In discussing the decision to focus our efforts on getting out of debt, the wife and I talked about shopping at Costco more to save money. Once upon a time, we shopped there with some regularity, but as we became more interested in local, organic, and sustainable we found that the annual membership fee was more than what we saved on the few items we actually bought there. Recently, my uncle mentioned that he stopped shopping at Costco because, as a single person living alone, he was tired of throwing out food.
(I talk about Costco rather than Sam's Club for what should be obvious reasons to anyone who has read other posts on this blog. Sam's Club is Wal-Mart, and Wal-Mart is a business to which I can not give my money.)
We have made a couple trips to Costco since discussing it. Costco hasn't changed a lot, but I found it has changed some. While I have to agree that many items offered at Costco are not really practical for a single person (or even a small family in a lot of cases (no pun intended)), I did find a few items that are going to save us money in the long run. Things like salt, pepper, oil, vinegar, beans, rice, sugar, and flour can be stored for a long time and stocked up on for less money in the long run. We found a five pound block of Tillamook cheese, but agreed that we might not be able to eat that much before having serious mold issues. We could cut it up and freeze it, but then we came across a two and a half pound block that was actually a better deal then the five pound block. Perfect! Non-food items that we use regularly like food-storage bags, plastic wrap, and batteries will also save us money in the long run. I wish they sold canning jars and lids!
After talking about it, we did decide to compromise on a few items when it comes to local, organic, and sustainable. The process of lessening one's ecological footprint is just that -- a process. We're not perfect, there is still a lot we can do, and if we have to take a small step back to get out of debt, we are willing to do that for now. We'll see how it goes. Things we can't get locally like olives, for example. I have been impressed, however, at the number of organic items Costco carries these days.
Sure, it isn't cheap the first time out when stocking up on several things at once, but I've already noticed grocery trips being less expensive (not to mention quicker and easier!). We still get our meat from the local butcher and what produce we buy comes from the local produce stand. We also have quite a bit of food that we canned this fall.
Between the garden, the butcher, the produce stand, canning, and Costco, what we need from the "conventional" grocery store is very little.