for the next sale ensues, or worse yet, the item will become discontinued. So now, $500 poorer, a trunk full of frozen dinners and buckets full of gummy earthworms later, and boxes of bagged chips heavier, are we really better off? Consider the following:
1) Are we really saving more money by shopping in bulk? Are we getting lower quality goods, but paying more for them in the end?
2) How much packaging and food waste does bulk shopping produce?
3) Were we truly in quest of the products we bought, or did we give in to temptation?
Almost everyone I know, many of them health-conscious eaters, are loyal Costco clients. Although they claim that prices of salmon are unbeatable, how many of them also become owners of less healthy bulk items? The human eye just simply cannot resist a deal on a guilty pleasure and the bulk shopping experience takes complete advantage of its consumers in this manner. There is nothing wrong with splurging on Oreo ice cream once in a while, but when it’s a matter of excess quantity, I think we are all better off buying food in smaller packages, paying a bit more per unit, but in the big scheme of things, recognizing we made the nutritional healthier choice as well as averted parking lot panic.