Why I Love New Seasons, but Why I’ll Keep Shopping at Safeway

by Katy on November 8, 2010 · 107 comments

There is a locally owned grocery store chain in the Portland area called New Seasons Markets. They are bright, beautiful and full of the kind of customers whose locavore/green living street cred make both Al Gore and Michael Pollan fall to their knees and weep. They provide full health care for their employees, as well as a living wage. (Someone once left a New Seasons pay stub at one of my mother’s guest cottages, and the hourly wage was an amount I never made until I started work as a BSN nurse.) Their produce is organic and locally produced whenever possible and their cheese counter rivals that of Zabars.

In other words, it’s everything a grocery store should be.

And guess what? A New Seasons Market just opened a block and a half from my house!

And guess what else? New Seasons Market’s prices would at least triple my grocery expenditures.

Which is why I still do the majority of my grocery shopping at Safeway, where their $10 off $50 coupons, (once a month, but frequent enough to keep me in pantry staples) make it possible to achieve my financial goals without having to go from working part-time to full-time.

Here’s what I bought at Safeway yesterday:

  • Four 5-pound bags of unbleached Gold Medal flour
  • One box of Red Rose tea bags
  • One bag of pretzels
  • One jug of pancake syrup
  • Six boxes of pasta
  • One gallon of vinegar (To make spray cleaner)
  • Two cans of refried beans
  • One can of El Pato brand salsa
  • One half gallon of whole milk (for coffee)
  • One quart of egg nog
  • Three cans of concentrated orange juice
  • One large bag of string cheese
  • One large packet of chicken breasts
  • A quarter pound of rock shrimp
  • Two pomegranates
  • Four pounds of pears
  • One head of lettuce
  • Ten pounds of potatoes
  • A pound-and-a-half of deli ham

The grand total was $54.96, and I filled six grocery bags, (reusable of course!)

I later walked over to the New Seasons Market to pick up a loaf of ciabatta bread and noticed that the woman in front of me paid approximately the same amount for a single bag of groceries! Granted, I didn’t actually see what she had bought, but the dramatic difference widened my eyes and confirmed my suspicions.

I will do some shopping at New Seasons, as their hormone-free locally raised milk is $2.29 a gallon and their cage-free eggs are $1.99 per dozen. I just bought sale organic fuji apples for 99¢ a pound and will surely buy a number of last minute dinner ingredients.

But the six vs. one bag of groceries dilemma is dramatic enough to keep me from choosing ethics over my wallet. I am probably a month away from paying off all our consumer debt, (stupid money-pit of a house!) and it is only because I make these frugal choices that favor financial stability over shopping with the beautiful people.

Do you struggle with the ethics vs. wallet dilemma in your own life? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

Note: This week’s Monday Giveaway will be on Tuesday, as I actually have nothing at the moment to “give away.”

{ 107 comments… read them below or add one }

Juhli November 8, 2010 at 7:58 am

If this store is anything like Whole Foods then it is possible to buy much there at the same or similar prices to chain grocery stores. I have done price comparisons and typically only buy the things I know are good values and/or things I can’t get easily elsewhere including some of the no or low sodium foods we need. I’ll be curious what you learn about their pricing going forward.


Jacquelyn November 8, 2010 at 8:14 am

Here’s my experience so far living in Portland.
We price checked at a ton of grocery stores in the area- New Seasons, QFC, Fred Meyer, Safeway, Trader Joes, Limbo, Zupan’s- before we decided to avoid FM and Safeway whenever possible. The prices are outrageous! But let me tell you what we buy: We opt for unprocessed, organic, local, hormone-free, etc whenever we possibly can. We are also vegetarians so buying meat is not an issue. (if you really want to save money, by the way, not buying meat is a good idea).

I have found it relatively easy to live on a $65 weekly grocery budget- mind you, I am shopping for unprocessed foods and cook meals completely from scratch. We are a family of 3.

I found your post to be right on the money- New Seasons is a great company to work for, it seems! They support local farmers, etc. I feel good giving them my money. I also feel good buying what they are selling and feeding it to my family as I feel that the food we eat is the best way to prevent disease and health problems. Prevention is the best medicine, after all.

And if you are going to buy processed, boxed/canned food then perhaps the chain stores are the way to go. I can only tell you that the prices for items that we regularly buy were outlandish. I also love the bulk bins at Limbo and New Seasons and can save lots of money on spices, rice, etc by utilizing those.

All that to say that I was in agreement with you right up until the very end- shopping with the beautiful people? That was a jab that was a bit unnecessary. I don’t shop at New Seasons or Trader Joe’s to be seen with the beautiful people. I shop there because of my diet ethic as well as my commitment to protect the environment. It is my choice to protect myself and my family from harmful toxins in our food and cleaning products that makes me buy the way that I do, not my desire for a certain social status. We live on less than $25K a year, I am pretty secure in our status as a low income family. Financial stability is also a very high priority for us, but we aren’t going to sell our souls and sacrifice our health to get it.


Katy November 8, 2010 at 8:49 am


Luckily, one can be beautiful without having a high income. But I stand by this statement, as I have yet to notice any homeless people returning bottles, down-and-outers buying cases of canned beer or mentally ill people buying frozen meals at New Seasons.

Sad, but true.



Laura November 8, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Then you need to check out the New Seasons on Division. There are homeless turning in bottles every time I go (I’ve waited in line behind them), and other “down-and-outers” (if you’re going by appearance) in the store. It’s a pretty eclectic group there.


Wendy H November 8, 2010 at 6:48 pm

The New Seasons on Lombard often has the non-beautiful crowd as well. They usually at the machines pushing cans in for cash or outside selling the Street Roots newspaper.


Jacquelyn November 8, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I’ve seen homeless in the Sellwood NS as well.


Dmarie November 9, 2010 at 6:48 am

TOUGH issue…polite debate is good. Likely %-wise there are many more in the upper/middle economic class than lower bracket shopping NS. I also struggle with the issue as to whether to pay the higher price knowing my budget takes a hit vs. shopping where employees can’t make a living wage. Recently a neighboring town Wal-mart cut hours and gives weird hours to a good, reliable, many-years employee I know. Guess they want him to quit, so they can pay someone new a lower wage/no benefits. Even heard a cashier at our local Wal-M bemoaning their cuts in hours…even for a fellow cashier, a single, pregnant woman. Sure makes me think twice about shopping there, even if I will spend more money & go further to shop. (not as many options in our area)


Dmarie November 9, 2010 at 7:54 am

after reading all the comments, sure hope mine didn’t come off as negative. I really enjoy this blog and all the others that make me think about where my money goes. I’m just learning the value of organics and no doubt Katy is in part responsible for that…for that and all her posts, I am truly grateful. I’ll continue to struggle with the ethics of buying this over that and shopping here instead of there.

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl November 8, 2010 at 8:22 am

Where I live (on the other side of the country), Safeway is one of the most expensive supermarkets around, barring Whole Foods. I’m sure they vary, though, and the deals you get always sound really good (I never manage to feed my family for $50!).

I do hate it when I have to choose between saving money and doing something green/healthy, and when those situations come up, I try to find ways around it, like buying a portion of a whole cow instead of paying for organic meat at Whole Foods, or eating less meat overall so that I can spend more on the meat I do buy.


Kate in NY November 8, 2010 at 8:34 am

If your News Seasons/Safeway dilemma is anything like the Whole Foods/Shoprite conundrum facing me here in suburban NYC, then I get it. We also have a lovely little store that opened in town recently – all local, organic foods – – – it makes me swoon! I try to give them some of my business, but I could literally buy 1/5 of the food there for our family of 6 that I could at Shoprite.

