I never thought growing up that it mattered which grocery store you went to. I just followed my mom through our regular shops. I remember I had favorite things about each one, but it had more to do with which toys were on display and whether or not they had cool lighting or bulk candy.
There's a WalMart 6 minutes up the road from our current house that sells Daisy sour cream for 11 cents per ounce, and Betty Crocker mac and cheese for 88 cents. There's a Smith's 8 minutes up the road that sells Daisy for 12 cents an ounce and their Betty's mac & cheese is 99 cents. There's this understanding in America, that if you go to WalMart, you'll pay less, so we put up with longer lines, slightly crappier produce, a higher chance of getting a weird cashier, and... how to put it delicately.... WalMartians.
When we first moved in, I didn't know Smith's was up the road. I went to our Neighborhood WalMart for a few months. I figured I'd just have to deal with the people who swore on the phone while standing next to me in the aisles. The people who swore right next to me when they reached for something at the deli and apparently saw something that made them swear. The cashiers who started blankly into space while ringing up my zucchini as cucumber and squashing my tomatoes before I had a chance to bag them. I'd drive home wanting to swear. And when I turned into my neighborhood, it seemed like a ghetto.
I missed the entrance to WalMart one day and decided to keep driving up the street to see if there was anything interesting before the road ended in no-man's land. (We live really close to the edge of the city.) "Huh! How 'bout that- I didn't know there was another store here!" So I went to Smith's instead, squashing the twinge of guilt my wallet sent me by telling it "Just this once."
I got out of my car, noticed no one entering the store was wearing pajamas, and sighed a little wistfully knowing I wouldn't be back after this. I saw the price tags I was expecting. And the full dispenser of twisty ties with the produce bags. And the calm, sometimes even friendly demeanor of the people I was shopping with. I went to check out and they opened a lane for me, explaining that it was against store policy to let more than two people be at a check out line. And my cashier was alert and cordial. And there was someone bagging my stuff! And they asked if I wanted help out to my CAR! And when I got home, my neighborhood seemed pretty decent.
And you know what I've discovered since then? Sales. That 99 cent mac and cheese? 49 cents if you stock up on the right week. Manager Specials. Smith's has these nifty niches throughout the store with beautiful orange stickers on the items. There are weeks when I don't buy anything that isn't marked down to at least half the original cost. Today I went to buy Turmeric for some new Indian recipe, and after cringing as I tossed a $3.67 container of the stuff into my cart, I stumbled across an 86 cent one in the manager special area. This happens ALL the TIME. I haunt the marked down bread cart every time I go- and just often enough find a bounty of bakery wheat bread loaves for 79 cents. I clean them out,do a happy dance, and pop them in the freezer when I get home, knowing that by the time we've used them all, there will have been another batch marked down.
Now that I'm familiar with the store, and stocked up well on everything, I'm paying less than I was as a WalMartian, even before I factor in the savings I get from Smith's fuel rewards. I've been back to WalMart a handful of times since then, to pick up Site-to-Store things like furniture and electronics. But I'm a converted Smith'sonian.