As if we needed any, here’s additional proof that some Houstonians don’t have an ounce of sense when it comes to grocery shopping:
Wal-Mart Supercenters have overtaken Kroger as grocery market-share leader for the Houston area.
That’s according to the most recent market survey published in the January 2008 issue of the Shelby Report, a national trade publication covering the grocery industry.
According to the report, Wal-Mart Supercenter has a 28.5 percent market share, compared to Kroger’s 25.6 percent. Wal-Mart Supercenter’s market share is up 0.88 percent from the previous quarter, compared with Kroger’s decline of 2.10 percent. Third place H-E-B is up 0.26 percent.
Personally, I wouldn’t buy my groceries from Wal-Mart if they were the only store in town. Leaving aside for a second their highly-questionable business practices and the fact that they also sell motor oil and paint thinner under the same roof with their groceries, let’s talk about the quality of their produce and meats.
Quality. As in, it’s non-existent.
Have you ever seen a decent piece of produce at Wal-Mart? I haven’t. Maybe I’m just going to the wrong Wal-Marts, but every single onion, potato, head of lettuce, apple, bag of carrots, orange, etc. looks decidedly unfresh. They look either wilted or dented or bruised or past their prime. And this doesn’t surprise me. After all, when you’re dealing in bulk and when you’re also shipping boxes of sweatpants and lawnmower parts into the same store, freshness and quality probably aren’t going to be your main concerns.
And the meat? I shudder to think about the subpar, low cost facilities from which that meat originates. Certain scenes from Fast Food Nation come immediately to mind. The fish all looks and tastes farmed. It’s not the kind of meat or fish that I want to eat, and it’s certainly not what I’d feed to my friends and family.
I know the old argument: It’s so cheap to shop at Wal-Mart! Bullshit. When you go to Wal-Mart, you aren’t just going to a grocery store, and they know this!
You’re going to a glorified flea market, where you feel like your dollar will go further just because that porcelain angel or candle holder shaped like a cat is marked down to $0.99. So you fill up your basket not just with food, but with all sorts of other things that you don’t need. And all those $5.00 picture frames and $12.99 DVDs along with your bags of Cheetos and 12-packs of Big Red quickly add up to a $100 tab at the register. How is that saving money?
It’s NOT cheap to shop at Wal-Mart. They just make you think that it is by artificially lowering their prices so that you’ll buy more crap.
By comparison, let’s look at a normal grocery store. Let’s look at H-E-B.
Yes, that’s a washing machine in my kitchen. Want to make something of it?
I just happened to do my weekly grocery shopping at H-E-B last night. It doesn’t look like a lot, sitting there in bags on the counter. But I managed to buy a week’s worth of groceries for the two of us (more like three, the way Richard eats…) — staple items like bread, eggs, milk, potatoes, canned soup, lunch meat, cat food, etc — as well as fresh meat and produce and the ingredients for two “gourmet” meals (which will be featured here later this week) and some chocolate chip cookies for a little bit over $32.
$32 for a week’s worth of groceries. Real food. No bags of chips or Stouffer’s family-sized frozen dinners or Easy Mac. It’s not hard to shop cost-effectively and have good food.
And that’s the lynchpin of the whole problem here, I believe. The people that shop at Wal-Mart don’t care about the lack of quality in the produce or meat sections because they aren’t buying that stuff. They aren’t feeding themselves or their families real food.
They’re buying the unhealthy, preservative- and high-fructose-corn-syrup-laden food items that are leading to national epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension and to the more local problem of Houston being consistently named the “Fattest City” in America. And the fact that Wal-Mart now leads the pack in grocery stores indicates to me that more people than ever in Houston are shopping and eating this way.
It’s truly disappointing to me to see that our city — with so many other options available out there — has chosen Wal-Mart as their destination of choice when grocery shopping. It’s an even more disappointing inference that these people are slowly poisoning themselves with low-quality, high-calorie food of little nutritional value. I hope that my inference is wrong, but current trends would seem to indicate that it isn’t.
I understand that not everyone can afford to shop at Central Market or Whole Foods or even a farmer’s market, either for lack of time or money. But do you really want to shop for your food — the nourishment for yourself and your family — in a place that also sells tires?