So I compromise. We are members of a CSA. We get milk delivery (in glass bottles!) from a local milk company, and the prices are only minimally higher than the organic at Shoprite. At Shoprite, I try to buy their generic organic brand, plus organic meats and local fruits whenever they are available. I shop at the local place when I am looking for a “treat” (like local goat cheese, for instance), and once a month or so I go to Whole Foods – – – mostly for their interesting ethnic products, like tamarind paste and Indian ghee.

I do understand the “beautiful people” remark, though. When I am at Whole Foods, I see all these well-heeled moms, usually in snazzy post-yoga attire, carts brimming with imported, organic delicacies, meats, fruits . . . it IS a far cry from Sunday morning at the Shoprite!


Sam Jones November 8, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Kate your comment, “I do understand the “beautiful people” remark, though. When I am at Whole Foods, I see all these well-heeled moms, usually in snazzy post-yoga attire, carts brimming with imported, organic delicacies, meats, fruits . . . it IS a far cry from Sunday morning at the Shoprite!” may well speak the truth but the question begging to be answered here is “What is your point?” Beautiful, well heeled people have to eat too, and I’m happy there are enough people that make good enough money to support the kinds of FOODS that farmers work so hard to produce. Monsanto and huge ag conglomerates are NOT producing “imported, organic delicacies, meats and fruits”, it’s the little family owned farmers that are giving us such superior food and I hope the well healed can keep buying it for what that means ultimately is that demand for that good food will eventually decrease prices and Katy will no longer have to feed her family white flour and mac and cheese or canned refried beans! Lard is cheap.


Katy November 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Sam Jones,

What on earth makes you think I buy macaroni and cheese or lard filled beans?



Kate in NY November 10, 2010 at 7:39 am

Let’s be real here. The average income for Whole Foods shoppers is $63,554 (I am a geek – I googled it). Do you think all these above-average incomes are earned through businesses and enterprises that are completely environmentally and ethically sound? In addition, there are all kinds of ethical and legal problems going on within Whole Foods – they are anti-union, their wages are low, they buy the majority of their frozen “organic” fruits and veggies from China, where there is little to no monitoring of such claims, and the majority of their organic produce comes from corporate farms, and not from family owned farms. So I guess my point (which seems so long ago that I can barely remember it now) – oh yes, my point was that it is easy to appear green and sustainable when you have money – but appearances are sometimes deceiving. And some of the “greenest” people I know do shop at the chain grocery stores, and they don’t buy organic – but they grow their own food, raise animals, keep the heat down, drive as little as possible, shop at thrift stores, etc. And they’ve never set foot in a Whole Foods. Especially not in yoga gear.


Jennifer November 8, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Kate- I live in suburban NYC and I also get the whole Whole Foods-Trader Joes/Shoprite thing. I have been going to a small family chain called Adams for several years now and I find the prices to be as good if not better than Shoprite on many items. Of course, I buy mostly organic produce, ONLY hormone-free dairy across the board, and absolutely NO boxed or prepared meals (okay, I occasionally buy a jar of my favorite pasta sauce- which is produced by a local small family business and sold for $7/jar). I love going there because I can get great deals, support local family businesses and local farmers, and pick up more “exotic” items. Sure, I wish Shoprite sold my favorite pasta sauce WAY cheaper, but I’m happy to buy it at the price it is actually worth. There are a ton of articles out there about the real monetary value of food. We are all living under delusions because our food costs much more than their prices, but we pay in other ways: unfair wages, subsidized farming (AKA OUR TAXES), toxic pesticides on our plants and hormones in our meat…

I didn’t take the “beautiful people” remark the way other people did- although I did also find it slightly offensive. In fact, I consider myself one of the beautiful people! Not because I wear Gucci but because shopping at a more “fair” business makes me feel beautiful inside. I try not to feel elitist, but it is rather hard when you feel strongly that your way is the right way- as we all do. In my case, ethics wins out over finances EVERY day- I can make another buck but I cannot create a new earth or a new body.

BTW, what local market are you referring to? I’d love to know of more local markets in the area!


Katy (another Katy in Portland) November 8, 2010 at 8:49 am

I have just one person living in my house right now – me! So if I am being careful about meal planning ( a big if), it’s not that terrible to shop at NS. Plus I do like the organic, local produce angle. And it’s a mile or more past NS to get to Fred’s.

But I do think it’s possible to do both. And in the days when I had more people to feed, that’s what I did. I still buy things like toilet paper, toothpaste, etc at Fred’s.

Also, the clerks at FM are union. They have a good health plan. While they may not make a fortune, they make more than other grocery store clerks. I’m sure their wages are part of what sets the standard for NS (although I’m also sure the NS owners’ ethics have something to do with it too). NS is a nicer place to work by a long shot, I’m sure, but FM people do okay. It’s nice to support them when their union has to pressure management to keep wages in line with cost of living.

Finally, for those of us in Portland who have the NS/Whole Foods dilemma, I’ve found that the people who work are NS are by far friendlier (so I assume happier). Hope I’m not stirring anything up with that remark.


Fuji November 8, 2010 at 9:06 am

If money weren’t an issue I would be probably be less hesitant to shop in those higher type places. As it is, money is an issue and I try to compromise by selectively shopping in less expensive stores. Yes, I would prefer my eggs to come from free range chickens, but I have to balance the choices with paying for college tuition.
@Kate in NYC – I used to live in suburban NY and how I miss Shoprite. They have a great selection at good prices.


Melissa November 8, 2010 at 9:17 am

I live in the epicenter of four stores: Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Safeway, and that new New Seasons (not to mention a QFC nearby, but I never shop there). I am constantly having to decide where I want to put my money this week, and I usually base my decision on what’s on my list. If it’s mostly meats, fruits, and veg (with the obligatory milk, butter, and eggs), then I go to WF or NS. But I always have to come to terms with how much I am paying for how little I am putting in the back of my van.


Andrea November 8, 2010 at 9:29 am

It’s sort of odd to refer to supporting a business that pays its employees a living wage as “shopping with the beautiful people.” It kind of feeds into the whole tea party “anyone who gives a sh*t about anything but themselves and taxes is an ‘elitist'” mentality, don’t you think? There must be a reason Safeway can hand out $50 coupons–someone is paying for it somewhere, whether it is the employees with lousy wages, the farmers, or out air and water, our nutritionally bankrupt food. I avoid chain groceries as much as possible (including the “beautiful people” one) by buying in bulk through a co-op, shopping at farmer’s markets and farms and the local natural foods stores. The increase in costs (if there is indeed one–I’ve never compared my food budget to anyone else’s) is more than offset by not buying junk food (very much) and making a small contribution to the local community by supporting its farms and farmers. By the way, $2/gallon for milk is INSANELY cheap (here, organic milk from the grocery store is between $3.50 and $4/ HALF-gallon; raw milk from a nearby farm is $#/half gallon. I have no idea what hormone-loaded milk costs). So cheap is relative, I guess.


Lilypad November 8, 2010 at 5:48 pm

Well said, Andrea. I shop at our local co-op 90% of the time and farmers’ markets whenever possible, since almost nothing at a “regular” store appeals to me, nor do their policies and environmental impact. If I’m paying more, I don’t notice it, or consider it an investment in the community and the future of the planet. If that makes me an elitist, so be it! I consider it being a realist. I’ve done a lot of reading on climate change and Peak Oil issues and people, we’ve got to change the way things are being done. “Business as usual” agriculture means the planet will soon not be able to feed its inhabitants. Check out “The Long Descent” by John Michael Greer, “The Long Emergency” by James Howard Kunstler, and “Thriving During Challenging Times” by Cam Mather, to name just a few.


