I Shopped WalMart

I haven’t set foot inside our local Walmart since my uber awesome sister-in-law helped me escape the doldrums of “life with a newborn” (back when he was nursing every 2 hours and I didn’t have a pump). Although it was at WallyWorld, I welcomed (with massive amounts of anxiety thrown in) my first bit of time away from the little man. Let’s consider that my annual trek.

Except, this holiday season I purchased Walmart goods. Sure, I didn’t go TO Walmart, but I shopped their online wares, which in my mind is still patronizing the place. Needless to say, I’m simply not a fan of the place these days. Their unsavory business practices and maltreatment of workers leave a nasty taste in my mouth, and I’m not in the habit of tasting yuckiness.

Anyhoo, why did I “shop” through walmart.com? After lots of searching, I found that their clothes were the cheapest option I had. See, we’re giving to a couple of kids off of our “giving tree” at school, and their wishes consisted of clothes. I went elsewhere for the (admittedly overboard) toys and activities that we gave. And since I’m sure you’re wondering (or not, hee hee), there was a girl and a younger boy (not sure if they’re in the same families or not) and I got everything for the girl, the clothes for the boy, and Dave picked out toys for the boy. She got a coat, boots, hat/mitten set, PJs, and since it said her interests were “jewelry” I got some costume jewelry and a set that she can use to make her own jewelry. The boy got snow pants, boots, hat/mitten set, PJs, some Batman/Joker toys, and a comic book. Oh, and they each got new crayons and a coloring book, and, of course, a container of Play-Doh — because what parent doesn’t want their kids grinding that into the carpet? Mwahaha.

Yeah, we overdid it. Not to say our son isn’t making out well this year — but he’s not even one yet, so mass amounts of toys aren’t necessary.

But, it made me think — is it okay to go against one’s principles when you’re helping someone in need (buying cheap-o stuff, be it toy or foodstuff)? Or should those in need get items that are just as…um…”at a premium”?

We also gave two full-sized meals to needy families this year. I went to Aldi and grabbed two of everything (except the protein) — 2 boxes of stuffing, 2 boxes of mashed potatoes (ick), 4 cans of veggies, 2 cans of fruit (in fruit juice!), 2 packages of gravy, 2 boxes of pudding and 2 graham cracker pie crusts (dessert!). Oh, and a couple of boxes of macaroni and cheese, considering not everyday is a holiday, and you still need to eat. Now, not that we’re elitist, but we wouldn’t eat any of this stuff if we were purchasing food for our house. If someone OFFERED us a meal of this, we wouldn’t say anything and would eat it happily (but probably feel yucky later — not figuratively, it’s really true what they say about feeling better when you eat better quality food), but our daily choice veers in the all-natural/organic arena. It’s just how we live.

I should probably feel happy that I was able to give at all, but it’s hard not to feel a little guilty. Heck, even when my husband’s work was sponsoring a “Stuff the Bus” campaign for toys, I stopped by with two toys — from the cheap toy section at Kmart. Mind you, they seemed like wicked fun toys (and I would know!), but does it matter that they were $5 each?

So, what do you think? Is it better to give at all? Or does equality factor into the equation?

Side note: I found ORGANIC BUTTER at Aldi yesterday!! I nearly fell over!!! (And HAD to text a picture of it to the hubs. Confused onlookers be damned.) Last time, I found Kerrygold Irish cheese (grassfed, INCREDIBLE cheese!!!) and this time organic butter! I am growing more and more impressed by the place.

The 3/50 Project

I was trolling around the interwebs and happened upon an inspiring blog (mostly thanks to its gorgeous design images and lack of hoity-toitiness). Through this blog, I noticed a button that took me to http://www.the350project.net/home.html. Consider me hooked.The concept behind the 3/50 Project is pretty simple. Their goal is to “save the brick and mortar our nation is built on”. Think of three independently owned businesses that you’d miss if they disappeared. (It’s suggested that you stop in, say ‘hello’, and purchase something that makes you smile there. Hopefully it’s not a sadist shop.) From here, it’s stated that if half of the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. Wow.
It’s further explained that for every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures. The same can’t be said for a chain store; only $43 of $100 stays in the community. Purchasing online means that NOTHING is returning home.

