We silly humans. We set boundaries and us-versus-them distinctions naturally. We remain tribal, despite being ‘civilized.’ Give us a few generations and that might change. There’s something frugal and personal we can do in the meantime that breaks those borders and saves some money. Shop in different shops. Even better is shopping in different local shops.
Ah, life in a rural community. Food is more a than commodity when you regularly drive past fields, orchards, and ranches. The life you see may be the life you eat that means you can sustain your life.
Ah, life in a small town in a rural community. It is easy to get to know the people farming and ranching, or at least get to know their names. Getting to meet them may require showing up at breakfast places while most people are asleep, as the farmers and ranchers are already done with their first set of chores. Muddy boots are optional.
It’s also possible to meet them at their farm stands, when they deliver a food subscription to your front porch, or at farmers’ markets. Say hello (and pay on time.)
Despite such proximity, most people shop at groceries. Farm stands rarely carry everything else like toilet paper. One stop shopping is certainly convenient.
You may have noticed that I use the word ‘grocery.’ Within the bottom 25 miles of Whidbey Island there are several places to buy food. In addition to the farmer-proprietor places, there are five or six favorites. Some are small and only have enough room for groceries, nothing fancy. Some are called supermarkets, but that’s relative considering the size of Safeways and such in the Big Cities. All provide at least some nod to local produce, dairy, seafood, and meat. A trip to the store can be like visiting several farm stands without having to navigate muddy parking strips.
I have a preference, like most. My preference is The Goose, an ironic name for a place where I buy chicken. “The Goose is the result of a one-of-a-kind partnership between Goosefoot, a non-profit organization, and The Myers Group, a family-owned business.” That’s a sentiment I appreciate, a community grocer run by a non-profit and a family. It is also very convenient, to me, at least for now. My real estate office is part of the same partly-paved/partly-gravelly/partly-puddle-y parking lot, sort of. This is great. While I usually bring my own lunch, it is a treat to walk across the lot, browse the shelves for sales, then buy lunch from the deli. Then, before I head home, I can walk back to the grocery, pick up the deals I like, then head home. I get to save money and have a very nicely stocked pantry.
As much as I like it, I know others who drive right past it. Payless, a few miles away in Freeland, has a loyal following. It is probably the biggest of the stores. The Star Store in Langley is also only a few miles away. It may be the smallest, but it has high-end ingredients. Jokingly, it is the place for free-range/organic/fair-trade/shade-grown/sustainable whatever. Head down-island instead of up-island and get to Red Apple in Ken’s Corner, (which recently was bought by an employee, as I understand). Farther south is Clinton Foodmart, a place that gets busy in waves as hundreds of ferry riders swing past on their way home or to their vacation destination. Each has a loyal following.
The surprise to me is how many only shop at one store. The Goose is my current favorite, but at various times each has carried that label, except for Payless. Currently, I work by the Goose. Previously, I worked by or commuted past each of the others. Rather than a few random visits, I’ve had opportunities to get to know each place. The Goose’s deals are good, but I also know that the others have their highlights. The Star Store has single-serving steaks that are just the right size, and gluten-free deli choices. Red Apple’s my choice for produce like onions and such. Clinton’s Foodmart may have the widest gluten-free selection. I hear good things about Payless’ bulk foods, but don’t know much about them because I never worked near there.
Only shopping in one store, grocery or otherwise, develops loyalty and makes life simpler. But, visiting other stores helps find better prices, breaks habits, introduces new ideas, and spreads the wealth.
It isn’t just true about shopping. It is too easy to stay within self-imposed, arbitrary borders and to only consume what’s within. There’s loyalty and simplicity there, but that can come at a high price.
I also am glad to be able to mention the place for food that impresses me the most, the Good Cheer Food Bank. Food banks have stigmas. I don’t know about the rest, but Good Cheer is centrally located to all of the groceries I mentioned, doesn’t care or ask about income (at least they didn’t ask me), and has a surprising selection. Of course, they have beans and rice, pasta and sauce, and other basic staples; but on occasion they seem to get someone’s surplus, which might be salmon or fresh produce. I’ve been part of the gleaning crew (the Good Cheer Gleaners) who harvested local fruit and delivered it there. The stigma some have about food banks are yet another arbitrary boundary, another us-versus-them example.
Shopping in different shops is more than simply saving money. Breaking stigmas and crossing borders are ways to meet the rest of us, and to realize there is no them.