Abby November 8, 2010 at 10:09 am

This spring, our neighborhood will get its first organic market – part of a locally-owned chain. It will be far closer than either of my conventional grocery stores – about 1/4 mile, versus a little over one mile – so I’m sure that, just by default, we’ll put more of our grocery dollars there.

We probably can’t make it our sole source for groceries without blowing our budget, but I’m happy to transfer some of our dollars. How much? I just won’t be sure until I’m standing there, dropped jaw and single reusable bag in hand!


Sheila November 8, 2010 at 10:22 am

I really want to support a lovely local dairy that supplies its milk in 1-litre glass bottles. Most of the milk here in the Vancouver-area comes in 4-L plastic jugs. But the 1-litre milk in the lovely glass bottles costs $2.99 vs. $3.99 for the 4-L jug. Our family of three drinks about 4 litres a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. So switching to the local dairy would triple our milk expenses. Over $600 per year on milk versus about $200. I do think the milk that comes out of glass is tastier than the other stuff. But is it $400 tastier? $400 healthier? I think for now I’ll compromise and buy the glass bottles once in awhile.


Tegan @ TisBest November 8, 2010 at 10:57 am

I think it’s worth noting that Americans spend a smaller percent of their income on groceries than most other developed nations. We’re used to cheap food, and being used to cheap food means there’s a greater demand for the “bad stuff”–subsidized corn and soy, and poor-quality meat and dairy. I think becoming used to spending a little more on food (not Whole Food prices, certainly, but more than we spend now) is good for us. It means we value it more.


Lilypad November 8, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Amen to that!


Anne Marie @ Married to the Empire November 8, 2010 at 11:58 am

The comments here have been very interesting!

I have to drive a bit to get to the fancier, more trendy markets, but we do have a Sprouts nearby. I shop there for fruits and vegetables, as their prices are lower than the regular grocery stores. Much of that has to do with their only carrying in-season fresh items. I also buy all of our lunch meat there because it just tastes better. Also, I can buy nitrate-free deli meats. The sale prices make their meats affordable, but I do tend to wait for a sale. I’m also now buying all my yogurt there because they sell brands that don’t have Red 40 food dye, which I believe is a migraine trigger for me. Bulk bins are nice, too.

BUT, I pay some higher prices for some of that. The yogurt is often not on sale, and it’s expensive. I rarely buy staples like flour and sugar there because it’s too much to buy all organic and whatnot. I have to prioritize.

Granted, we don’t have children to feed, but we do have two sick pets, one of whom takes a lot of medication and sees the vet frequently. We all have to make choices based on life circumstances. Right now, we need to save money on things like food when we can because we have a lot of vet expenses. I have no qualms about shopping at regular grocery stores. Albertsons is my favorite around here, and I like the folks who work there. They need their jobs, I assume, so my shopping in their store helps to keep them employed.

I don’t judge anyone in the food-shopping choices. Every family needs to shop according to their own budgets. However, I will mention something I’ve seen that really bothers me. Sometimes my church collects food for the needy. I’ve noticed that the things donated are often the cheapest of the cheap and not nutritious, like Ramen noodles and boxed mac and cheese. The reason this bothers me is that I know a lot of the families who give are all about feeding their kids all organic, expensive foods, but when it comes to giving to the needy, they scrape the bottom of the food barrel. I know that sounds judgemental of me, and I suppose it is, but I guess it troubles me that my fellow Christians are obsessed with giving themselves the best and giving others their dregs. But perhaps I’ve been guilty of that, too, at times… I realize that’s going off on a tangent, but this post made me think of it.


Martha November 9, 2010 at 5:53 am

This may not apply to your area… but this year, for the food drive at my children’s (Christian) school, the local food bank specified what they wanted (4th grade was supposed to bring mac & cheese; 7th was asked to bring ramen. Seriously. Is there Whole Foods ramen? ) The food bank here prefers Kraft to Annie’s (more in the box.) So perhaps people are modifying what they give knowing what the food bank wants?


Mary Kay November 8, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Do you struggle with the ethics vs. wallet dilemma in your own life? I definitely do. If I shop where groceries are cheaper the emplpyeees probably have a lower wage and few, if any, benefits. But I also dislike paying at lot more for groceries. I tend to shop sales (probably quite a few loss leaders) but combine that with quick trips to the store closest to us, occasional trips to an organic store, and a tiny bit of picking up food at Target or Wal-Mart.


Reese November 8, 2010 at 1:44 pm

I have seen very few homeless/in-need/food stamp folks shopping at Whole Foods or NS. I’m on food stamps myself and shop at WF only if I have any extra $$ left in the budget. I can’t make it work for me for an entire month (I get $200 and can make two weeks work on that at WF!).

I choose to shop at Aldi, an ethnic market, and Jewel Osco (for milk only). I can make the month and then some last on the $200. Whatever I have leftover, I buy products and donate to local food banks.

That said… I wouldn’t donate organic to local food banks. I’d donate stuff that’s cheaper just because I can get MORE of it. It seems like if I can help more people, that justifies buying regular produce and canned goods over organic. It makes sense.

I had to shop at Jewel Osco for one week, since I didnt have time to trek over to Aldi (it’s a few miles farther in my town). I spent $60. I typically spend $20. It threw off my budget for the rest of the month and I’ve been scrambling to make up for it. As it is, we’re going to be using our own money for the next two weeks until the food stamps are replenished. Not only do I have probelms morally ($2.99 for a pound of lunch meat at Aldi vs. $5.99 for the same stuff!), but it truly is affecting me financially.

I’d buy organic if I could afford it, and when I CAN afford it I do! But I’m looking into growing my own veggies next year. And getting a CSA. and making friends with farmers.

Every little bit truly does help!


tracy November 8, 2010 at 5:34 pm

reese, perhaps there is more to your story, but since you said you were on food stamps i was curious and looked on your blog. you are spending $20,000 on a wedding (i understand that it’s not necessarily expensive for a wedding, but money is money) but you need/qualify for food stamps?

that seems outrageous to me. i don’t want to judge you, but after reading that it was quite hard not to.


tracy November 9, 2010 at 10:32 am

Just to clarify….there appear to be two tracys here. Katy, I imagine you can tell by email address which is which, but the rest of us cannot. This is not the same tracy listed below.


Reese November 9, 2010 at 1:55 pm

I find it interesting that you’re awfully quick to judge after not considering everything. You’ll note I didn’t add what my or TFH’s family is contributing to the wedding. It’s been kept a secret to everyone except me and TFH so as not to hurt feelings. This is a lump sum they’ve decided to give us for this reason. Taking it for other expensives (gas, clothing, food, etc.) is out of the question.

Not that it IS anyone else’s business, but since I put it on my blog, I’m willing to explain, we have additional expenses for the wedding that we wouldn’t have if it were 100% up to us. Because we’re accepting help with the wedding, we’re compromising on religion (since we’re not currently members of a church it’s an additional expense), and having it at a family country club rather than a back yard or back home in Wyo.

I also should say that only I qualify for food stamps. Since I’m my own dependent, and currently don’t make much $$, I’ve been given money to support myself. It’s often more than I need, and I donate what I can in return.

