Free Shopping

One of my favorite things about the Internet is guilt-free window shopping. It’s helped with my wedding (although, with so many options out there, it’s made decision-making harder) and to check reviews before making a big purchase. It helped get me through the terrifying wait a year ago while buying our house; it was a foreclosure, and there were lots of delays — so, Lowes.com was a great calmer and made me feel productive, strangely enough. And, we’re still being “lurkers” in terms of the Foodshed Buying Club; none of our necessities have come up yet.

But, on days that I allow myself to be lazier than I’d like to admit, I let my browsing fingers tap the less practical side of my brain and look into the prices of dreams, ultimately researching possible nothings or hopeful somethings. That sounds confusing, so let me elaborate — mind you, these are things that many of our friends aren’t even aware that we discuss.

1. I found some web sites today that got me pretty excited about a prospect Dave and I have discussed numerous times. Dave has always complained that we don’t have a good cafe in our area. You have to drive to Domenico’s in Utica for a decent place to get creative, meet friends or…dare I say…enjoy a good coffee or cappuccino. We have one small joint in Little Falls that could possibly be considered hippie enough to fit this, but considering that Herkimer is a larger town, it’s downright disappointing. There are 2 Dunkin’ Donuts stores a stone’s throw (seriously — one at Walmart, another 1 1/2 blocks away) and a Stewart’s every other town or so — but both places feel franchisey and sterile (when actually clean) and just…not like a “cafe.” So, we’ve considered it as a career/retirement project later in life — or whenever a cheap property rears its head. We both have coffee experience (my own being a few years at said Stewart’s shop) and good customer service knowledge…aaaaand not much more than that! I’d like to do some baking to sell with coffee early in the morning and come up with panini recipes for later in the day, and would prefer keeping the place as green as possible — check out THESE cups and things — but still have refined sugar and “normal” options for our less conscientious clientele. But…again…this is all just a dream, so it may never happen — but wouldn’t it be neat?!

2. If the second dream were to happen, the first one definitely couldn’t (at least, not in Herkimer). I use homes.com to search for homes in other areas that are more eco-friendly and less economically depressed (hopefully with more opportunities for us and the “future kids”). I’ve looked throughout New England, “shopped” for jobs in London…hell, I’ve looked everywhere. And, clearly, nothing much comes from it, but somehow it makes me feel better about the future and where we might be going with it.

3. Speaking of “future kids” — yeah, I’ve done free shopping for them, too. More just getting ideas as to whether it’s worth it to be so eco-friendly to give up disposable diapers, and learning about the cost of things. No big whoop. But, it’s still dreaming since we’re not even hitched yet.

Luckily, my guy and I get to do some REAL shopping tomorrow — which may be dangerous since I just got a chunk from my “end of year” check. And this ain’t just ANY shopping! We’re re-visiting the Cooperstown Farmer Market tomorrow morning, this time with cash in our pockets, a cooler in the car and an un-stocked fridge — meaning we can actually BUY AND USE what we get, rather than the last time we went (I’d done some grocery shopping that week…blah). CAN’T WAIT!!!

Quitting Walmart

Well, maybe quitting is a strong word. Somehow, I’ve escaped “needing” a Walmart visit for a good while; or, at least, one where I look around a lot and actually USE the place. (I was using their prescription department, so once a month I’d have to go in, but it was a quick stop.) It might be the fact that we’re buying our groceries at Hannaford (mostly) and Aldi (occasionally), and are visiting more farmers’ markets.

Today, I had little choice but to go to Walmart for my consumerism needs. An after-school meeting for summer school made my time scarce, and somehow the crumby weather and my mood matched, so I wanted to get home ASAP. I needed to grab a couple items — and I needed to do it fast. Fast = hesitation to go to the busiest place in the Valley at the busiest time of the day.

Most Walmart stores are, admittedly, the hub of their town. Unfortunately, this is what Walmart hopes for. Heck, I remember going to Walmart in high school to hang out with friends (they DID have air hockey, after all). Trips to Walmart have marked several important points in my life, from heading to college to getting an apartment to when we finally moved into this house — huge Walmart hauls accompanied each.

A quick stop at our Walmart is never that. The parking and general traffic there is a flustercuck. (Yeah, I said that.) People (myself included — hey, following the flow of traffic!) drive over the parking lines, criss-crossing and nearly hitting other cars driving in opposite directions. An overhead camera shot throughout the day would probably look similar to a beehive. Bzzz bzzz. Only less organized. 😉 So, the driving itself is a lesson in patience and life philosophy. “Do I hate people, or do I pity them? Wait! I LOVE people, that guy just let me in.”

The stress only follows you into the aisles. Why are there not driving lessons for carts?!?! Or, at the very least, lights and turn signals? Rudeness abounds. And, above all, don’t get me STARTED on the fact that you enter for one item (in this case, a baby gift) and you leave with a million extras. Some say convenience; I say too much.

Walmart used to be such a routine for me, I went to no other stores locally. Zilch. Occasionally, for clothes, I went to Utica (our closest, mid-sized city). Man, did I have a lot of grocery bags to show for it!

Since buying groceries mostly at Hannaford, we haven’t noticed our grocery bill getting larger — which is surprising because Hannaford’s prices are higher. However, we’re looking a lot more at what we’re purchasing and why, and are building our organic and natural products a little at a time. Overall, though, we may actually be saving money while spending more. How crazy is that?! It makes me feel pretty darn good.

I realized that, when I walked into Walmart, it felt as if it was my first time entering. It drew me in. I saw hip-designed beach towels, cool sunglasses, and comfy flip-flops that called to me. It was kind of like a drug or some other addiction — when you’re off it for awhile, you forget the appeal until it’s introduced again — at which point, it’s intoxicating (sometimes literally). Thank God I was aware of myself and only ended up leaving with ONE extra product — some gum. *whew* But, man, was that tough!

After recognizing that Walmart can be so addicting, I resolved myself to continue avoiding it — to shop locally as much as possible, and to make the occasional trip to Target (in New Hartford) for sustainable products when absolutely NEEDED. Yeah, I think Target IS better than Walmart, mostly because you can find biodegradable and eco-friendly products and because it’s further away, it’s less likely for me to stop by weekly, becoming dependent.

I’m happy that I’ve realized my choices — and the fact that I have them — when shopping.