What occurred to me today…

do we shop on impulse due to being time-poor and being bombarded by marketing messages or because we feel it is a quick fix to make us feel better, more relaxed, happy, fill a need?

This thought really dawned upon me when about to enter a mega store in Vancouver. Back home, I have never been the model “mass grocery” supermarket shopper. My preference is Local. I prefer to step in and out of small food stores; my favourite bakery, my nearby friendly fresh produce grocer, my community focused independent supermarket back home. There are really only two main mass grocery stores who are head to head competitive with each other; Woolworths and Coles. There is one other which is increasing in it’s numbers; IGA (Independent Grocery Association), and that’s about it.

For me shopping local, meant convenience, easy access to all the items I needed when I didn’t have the time to plan properly; I always took a little time to explore what looks good each day and buy only what I need for various meals I was going to prepare for the present moment. It also made me feel like a member of the community; buying local fruits and vegetables for example from our friendly grocer Galuzzo’s in Glebe (Est. 1934) was giving a bit back and was a satisfying experience. If you’d like to read up on the history of Glebe see, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glebe,_New_South_Wales

Was this an efficient use of time? I guess there are two ways of looking at it…on one hand, I was making several trips to stores instead of just one or two in a week. I had variety and was conscious of what products I was buying and focused on the ingredients that are behind each one and where they are sourced. It was personal. On the other, one trip to a large supermarket with the hustle and bustle in a week would save time for me to do other things but, would it enable me to make all the informed choices I was making previously on my smaller quicker trips? It was impersonal.

I thought I would put a new shopping experience to the test in my new neighbourhood. I am now surrounded by numerous supermarkets which are part of chains, some that are local wholly owned stores, some that are providing many organic, sustainable and ethical options and some that provide a combination of both. I am going to weigh up my experience with that of buying from smaller community stores against variety, healthy organic choices available and price. There appears to be a dozen or so large grocery stores or more in Metro Vancouver and I have barely scraped the surface. I have popped my head into Choices; which is the most local conveniently placed store to me and although very expensive, it provides a large selection of organic/natural foods, fair trade coffee and small deli for packaged items like salmon, meat etc.

Whole Foods Market, also known to locals as ‘Whole pay cheque’ has only a few locations across the city…one happens to be close to me in Cambie Street and it is heaven…if only to browse or buy the occasional gourmet treats! To be quite honest I probably have been in there one too many times already, it is a one stop shop to the highest quality, least processed foods, a large selection of organic local produce as well as a range of bakery, whole body care, household, baby and kid’s products and more. It is an established US company and one of their values is supporting sustainable agriculture and organic farming.

Another large one I am exploring for the first time is Save On Foods which I come to find out is a Western Canadian company who are proud to be the number 1 supporter of local suppliers, producers and growers in BC communities. I have also since found out they are focused on being a leading eco-friendly company. They offer sustainable choices and are one of the first retailers in North America to actively commit to a sustainable seafood approach for example they are the first to sell sustainable Coho salmon.

So how much time did I spend researching the foods I consumed? I looked up their online weekly specials and then walked up there to begin my shop.

It is surprising that a store so large will still satisfy my goals of shopping for local produce and other organic products at a reasonable price. You can become a member and therefore receive special offers and further savings too. After an hour, I was at the register with a smiling face letting me know I had saved $35! What I have also found is that competition from so many supermarkets has driven up customer service levels, so my experience felt a little bit personal.

I realise, that if I spend a bit of time looking at the weekly specials at the range of supermarkets in my area, I have loads of variety and can choose products I want to buy at the best price.

I guess my conclusion is that I still go out to do almost daily shops…but I enjoy it. The only difference is, now I am more conscious of the products I want to buy prior to stepping out of my door and the bonus is getting them for a much better price. I have spent marginally more time than the usual back home and my shop this week has saved me more than $110. It’s a market driven by a lot more competition which suits me entirely down to a “T” right now.