I do urge you not to judge others based on financials so quickly. You aren’t aware of their situations and jumping to conclusions doesn’t help anyone.


Anonymous November 23, 2010 at 10:41 am

Weddings are a waste of money…period. That’s $20,000 that could be better used elsewhere.


tracy November 8, 2010 at 2:22 pm

My husband (Don, you two went to high school together!) turned me on to your blog here and he registers a mighty complaint when I shop at NS. What he doesn’t realize though is that I can spend very little there, or I can spend a ton, depending on what I buy. I am an organic produce and meat shopper, cook mostly from scratch, and buy very little processed food. I shop/eat this way knowing it costs me in other ways such as not eating much meat given that it costs me more to buy it organic, and we eat a lot of what’s in season given that the cost of out of season foods can break us. But, if you are the kind of shopper who is willing to go to a variety of stores to chase coupons or sales, you may also find it really easy to slip NS into your rotation for certain things. I’m not big on going to lots of stores, so I stick to FM and NS given I can walk to both. My preferred foods are rarely cheaper at FM, although my canned/staple things often are. What doesn’t work is to go to NS for the milk and eggs (can’t beat those prices for what is essentially organic without the label) and then pick up a few other things along the way that you really should get somewhere else.

As for Safeway, I just find them incredibly expensive. I went last week to make use of their coupon (can’t pass that up!) but find myself very limited in what I buy because much of it is more than I would spend elsewhere. And the cashier is so tickled to tell me I saved over $50 given my club card and the reality is despite the $10 savings, the rest was just comparably priced to other places!

I think purchasing your groceries is probably very much in line with many of the things you talk about here, defining your values and preferences and living in a way that is consistent with those beliefs. I feel bad that places like NS get a bad rap because they do have many upsides. And, as for the beautiful people hanging out there, come check out the Arbor Lodge location. There is plenty of bottle returning happening there!


Trish November 8, 2010 at 3:28 pm

My only local shopping option is a Wal-mart (yuck) but I am incredibly lucky to have a local butcher. I also have access to IGAs in 2 towns I travel to frequently. I am not as concerned about organic (seasonal produce is my goal) as I am that the meat I consume was raised as humanely as possible. My local butcher doesn’t necessarily ensure that this is the case, but at least I can avoid the factory farmed Walmart stuff. I would rather give up meat than eat that.

The backlash from the beautiful people comment is interesting. Glad you stood your ground.

I used to shop at an expensive organic market in a nearby large city a couple times a year, because the selection was really fun – it was a treat for me. What bothered me tho was the people driving their SUVs from their houses with manicured yards to shop organically- even buying dandelion greens. It seemed so much an ‘all about me’ attitude. While I of course care about what I eat, my larger concern when addressing an organic diet is environmental protection. And that is why I still dont jump on the organic bandwagon.


Tracy Balazy November 9, 2010 at 7:28 am

I like what you said, Trish, about people driving their SUVs from their homes with manicured yards to shop organically. It’s funny how marketing affects all of this. Your comment made me think of how, for example, people will think they’re benefiting the environment by purchasing “green” cleaning products, packaged in petroleum-based plastic and requiring energy to produce, instead of using vinegar, baking soda and other basics.

I’m glad you’re buying meat that was raised more humanely than the mass-produced stuff. I quit eating meat a few years ago because of factory farming, but I’d be willing to eat it on occasion from one of the local (Michigan) small farms.


Shannon November 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm

I have to drive pretty far (at least 20 minutes) either to the Whole Foods or to the North Market, which is a marketplace for local farmers and vendors year round. And both of those options are very expensive. I try to compensate by shopping the local farmer’s market through the summer, growing a garden, selecting local/sustainable options that are available at one of the four local supermarkets (5 minutes away or less) and buying bulk when I can, such as the quarter beef we bought directly from a farmer last year. All that said, it is hard to keep two growing, hungry boys in all organic food. A gallon of organic milk around here is $5.69 (granted, it’s about $3 at WF, but again, 20 minute drive, each way) and the grass-fed is over $6. I do it when I can, but honestly it all adds up.


ellie November 8, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Nobody mentioned my problem with organic food -there are two of us, and organic things spoil so quickly I have to buy small amounts and shop more often. So, I don’t generally buy organic. Now, I’ll horrify everyone – my daughter raises chickens. She provides me with a lot of eggs from her free range girls. When I run out, I buy regular eggs from (gasp) Safeway, and I can’t tell any difference!


Sam Jones November 8, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Ellie, why would anyone be horrified that your daughter raises chickens? (I personally believe that the answer to all these issues that are being discussed here is to grow our own organic food.) I have my own flock too, and EVERYONE that eats my girls’ eggs comments on how much brighter the yolks are, how much higher the yolks sit up in the pan, and best of all, how much better they taste than ‘store bought’. If you can’t tell the diff between your daughter’s free range eggs and Safeways eggs, um, might I suggest your daughter look more closely at what they’re free ranging on?


Jacquelyn November 8, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I’m with Sam- I think it’s great that your daughter raises chickens. There should definitely be a noticeable difference in the eggs- at least if she is raising them humanely.


Shannon November 9, 2010 at 5:14 am

Absolutely agreeing with Sam! You’ve landed in the right space; very chicken friendly 🙂


Tracy Balazy November 9, 2010 at 7:34 am

At my house, the only eggs we eat were raised free-range by a woman near our house, and I notice a HUGE difference from the stuff in the grocery stores. My husband and I thought we had some sort of egg allergy because we’d feel terrible and bloated all day after eating store-bought eggs, and then we started buying the ones from this woman — who feeds them grains and vegetables, and they forage for bugs and stuff, running around outside — and we no longer get sick from eggs!


WilliamB November 9, 2010 at 8:49 am

I’m not horrified, I’m jealous!


Molly On Money November 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

I raise my own chickens and I eat them. It’s been an amazing experience. After finding out how USDA chickens are processed (yes, even organic) I can not eat a USDA approved chicken! Let’s just say there’s lots and lots of bleach involved.


Maniacal Mommy November 8, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I get torn between shopping at Aldi, where groceries are cheaper, even if just by mere dimes, and at my local but Great Lakes centered store. Those dimes add up. It weighs on me, but keeping my family afloat and fed does outweigh all else.

However, I will not skimp on my sugar. I buy my sugar in 25 lb bags from my local grocer, made not 30 miles from my house. Sugar beets aren’t a glamorous business, but it is one way I can support our farmers and industry.

I don’t save all that much buying it in bulk, but I never find myself short when it comes time to turn my own strawberries or grapes into jam or jelly. And that is priceless to me!


Beth November 8, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Does anyone pay full price for everything at Safeway? It’s my main store, but I feel ripped off unless I’ve “saved” at least 25%.


Jenny November 9, 2010 at 9:52 am

I end up shopping there a lot, too, out of necessity, and it does irk me that they mark everything up so they can mark it down. “newly reduced every day price” or “club card savings.” Could they not just price things resonable to begin with and stop with the stupid sale games?


Jenny @ Plain and Simple Me November 8, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Wow, it seems like this has sparked a lot of debate and strong feelings! I am totally with you on wanting to save money, and I was right there with you using coupons and buying food from Save-a-lot and other groceries using my double coupons. Ten years ago, my family was eating what was cheap, and not necessarily what was healthiest for us. My journey started out with saving money, but it has become a journey of finding value and values in my food.