While I can’t say that I spend $50 monthly on things that make me smile…hey, maybe I should, but bills are the priority (sigh)…I want to consider this further and see how I can implement this concept. It’s downright rad. If I were to run an independent business someday, I’d couldn’t love it more.

To answer the initial question, it’s strange. Locally…we don’t have a lot that isn’t somehow franchised. Even our local hardware shop is an affiliate of True Value (although I still consider them “Mom and Pop”), and I’d rather not have another excuse to utilize a pizza place. That being said…

I <3 Antiques – Our local antiques center is awesome because, as with many antiques centers, lots of local sellers are available in one place. Booths are varied and chock full of wonderfulness. If I stopped at the cafe and front smelly shop (ie mostly local soaps and things) here, I’d hit all 3 places at once. There are still more local vendors of crafts and jewelry on the second floor of the center, but I often leave there empty-handed and more inspired to attempt the craft ideas at home. Wot waahhh.

So, if the antique place counts as one place…maybe a trip to our favorite restaurant, Beardslee Castle, more often would put a smile on my face and more money into locals’ pockets.

It’s hard to come up with a third without “eating out” yet again. I’ll have to consider that one more, but I’ll have to leave it at a Byrne Dairy trip by the husband. Sure, Byrne Dairy is technically a franchise of convenience stores, but we know that the milk comes from local farmers and when we purchase it, the $$$ trickles down. Plus, the milk is delish…and that makes me smile every time I pour it.

How ’bout you? Any local joints you’d patronize (in the good way) enough to join the 3/50 project? Do tell!

Hannaford v. Chobani

From healthforthewholeself.com

I’m a general fan of our local supermarket, Hannaford. Heck, you can read how much I love it here, here and here. But, upon recent trips to the store, I have become dismayed…then downtrodden…and eventually pissed enough to jot down an idea for this blog post on my shopping list. (Yes, I even called it “Hannaford v. Chobani”.)

In case you’ve never heard of it, Chobani is a locally-operated producer of high quality Greek-style yogurt. It happens to be de-lish. They’re notorious for two things: #1) Donating lots and lots of their yogurt to great causes; just two that I’m aware of were for the runners and walkers at this year’s “Heart Run and Walk” and to my high school (both to send to a school in Louisiana for a cultural exchange as well as to our school for the kids to try) and #2) Being the fastest-growing yogurt seller (and now #1! Past Dannon and Yoplait!!) in America. Seriously, they’re awesome – and all-natural – AND they support local farmers. Check out their site, it’s worth it. I discovered that they now have kid-friendly yogurt options, which is awe-some!

Clearly I’m excited about the stuff. I tend to purchase the large (32 oz.) container of strawberry (classic), which I bring to school and toss with Kashi Go Lean Crunch  (thanks for teaching me about it, Missy!). Delicious.

So, why am I so upset? I was frustrated to see that the usual $1 price for a 6 oz. container of Chobani (they have so many delicious flavors!!!) has been boosted, not by a few pennies, but to $1.19. A 19% increase?!?! Man! I used to grab the occasional blueberry for Dave to enjoy (gotta be nice to our spouses, y’know…especially when we’re in the doghouse ;-D j/k)…now it’s going to have to be a huge special occasion to do so.

It became immediately clear to me what caused the jump in price: the Hannaford brand, Taste of Inspiration, had released a new Greek-style yogurt – priced at $.85. Not only did they introduce competition at an already-lower price, but they upped the always-steady $1 price of the Chobani product. Call me Communist, but this bugged the heck out of me.

I understand the concept behind competition. Well, sure, I may understand a lot of things. The rise of big business. The shift from rural to urban lifestyles. The advancement of technology. Yep, I get it all…but it doesn’t mean that I agree with it. And this is one of those cases.

A local product made by honest folks who have gotten tons of press nationally that you couldn’t keep on your shelves, and you, Hannaford, simply had to get in on the action. Seriously, there’s a sign…wait, it looks kinda like this:

From mealsandmovesblog.com

This stuff is popular, as it should be. Good people doing good things, providing healthy, high-quality goods. Gee. There must be money to be made off of it. *grumbles* Sorry, that’s not a professional way to vent, but sometimes “GRRR” is all one can say.

