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austerity program v. shopping local

January 5, 2009

Today I had a hard time reconciling the two concepts of:

A.  Austerity program
B.  Shopping local

I went to Superstore.  For the first time in years.  I think the last time I went, I had two children under the age of five.  I think bagging my own groceries with one, or maybe two screaming children with an angry mob behind me was traumatizing for everybody involved.  But I’m back, but this time solo.


Superstore is indeed cheaper for non-food items and canned/boxed goods.  And dairy.  And they have a huge ‘ethnic’ section, which is really grand.  And bagging my own groceries isn’t too bad if I go first thing in the morning, and if I do not have children with me.  So I have to come to peace with that.

But Superstore is hardly local.  So to alleviate my guilt, I bypassed Starbucks and went to Leva for a cappuccino.  I still heart Leva.  It was packed with university-types and me, a mom-type.  I can still pretend I’m hip because I wear a purple hat.

On my way out the door from Leva, I picked up a Eat Local First pamphlet from the Keep Edmonton Original folks.  Inside are some interesting factoids:

  1. When you buy direct from a farmer, 90% of the revenue goes directly to the farmer.  When you buy from a retailer selling the same product, only 20% goes to the farmer.
  2. $100 spent in a locally owned business generates about $48 worth of local economic activity.  $100 spent in a global retailer about $13.
  3. A tomato from California can be off the vine for 2-3 weeks before it gets to you.


Now, I have the best intentions about shopping and eating local.  Eating local is easy – there are a ton of great locally-owned restaurants.  It is easy to bypass a chain restaurant to eat at Culina.  I’d do that in a heartbeat.

But I’m having a tougher time with buying food locally.  I do the bakery/butcher/Planet Organic/cheese shop thing, but this involves driving all over the city, which is hardly good for the environment.   But what of my non-grocery and boxed goods?   I save money at Superstore, but Save-On is at least a regional grocery store.   But Save-On is more expensive.   

Now I’m talking in circles.  How do you shop local and save money at the same time?  Keep in mind I am buying groceries for a family of five, including two teenagers.  And a mountain bike racing husband.  My current philosophy is shop for boxed/non-food items at Superstore, and then supplement produce, meat, baked goods, organics elsewhere at local shops.

Let’s discuss…

Edited to add:  sorry for the plastic bags.  I have no excuse for my sorry self.  I’ll remember my cloth bags next time, I promise.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. clw1 permalink
    January 5, 2009 2:00 pm

    I have my groceries delivered. I order online and voila! they arrive within the hour-time-frame I’ve selected. I can order at 11pm and can arrange for delivery the next day by 9:30am.

    I do this because:
    1. I find it easy to see the sale items when I shop online … not so easy when I’m scanning the aisles.

    2. When I shop at the store I go “oh, i think we’re out of that and buy it” (meanwhile we’ve got extras in the pantry). When I shop online I only buy what we need. And this saves HUGE amounts of money.

    3. Originally, I was hesitant to buy produce and meat online but because it is coming from the warehouse I am actually getting fresher meats and produce.

    4. I can’t guarantee that I’m getting local but the online picture/info. tells me the country of origin. And I know that Thrifty’s does their own baking with Island ingredients so that is good.

    5. And because Thrifty Foods is the best they mainly use local suppliers for meat and produce (when they can) so this makes me happy.

    In a non-Thrifty-Foods world I would be very sad but I’d probably do what you’re doing -> By the crackers and cereal at the lowest prices and the fruits and veggies, fresh and local.

  2. January 5, 2009 2:03 pm

    Yet another reason to move to Vancouver Island. I will add it to my list.


  3. supersu permalink
    January 5, 2009 7:22 pm

    the home delivery method sounds grand! it is even harded i find without a vehicle…..edmonton is not THE most transit friendly place….:)

  4. January 5, 2009 11:20 pm

    Hi there!

    I found your blog by way of the CBC page of great food blogs and have been reading/lurking here for a few days.

    I’m also from Alberta, but from a much smaller city. We have Save On, Superstore, and Safeway, and very little in the way of locally owned food stores. My big money saving tip is to do a major stock up on the first Tuesday of the month when Save On and Safeway offer discounts to club card holders. I just spent about half an hour writing up my shopping lists, after doing a comparison between the sales for the two stores. And it will take me most of the afternoon to do the shop, which I can do because I’m a stay at home mama of 2 kids under 5. I am thankful that my mom will watch the kids while I try to get this done each month; I don’t think it’d be worth the effort otherwise.

    Enjoy your blog and the dialogue on relevant stuff like this!

  5. January 6, 2009 6:49 am

    Hi mamasutra: And that Tuesday is TODAY! I guess I know what both of us are doing today…grocery shopping seems to be the bane of my existence.

  6. January 6, 2009 3:08 pm

    I second the first Tuesday of the month thing. We do the farmers market on the weekend for most goods, Planet Organic for a lot of extras plus goat milk for the Monster, and Safeway for the rest. Yes, Superstore is cheaper, but I can walk to Safeway.
    We saved a lot of money when I was on bed rest. I had to write lists and Hubby stuck to them. Plus, I couldn’t bake so no major expenses on things like butter, flour, and chocolate! Lists do help.
    I fantasize about creating a master grocery list for the house, to keep track of all our regular household and pantry purchases. I’m anal, but not that anal… yet.

  7. January 7, 2009 9:17 am

    I think there has to be some practicality in it, personally. I hate Costco, for ex, but so long as they sell 50lb bags of Alberta flour for $13, I’ll buy it there. But I also butcher all my own meat and grow a good portion of the year’s veg and fruit in my garden – so I don’t feel too badly buying my milk and toilet paper from Superstore. Gotta get it somewhere. And in my world, cheap is good.

  8. January 7, 2009 12:15 pm

    Cheap is good, yes. I think it is difficult to be 100% ‘pure’ in the area of shopping and eating local…or even 70%…or whatever.

    I’m for all doing what works best for our own families…but I’m loving the sharing of ideas (hey, do we even have anywhere that delivers groceries in Edmonton?) – and is there a local company that makes toilet paper, anyhow? (ha).

  9. January 8, 2009 3:53 pm

    I feel not too bad about getting some things at Superstore (I feel it is a step up from Walmart since it is a Canadian company at least), and i do like their bulk and ethnic foods. I do find myself in the same dilemma of local vs. inexpensive. Sadly, living in Canada means that if we stick to only local, we will be pretty limited during the winter. To satisfy both fronts during the summer I garden as much as I can and then freeze things like a mad woman 🙂

  10. January 8, 2009 3:54 pm

    Oh, and your purple hat comment made me laugh – is that all it takes to be hip? I will certainly go and get one!


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