Somedays, I wish I was still in the dark about the realities of our food system. But I’m not, so this junkfood junky, has made some changes in the way she eats. Katy, I started to write a super long comment in response to your post, but wrote about it on my blog instead.

Please be encouraged, and if you need some advice on where to start, I’m glad to help you figure out ways to eat frugally and in line with your values.


Katy November 8, 2010 at 10:45 pm

I read your letter to me and was frankly quite baffled. Your post made it seem as if I bought no fruits or vegetables and had no idea how to healthfully feed my family.

Did you not see that I bought lettuce, pears, potatoes, pomegranates, and concentrated orange juice? I bought ZERO prepackaged meals, and make a meal from scratch EVERY NIGHT OF THE WEEK.

I wrote that I bought the hormone free milk from New Seasons, as well as their cage-free eggs. I already had their organic apples from an earlier trip.

Perhaps you are not a long time reader of the Non-Consumer Advocate. Otherwise you would know that I buy organic Dave’s Killer whole grain bread, buy dry goods in bulk, make my salad dressing (for nightly salads) from scratch and drink tap water.

What on earth do you expect from me?!



Kristen@TheFrugalGirl November 9, 2010 at 3:15 am

Katy, I thought your grocery list sounded quite healthful (better than mine usually does!) and I, being a long-time reader, am definitely under the impression that you eat whole foods.


WilliamB November 9, 2010 at 8:51 am

I agree. Kristen has the right of it.


karen November 9, 2010 at 10:13 am

Ditto. I often read about Katy’s shopping and think, “Damn, she is doing SO much better for her family than I am!”
I think the previous blogger is really confused.


Bill November 9, 2010 at 11:02 am

It sounds like most people on here are trying to compete against one another based on who eats the most healthy foods and who recycles the most (keeping up with the Joneses?). Maybe its just me but as long as you are feeding your family normal fruits and vegetables from a grocery store (doesn’t need to be organic or from a local store) then I would think people would be content. I shop at Kroger and I don’t buy anything organic and if that bothers people, who cares. Katy I would just ignore these comments from people criticizing you, as long as you and your family are happy and healthy that’s all that matters.


Amy H. November 8, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Here in San Francisco, Safeway is nearly as expensive as Whole Foods, and more expensive than Whole Foods on some items. We pick and choose and shop at both (as well as Trader Joe’s) — buying organic milk in glass bottles at $4.29 per half gallon plus $1.50 per bottle deposit and ground beef at WF because they taste far better. I buy Odwalla OJ or grapefruit juice at whichever store has it on sale. Rice in 20 or 25-lb. bags at Costco. Tomatoes at WF; green apples and broccoli at Safeway. TP at Safeway when it’s on sale. Tuna at Trader Joe’s for $1.49/can. Boneless chicken breasts at Costco. Vital Vittles whole-grain bread (local) never goes on sale, so I just buy it at whichever store I’m at when I run out. It’s nearly $5/loaf, but, again — it tastes 5x better than Orowheat to me.

I just wish Safeway would hand out $10 off coupons down here in California!! That has never happened in my 10 years of living here, and believe me, I’ve looked.


WilliamB November 9, 2010 at 8:57 am

Amy H – have you considering making your own bread? I do that sometimes. The ingredients are so cheap it makes me wonder why fresh bakery bread is so expensive.

(Actually, I expect that a large part of the reason is fresh bread goes stale so quickly, so bakeries lose a lot of their product. My homemade might last a week before going stale or moldy. The last loaf of commerical bread I had lasted at least a month!)


Amy H. November 8, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Just realized this sounded like we eat much healthier food all the time than is actually the case. Add to that things like Duncan Hines cake mixes, Yoplait yogurt, Haagen Dasz, Suave coconut shampoo, Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels from Safeway . . . b/c Whole Foods doesn’t carry them!


Martha November 8, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I am one who bristled at the beautiful people comment and I am quite pleased that some comments responded to it…I am not much of a consumer and food is where I spend money–to support farmers who are not exposed to chemicals in their work…I am glad to see people mention valuing CSAs, farmers markets and local food. Also that the idea that someone is paying for food that is really cheap and it is often the workers, in the fields or in the stores (IE Walmart…)


Rachael November 9, 2010 at 9:35 am

My thoughts exactly. I drive a 12-year-old car and will keep it for the duration. I consume very little and the reason I do so is for the reasons you mention, Martha. People should not think cheap food is a great thing. I am forever telling my mom who gives a lot to charity while refusing to spend a bit extra for organic, Fair Trade, etc., food, that she should shift some of her charity dollars to helping the farm workers so they don’t get cancer, etc.


Tammy November 8, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Wow, I struggle with the ethics of spending as do many others. I don’t think it’s something that I can judge others choices nor put my choices out to be judged. I’d prefer to look at how each of us make our choices work rather than “judge” how others choose. I have been trying very hard to cook from scratch as much as possible and reduce my food waste. I am having the greatest ethical struggle with packaging. Fake Plastic Fish has changed the way I look @ plastic but my ability to change my consumption has been really difficult. Farmers and their market are my friends. My friend who raises chickens and his “girls” are my friends. I canned this year. I’m doing better, but every day in a commercialized, industrialized society can be a challenge. I’ll never get it ALL right. But if each of us gets it a little right, the overall societal impact will be improved without any one person having to break her proverbial bank.


Practical Parsimony November 8, 2010 at 11:44 pm

“[S]hopping with the beautiful people” was not an elitist remark on Katy’s part. It reflects more of the attitude of the well-heeled shoppers if anything. In my town there in Walmart, a discount grocery store, another chain, and Piggly Wiggly.

The discount grocery store has mostly retirees and poor people shoppers. Sometimes, I can see a person coming down the aisle and KNOW that person will smell. Walmart and Piggly Wiggly draw from the affluent and poor, alike. The other chain has mostly well-heeled shoppers. It is my favorite store. And, not because of the people who shop there. It is too expensive for me to shop there, except for specials.

If people have transportation, people honestly segregate themselves when shopping along lines that may vary. If my hair is dirty, I go only to the discount store. (So, what does that say about me…other than I should wash my hair?) I would not be seen in my favorite chain store. Invariably, when I go into the discount grocery store with my hair dirty, I see a retiree that I have not seen in ages, someone professional. (This is not just dirty hair, it is hair beyond decency.)

There was a Winn-Dixie here and it was oh so expensive. Poor people did not shop at Winn-Dixie. However, there were those who thought themselves well-to-do and did not want to rub elbows with smelly people even if the groceries WERE higher there. Wow! WD was soooo expensive. In Huntsville, AL, a town nearby, there was a Winn-Dixie near where I worked. However, it was in a depressed part of town–translate poor, other ethnicity than white and many welfare recipients. I never saw anyone shopping who looked like money was no object. Okay, maybe there was one each day. So, there are poor and wealthy people who shop at Winn-Dixie, but not at the same store. Prices were considerably cheaper in the poorer area of town. The name of the store did not matter, prices and locale were part of the equation when trying to figure why people shopped at two different Winn-Dixies.

Katy, don’t go away discouraged. The fault finders may see themselves as NOT part of the beautiful people and thought they were being slighted. You know I am a bleeding-heart liberal and very pc, but I did not see anything wrong with your statement in the context of your post.

It is hard to be on the hurting end of a very unfair club. Just pick yourself up and speak to us again. I like your blog posts.

My wallet cannot afford to be ethical. Oh, somedays, I break loose the ethics in the grocery store!


Miriam November 9, 2010 at 2:25 am

I was going to leave a comment about twenty comments ago, and then decided it might be poor etiquette.
But having seen the discussion and the effect it’s had, I figure I may as well go ahead.

