I have been waaaaayyyy behind on my blogging this week. I have so many thoughts and ideas, rolling around in my head, just BEGGING to get out...alas, I have been long on ideas, short on time. I am not sure why I have been having such a hard time staying on top of things lately, and really, I don't have time to sit and analyze it. :)
So, now I finally have a few minutes, and must choose one of the many topics in my head to blog about (and can I just give a quick little shout out to this beautiful day? Seriously, it is amazing). The obvious choice, given the date, is the social experiment. Yes, today marks the end of my two month long experiment!
It has been two full months since I have shopped in any chain/corporate store. No Wal.Mart, Bi.Lo, or Harvey's. All of our food (other than eating out, and even then, it was mostly local) was purchased from independently owned, local stores. When I had the choice, the foods that I purchased were locally, or at least regionally, grown.
Before starting the experiment, I spent an average of $100 a week on food and household items. During the experiment, I averaged less than $60 a week, even with two birthday parties thrown in. All of the anticipated "Pros" of the experiment were realized. I became more intentional about the foods that I fed my family. I became more deliberate about my purchases and wasting food. I became more aware of where my food was from, how it got to me, who was impacted in the growing, delivering, and selling of it. I supported the local business owners, and began to build relationships (the owners grand daughter at the produce stand, knows each of my children by name). Shopping has become a much more enjoyable experience. In fact, until the experiment, I avoided taking my children shopping with me at all costs because it was so stressful. I have taken my children with me the last four weeks to IGA, Discount Foods, and the produce stand. It was great! Easy to get in and out, employees are kind to my children, fewer cases of the "gimmies" because there isn't lots of junk and cleverly marketed items to entice my children. As a result, they are learning lots of important things about commerce, relationships, jobs, ethics, frugality, etc.
As for the list of anticipated "Cons", many of the problems I expected to encounter simply were not an issue. Obviously, the biggest being the amount of money saved. That truly has been the most surprising outcome of this experiment. I fully expected to spend $25-$30 more a week, by not shopping at Wal.Mart. I was shocked to find that I was spending $40+ less a week. Fewer packaged foods and impulse purchases led to a sharp decrease in spending.
It was also less time consuming. While the stores that I now shop in are farther away, I am more intentional about going and usually incorporate a visit to my friend Stacy's or the hubby's parents while we are there (both are on the way). I shop one morning or afternoon a week. No more "quick trips" into the store because I forgot something. If I don't have something now, I usually do without or find a substitute. That has made me a lot more creative in the kitchen!
I had also listed "being unable to rely on quick-fix junk meals and having to plan ahead" as a con, but it is easy to see that it is much better to plan ahead and to cook healthy meals!
The only other con on the list was "being unable to find some items (such as most dairy). That was true, for the first several weeks. However, once I discovered that IGA was locally owned, that was pretty much a non issue. IGA carried most items that I could need.
So, now what? Will I continue to shop locally or will I go back to my old habits? Will I shop mostly locally with the occasional wal.mart trip thrown in? I will admit, there were times that it was a real challenge to make myself drive to IGA, which is 20 minutes away, instead of Harvey's, which is less than a mile. There were times (albeit infrequently) when at bedtime, I realized that we had no milk, cereal, eggs, etc. for breakfast. It would have been really nice to just run over to the store nearby. However, if I had planned more carefully, that situation wouldn't even have arisen.
For several weeks, I have been thinking about what I would do when the experiment ended. I am very much an all or nothing person. If I start going again at all, it will be very difficult for me to not fall into old habits. And truly, I am so much happier with the way things have been these last two months. More money, more time, more connection to community, more creativity...I don't want to give those things away by shopping at Wal.Mart. So, yes, I plan to continue to shop local, independent stores. Exceptions? When I am out of town, or when it causes others to be inconvenienced.
For the record, I would just like to say that I do not think that Wal.Mart or other chain stores are evil. I am not critical of others that choose to shop at Wal.mart. Obviously, Wal.Mart has been successful for a reason. However, this experiment has had a radical effect on many aspects of my life. It has caused me to think about things that I had never considered before and has opened my eyes to new issues that I haven't even begun to explore. It exposed prejudices, incorrect ideology, and criticisms in my own mind that had to be examined. It showed me flaws in my character. It made me rethink a lot of what I do, why I do it, and what I believe. It made me ask myself all kinds of questions such as "Am I willing to do what is inconvenient, if I truly believe it is better?" "Where does my meat come from? How is it killed? Are the animals killed in an unneccessarily cruel way? If I expect that they are, do I have an obligation not to buy the meat?" "Is it better for me to support an independent business owner far away, or a corporation (that provides jobs and revenue to our local economy) that is local?"
As a result of the experiment, and questioning my principles, I no longer use any paper products except for toilet paper. I am switching from plastic to glass and metal in my home, as much as possible. I am making my own cleaning products and detergents. I am searching out local farmers, coops, farmers markets. I am cloth diapering. I am considering giving up factory-farmed meats. I plan to begin gardening and canning more of my foods. I bring my own bags to the store every time (instead of hit or miss, like before). And many other things. Does doing these things make me superior? Absolutely not. Are they the only right way to do things? No way. But for me, where I am, with what I have been given, it is the best way, right now. I am learning to live a more thoughtful, intentional, deliberate life. Desiring to honor God, even in the most mundane, quotidian events of my daily life. Searching. Challenging myself. It has been an eye opening experience. I am very different than I was two months ago. Just ask my husband. :)
Who would have thought all this would come from eliminating Wal.Mart from my life?
*Image from largeheartedboy on flickr.com