How can I (or we?) combat it? I don’t really see a way, other than continuing to purchase my luckily-same-priced 32-oz. stuff, and possibly the occasional “whooooaaaaa, that’s ‘spensive!” 6-oz. stuff (with, perhaps, the odd coupon here and there, nudge-nudge, wink-wink). There’s a little part of me that says “Hey, cool, there’s a cheaper option for folks who can’t afford it”, but the sentiment behind what Chobani does is much grander, in my mind, than that. Hopefully the genuine fervor which has skyrocketed the company to such great heights won’t wane with the introduction of new competition. Here’s hoping!

And, if you don’t have Chobani in your stores yet, talk to the manager and write a letter to Chobani. It’s spreading like wildfire, so be proactive and a part of the “movement”. Support any company that cares about its customers and gives us high-quality, all-natural options. (Jumps off soapbox.)

Cooperstown Farmers’ Market – Our First F.M. Adventure of the Year

Although the weather forecast seemed doomed, Dave bouncily suggested that we head to our first farmers’ market of the year – in Cooperstown. With all that enthusiasm, how could I possibly say, “What, no cozy, “stay in and clean” day?” Plus, I already knew that it’s one of the area’s only indoor markets — it’s open every other Saturday throughout the winter, with normal hours the rest of the year. After hearing some great things about it, and with such an eager partner in tow, we left beneath a steady stream of chilly rain.


Strangely enough, by the time we reached the baseball rhetoric-riddled Main Street, the sun had taken over and our jackets were unnecessary. It made the short walk toward the barn-like structure used for the market incredibly quaint, especially with other locals and travelers meandering their way with grocery store reusable bags and homemade baskets in tow. The vendors were overflowing to outside its doors, which we saw as a good sign.

Compared to the, admittedly, only other farmers’ market I can recall attending, it was kind of sparse. I’m sure the local ones I’ll start attending next week will be teeny-weeny, so I’m not necessarily complaining about it. There were plenty of vendors, several with the same goods (which we LOVE — it makes it easy to compare prices), mostly incredibly friendly and willing to talk. However, several of the goods were pretty irrelevant to us — tie-dyed shorts, anyone? And there were only a couple vegetable vendors, each with few items we could actually choose from.

Having worked on a dairy farm and lived in a quasi-rural area my whole life, I’m not ignorant about the reasons I wasn’t overwhelmed by lush and plentiful goodies at the CFM. I know. We’re still pretty much off-season. And, I knew that when Dave asked me to go, wide-eyed. Mostly, I wanted to see what the place was about, what the farmers and artisans and cheese-makers were like, and whether it truly is worth it to schlep 45 minutes away for locally-grown goods. There arises a paradox: If you’re going to release your fossil fuel into the atmosphere with a 1 1/2 hour round-trip to get organic, locally-grown goods which are good for you and the environment, is it really equaled-out?

Mind you, it was a wonderful drive (other than for the occasional rain shower) and we did get our first-ever free-range multi-colored XL eggs, Amish cheddar cheese (INCREDIBLE!), very well-priced European-style yogurt and some homemade, environmentally-friendly soaps (all well-thought-out and exciting purchases) as well as a side-trip to visit the ducks at the Fly Creek Cider Mill.

And, as far as the quandary is concerned, I say we still hit the ball out of the park (I do spend too much time at Cooperstown! We’d live there if we could! – not for the baseball). While we used up some gas, we got a great overview of what to expect when the yields REALLY start coming in. I foresee perhaps visiting the CFM once a month while supplementing the occasional CSA and local farmers’ markets more regularly, but it’s definitely not only a great resource for healthy, sustainable goodies, but an always-needed excuse to get away for part of a day.

***I realized after I wrote this that I’d taken a bit of a novelistic approach. Perhaps a slightly-more-sophisticated version of Donna Thompson *cringe*? (If you’re local, you know what that means.) Just a thought.***