All those who bristled at the “beautiful people” comment?
Open your eyes.
Just about every one of those commenters has responded by blessing Katy with their fabulously ethical and wholesome advice for living. The blend of smugness and high-minded charity makes me very angry. It ought to be clear that Katy knows what she’s doing. It’s just rude to try to push your prejudices on others while casually criticising what you *assume* are their choices.

“Beautiful people” doesn’t mean attractive people. It means people who think a lot of their little selves.


Elizabeth L. November 9, 2010 at 7:44 am

Here here, Miriam. This is exactly what I was thinking. Thanks for having the courage to say it.


Laura November 9, 2010 at 6:40 pm

I didn’t bristle at the ‘beautiful people’ comment because I took it personally, but because that’s not the New Seasons Market I know. Like Katy, I buy hormone-free milk there (all milk sold in Oregon is hormone free, BTW; New Seasons just happens to have a great low price for a gallon of milk), the occasional loaf of fresh bread from their bakery, and meat now and then because I like that I can buy just the amount that I need, not a whole package. I always buy my Thanksgiving turkey there because we think their free-range fresh turkey tastes so much better than anything I’ve bought elsewhere AND they give me a free 5-pound bag of organic potatoes and box of organic chicken broth when I pick up my turkey.

I always see all kinds of people at New Seasons: the well-heeled, the not-so-well-heeled, the down-on-their-luck, singles, people using food stamps, the homeless. They’re not all people who “think a lot of their little selves.” I rarely see shoppers pushing around large carts full of food; instead, I see or stand behind people making careful choices about the food or products they’re buying (for whatever reason). And the employees are helpful, they’re nice (and now I know why).

So yes, you will pay more at New Seasons for many things, but there’s a good reason for that, mainly that they have chosen to follow a business model that pays their employees a living wage and supply shoppers with local and/or ethically raised products. They’re obviously doing quite well- they have how many stores in the Portland area now? 8 or 9? They couldn’t support that many stores if they weren’t providing what a *very wide variety of customers* liked.

If I had to bristle, it was at Katy’s remark that she never sees homeless people at New Seasons turning in their cans. I see them almost every time I go (at least once if not twice a week). And New Seasons doesn’t sell cases of canned beer or Banquet frozen meals, but that’s not all the homeless or down-and-outers are looking for.


WilliamB November 9, 2010 at 3:02 am

It makes perfect sense to me that a store that pays its employees more, charges more. Where else would the money come from? Supermarkets operate on very thin profit margins – 2-3.5% – so money for the extra pay can’t come from there. I understand the dilemma between preferences for local/pastured/organic/whatever food sold by reasonably paid people, and the necessities of one’s budget.

But the crack about beautiful people was unnecessary and detracted strongly from your actual point. These so-called beautiful people are paying the wages of the employees you extolled, supporting local agriculture, humanely treated food animals, and other worthy issues. You also – hopefully unintentionally – insulted those of your readers who shop at New Seasons and similar stores.

Such as myself, when I can afford it.


oldboyscout2 November 10, 2010 at 12:17 pm

good points


Kate in NY November 9, 2010 at 4:30 am

First of all, let me say – Katy! Take a break if you need it (you surely deserve it) – but please come back soon! Be proud that your post sparked such an interesting and largely civil debate on an extremely complex topic. I think you found that tough little point where “green” and “frugal” can sometimes conflict. Reducing, reusing, recycling, keeping the thermostat down, using as little gas as possible – – – usually these two philosophies are in agreement. But for busy, struggling families (especially those with teenage boys, I’m finding), the “vegetarian, everything from scratch, grains and beans in bulk” approach – WHILE EXTREMELY NOBLE – is not always realistic.

I agree that the end of our cheap oil economy and all that it allows (i.e. grocery chains) is probably coming closer and closer. Then we will all need to find ways to grow and raise some of our food, barter, find local sources (no cars to get us everywhere we want!) – and maybe this wont be all bad. The more we can do now to prepare the better. But I think most of the readers here have already rejected, at least in part, the consumer lifestyle that got us to this dark spot in the first place. So let’s give everyone (and especially Katy) a big old break.


Tracy Balazy November 9, 2010 at 7:47 am

I wish that with the impending end of the cheap oil economy, which is long overdue, we’d see the end of the government subsidizing the dairy and meat industries. The people who rail against what they see as “socialism” in the form of government subsidies for healthcare and other services should include the enormous dairy/meat subsidies we pay for with our taxes. I thought this was interesting in Sunday’s New York Times, “While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales”:


Lilypad November 10, 2010 at 5:11 pm

Tracy, very well said. I saw that article too and it just blew my mind. And of course, we could add subsidies for corn, soy beans, etc. to the list of corporate welfare that should be ended…There was a man, running for the Republican Senate nomination here in Washington State last spring, railing against the “Marxist utopia” he says Democrats want to create, as he himself received nearly $273,000 in federal farm subsidies since 1995. (The Seattle Times, May 17, 2010) I find that just preposterous.


oldboyscout2 November 10, 2010 at 12:39 pm

KATE in NY summed this all up very well : ” Be proud that your post sparked such an interesting and largely civil debate on an extremely complex topic.” I am bored reading things I agree with. What’s to learn ? Many of comments I would have NOT thought of, such as questions of WHAT foods to donate. A few other ideas: Fred Meyer is very good to “cherry pick” at and many of their employees have been with them 20+ years. No one spoke of WINCO being owned by their employees. I find Safeway very pricey compared to FM. At sixty five, I’m past ”pretty people,” but still prefer “Market of Choice.” PLEASE, return soon!


LeShea November 9, 2010 at 5:14 am

I have troubles often with this idea of cheap vs sustainable…..

Its kinda sad how grocery shopping is such a big moral dilemma and that you (any you-not you in particular) have to be so on the lookout for lies and misleading info on the labels……its like cracking some cryptic code to know really what you are getting in a food and what you aren’t!

I think the other people in the family have no idea how much thought and angst goes into shopping choices. I laughingly feel that we must all be somehow marked by the wretched experience!! LOL!

I just try to do what I can ……whatever that may mean for the particular shopping trip I am on.


Angela@beggingtheanswer November 9, 2010 at 5:20 am

Sigh. I know I am late in entering the fray, but here it goes anyways.

I don’t think Katy’s comment was elitist. I think she was describing elitist people.

There are many people (I know some personally) who shop at places like Whole Foods because it makes them look good. They just want to show off to others that “Of course I buy only local organically grown food,” but they have no interest in or concept of how their actions support local farmers or sustainable agriculture.

Maybe “beautiful people” wasn’t the best way to phrase this, but Katy’s point was understandable, at least to me.

Katy, I’m so sorry one little phrase caused you so much criticism. You’ve given so much wonderful advice and support to others over the years, but you make one little comment and people jump all over you. I know you’re taking a break, but I hope all the nay-sayers don’t make this a permanent break.


Kari November 9, 2010 at 6:45 am



Elizabeth L. November 9, 2010 at 7:48 am

I second Kari’s “Amen”. Angela’s description of “beautiful people” is exactly how it is in my town. Only the wealthy (or at least very comfortable) can afford to shop at Whole Foods. And they don’t shop there because they feel like they are doing something good for the environment, they shop there because that’s the trendy place to shop and be seen.

Perhaps it isn’t like this in the northwest. I get the impression you are all slightly more green than us simple southern folk are, but for the most part around here, shopping at Whole Foods isn’t about being healthy or green, it’s about being cool.


TeacherM November 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm

I agree and support Katy in her “beautiful people comment.” I double majored in Sustainable Development and studied for a year in Honduras on a farm. I have a very DIFFICULT time shopping at Whole Foods and the like. Despite their “Organic” labels and farmer friendly ways…most of the products are still shipped great distances to your local store. And like most things in America, I absolutely believe that Whole Foods has become nothing but another trend.

Katy, I love reading your blog and find you very insightful. I’ll look forward to your return.


psmflowerlady/Tammy November 9, 2010 at 6:13 am

Reading the comments, I too saw the sting – and since I wasn’t the one that was the recipient of the comments – some of which did seem VERY critical – it is easy for me to say that Katy’s remark and the response to that remark really do say something about all of our individual philosophies. I think we should all be a little more respectful of each others very personal philosophies – after all, Katy did ask about a moral decision/issue – so I perceive that question to be an invitation to a respectful discussion of our own personal paths – not an invitation to vilify the choices that each of us must make.
I did not see an insult/jab in the term “beatiful people”, but I do know that when I get a little too sensitive to terms/phrases, perhaps I see that characteristic in myself. So, maybe the term hit some of us a little too close for comfort? Don’t know and am not accusing anyone of such – but really people – let’s play nice.
I personally see people everyday who shop at places because it is the place to be seen shopping – case in point – my kids want to shop @ Hollister. They will carry their lunch in a Hollister bag but would die a thousand deaths rather than be seen with a Goodwill bag. They “enjoy” being seen in Hollister and often see the popular (Teen aka Beautiful People) shopping there. My kids are not considering the quality of the paper-thin fabric clothing, likely made by impoverished offshore labor – they just know that it’s cool to say you saw so-and-so in Hollister last weekend. Do I believe that there are similar thought processes going on in organic, fair trade grocery stores? Yes – without a doubt. Do I believe that there are people willing to pay extra $$ to support their beliefs by shopping in fair trade grocerty stores? Yes – without a doubt. I also believe that there are “beautiful people” shopping @ my beloved farmers’ market because it is becoming trendy to shop there. And to be totally honest, I do feel a little bit superior when I shop @ the farmers’ market. Had Katy mentioned the beautiful people shopping @ the farmers’ market, I might have gotten my knickers in a twist because it would have been too close for comfort for me. And this leads me to my point – let’s lighten up. None of us are perfect and if honest, most of us at one time or another have made value judgements and felt judged – we aren’t perfect and neither is Katy – it’s her blog – if you’re offended, click off.


Tami November 9, 2010 at 8:23 am

Maybe a better choice would have been to write “shopping with people who can afford a $5 avocado.” I live in Seattle and the difference in dress between the customers at Whole Foods and the customers at Safeway and Fred Meyers is marked, as is the age demographic. (My Safeway is crowded on Thursday morning (10% off for seniors!) What I find interesting about Whole Foods is that there are aisles of frozen meals and aisles of mixes. Just about everyone here is commenting on produce and bulk flour, etc, but it’s clear that there are a lot of people who are buying expensive prepared foods.


Rachael November 9, 2010 at 9:25 am

I have to say I disagree on this one. First, if you want to support a place that pays a living wage and healthcare for employees, you may have to pay a bit more. I feel it is worth it. Secondly, from your list, I don’t see whether items are organic or not. That is another choice people make: paying more for organics as it is either paying more now or later (i.e. paying for pharmaceuticals, etc., when you get sick or worse). Furthermore, if you are a GENUINE vegetarian–don’t eat meat or fish– you can save a bundle. We were in Portland last year for vacation and were so amazed at the New Seasons we stumbled upon. I think it is just a matter of priorities in life. We live on one income, buy all organic stuff that exists from a local organic farm, a farmers market, and the balance at either our local natural foods store and Wegmans. I know from experience if you cut out meat and fish you can easily afford organics for everything available and support places like New Seasons. It is just a matter of priorities/lifestyle choices. Furthermore, I think your saying that “beautiful people” shop at NewSeasons is a bit snarky. I did not notice any “type” of person shopping at New Seasons plus, I think, we all ARE beautiful people!!!! There is not one type of beauty.


Jenny November 9, 2010 at 9:59 am

Since the mid 90’s when I worked in a health food store(Nature’s) in Portland, I have bought mostly organic food because what really bothered me was hearing stories of pesticides in breast milk, farm worker’s families health effects and birds dying in the fields. Since then I have shopped a lot at New Seasons, but currently am doing even more sale shopping and also buying monthly produce bins and oil/syrup/bean staples from Portland Green Parenting, an open family collective that is now based out of a warehouse in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Their Know They Food website has lots of other items to buy like organic meats, nuts, milk, eggs, canned goods etc. I now go to People’s Coop, Fred Meyer, Safeway, Grocery Outlet and Trader’s Joe’s on a rotating basis and “cherry pick” the deals with coupons. I find farmers markets expensive and go only occasionally. Some people also shop at healthy type stores because of health requirements like child behavioral issues, gluten-free, low sugar, no MSG. So for me, ethics wins out, even though I am watching the budget more closely now than when I was working more steadily.


Navi November 9, 2010 at 10:52 am

honestly adjusting consumption makes it easier to buy at the more ethical stores. I still split my shopping btw locations. Save a lot is a big box chain, cheap as hell, and most of their off brands are at least made in the US… and it’s conveniently practically across the street from my house. But I also get items on sale from the local food co-op, The major grocery store in my area is still a relatively local, family owned rather than publicly traded corporation, so it’s not as evil as they come (Meijer), especially since in MI, they’re all union. Big difference being Union in MI verses the non-union Meijer stores outside MI. Big difference in shopping experience. But then I hate Walmart not just for the ethics, but the shopping experience sucks, and watching sales, I can spend the same amount for the same amount elsewhere.


Kristen@TheFrugalGirl November 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm

I feel the same way about Wal-Mart..I just flat-out hate shopping there because it’s a pain and because the prices just aren’t that great.

Give me Aldi anyday. lol


Carolyn November 12, 2010 at 6:23 pm

Agree! Produce is not good, aisles are crowded, parking is bad, place is unfriendly, and stock is often out, especially on the weekends.

Aldi employees, from what I’ve seen, are pretty well paid, too. They certainly work hard enough! 🙂


Navi November 9, 2010 at 10:55 am

though your description of pay and benefits makes me want to move the hell out of MI and try and get a job at seasons… lol. I work at a University, in a fairly safe position, so right now, switching jobs is just short of stupid, with my qualifications… (wouldn’t find a job with comparable pay and benefits that would be standable if not enjoyable elsewhere at this point)


rhonda November 9, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Katy – I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and hope you decide to come back to it. I do understand your dilemma and often find myself in the same place. Now that I have only one child at home it is easier to do more of my shopping at the local co-op, and do more organic and local produce, etc. But when all three kids were at home I just couldn’t make my grocery dollars stretch enough to do that. The reality is sometimes you settle, according to your current circumstances. But reading your blog and others like it helps me always keep my eye out for ways to do better. Thanks for all of your wonderful information, and for your willingness to share it with us.


Sara November 9, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Katy, I think its awesome that you got everyone thinking and debating this issue. You were brave enough to put yourself and your difficult choices in the limelight. If you had stood up and listed off a %100 organic and local shopping list I don’t think that would have helped the rest of us who struggle with this delema every day.

I’m also a huge believer in voting with my money and in Portland for me that means New Seasons a lot of the time, but not having a lot of money, this is the area I’ve compromised my values the most over the years. Even when I cant afford to support the businesses I like I’m glad that someone else is keeping them open for me. Since having lived so frugally over the years has almost paid off your house and debt maybe you are on the brink of being able to loosen the belt a notch!! This is something you’ve earned with your years of diligent shopping and saving.

I feel like these days we have to be rocket scientists to make solid choices about food and health. We shouldn’t have to be. Food shouldn’t be so stressful. One of the things I value the most about New Seasons is that I think you should be able to go around the aisles and buy whatever you see without it being an ethical, economic or health catastrophe. It seems to me like NS often subsidizes its staples by marking up its packaged goods. The money has to come from somewhere and supermarkets have hard choices to make too.

Even (especially) where we disagree and get defensive these are the conversations we really need to have. Thank you so much for all your time and energy putting this out there for everyone. It’s not easy. If you really need to take a break than go for it, but please don’t get hurt or stop because of peoples heated comments. To me this is a perfect example of why you started writing this blog in the first place… To make us think. Please don’t go……


Angela@MyYearWithoutSpending November 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm

I’m coming to this so late, and I don’t know how much I can add that hasn’t already been said, but this food issue is a hot topic that we are ALL LEARNING FROM. Katy’s post speaks to a very complicated truth that is impossible to sort out in one comment or one post. I have been learning about food issues from vegetarian friends, writers like Michael Pollan, and bloggers like Katy for the past few years. When I learn something new, do I demonize or judge my former self, the one from two years ago? I would hope not. I try not to demonize others and their choices either.

It’s not very kind or enlightened of us to judge and demonize each other, we’re all on different paths, with different learning curves, incomes, and challenges, and our choices should be respected. In my opinion, Katy is far along the learning curve on these issues, and I and many others have learned so much from her as well as gotten inspiration and enouragement.

Bravo Katy, for all you do.


Tammy November 9, 2010 at 8:07 pm



Deb November 9, 2010 at 5:04 pm

Holy smokes!
I’d like to think we all do the best we can on those things that are important to us based on our values, locale, finances, education, and so many other factors. Just because I say or do one thing, and someone another, doesn’t make me right/them wrong, or me better/them worse. Not only that, but wouldn’t it be an absolutely boring world if we all thought, acted, purchased, etc. exactly alike?


MJ November 9, 2010 at 6:05 pm

Dear Katy,

I can only say this about that! I live on a tiny island in the Caribbean and just spent the last four months in America, having my mind blown by the stores. I laughed a lot many times, standing in the parking lots of Whole Foods, co-ops, Trader Joe’s, watching those ‘beautiful people’ who wouldn’t have crossed the door of a place that mentioned ‘organic’ food just a few years ago. I’ve been away from the states long enough to know what has changed and wow! I was in Maine, Kansas, California, Oregon and Florida, so I got to see a lot (and p.s. I’m 56, traveled a lot and have been in many different economic circumstances, along with being what could be niched as a tree-hugger, food label reader and/or aware consumer opting for simplicity over chaos for most of my adult life).
Coming from a place where we are damn glad the veggie guy shows up on Friday so we can get more than broccoli and awful tomatoes, and pricing our three little ‘colmados’ constantly for pennies’ difference, plus, while in the states, being the guest of wealthy people who bought primarily at the high priced, though very lovely, and ethically grounded stores (while I checked out the other ones, and got laughed at, in ‘good fun’ for my searches), I totally understand what you were driving at. But, that’s not what I really want to say.

I am a very opinionated person, speaking out often on subjects (environment, politics, etc.) many don’t want to hear about (hey, it’s a small island, we know each other pretty well and have to live with our goods and bads on a daily basis and I’ve got my share of both). You, by the very nature of your blog, poke into tender places. Most of the time, people can reply with, oh, I want to do that, or oh, I gave up driving my own car for one day a week etc. right next to others who are already living or solidly on the way to living a more simplistic existence, some with strong finances, others without. Point being, you touch, with your words and your changing lifestyle, places some embrace, some bridle against and some flat out will think is ridiculous.
So now you’ve gotten some slaps, for what I think is a pretty stupid reason, implied vanity. I didn’t even notice your ‘beautiful people’ comment as something to pay attention to, rather, I paid attention to your point…the hard question of ethical buying versus financial ability. This is a subject I often talk about, not in relation to stores (we don’t have them) but in relation to quality of menus versus lack of education in buying nutritious meals for the same money.
Rather than retreat from the field, I say, charge on!!! The responses you got in the positive FAR outweigh the negative and the negative ones mean you said something real and strong and valid. Take it as a compliment, not a ‘mean spirited response’. Personalizing it internally and letting it stop your voice would be a sad loss to many of us. Dust yourself off, laugh, and carry on, chica! Really. I mean it!



Chi-Chi November 9, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I don’t comment much but I can’t tell you how much I enjoy your blog and this post in particular resonated with me. When I read about “the beautiful people” I nearly fell out of my seat with laughter. I totally, totally get what you’re saying! Folks who were offended by it are probably “the beautiful people”! LoL. Anyway, please take a break if you need it but I certainly hope you come back.


Marie-Josée November 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm

I too was stung by your comment, Katy. I don’t know what your intention was, but I perceived it as having a negative, pejorative connotation. We choose to spend a big chunk of our budget on organic, fair-trade produce and products. In my family’s case, food, supplements and all the green options gobble up the largest part of our budget and you would gasp to see the amount of money we dish out. We make this choice for health, environmental and ethical reasons and choose to spend less on other products and services, including our home (we live in a housing coop and no longer own). I do struggle with the ethics of my choices (not really about the wallet part, more the environmental part) and our choices have not always reflected our values, and still often don’t: We buy take-out every Saturday which comes in containers that are not entirely recyclable. We have recently given away perfectly functional furniture and bought new items. My husband commuted almost 5o miles a day for 17 years, I commuted for 7 years and we both spewed tons of CO2 in the environment. Yet we bought organic food and biodegradable products during that whole time which didn’t make any sense at all! I will point out that you choose the beautiful people options when it suits you, such as being thrilled of having found a second hand BRAND-named item or having chosen to purchase an older home in order to afford a better neighborhood. What is a “better neighborhood“ ? For most it means a safer, lovelier environment with better schools. What makes it safer, nicer? The beautiful people. They can afford to own and maintain their homes and attract all the services that make a neighborhood interesting and enjoyable. What makes a neighborhood less desirable? The not-so-beautiful people: the homeless, the drug addicts, the mentally ill not taking their medication, the prostitutes that no one wants hanging out in their front yard. Or just the poorer people, struggling with all kinds of socio-economic issues who don’t have the time or resources to maintain and embellish their homes or apartment complexes. If having the option to purchase expensive whole foods that homeless and mentally ill people cannot afford makes me a beautiful people (person), does not the fact that you have the option of owning a home in the neighborhood of your choice (something a homeless or mentally ill person could never do) not make you a beautiful people (person) too?


Katy November 9, 2010 at 9:29 pm


You write “better neighborhood” in quotes as if I wrote these words which I did not. We actually bought a home in a run down neighborhood which has since gentrified.

You mention my naming of a name brand item of clothing, which I think refers to a blog post I wrote over the summer where referred to a tank top as an “Old Navy” tank top. It was a descriptor, nothing else.

I am sorry you choose to view my writing so negatively.



Marie-Josée November 10, 2010 at 1:13 pm


I enjoy reading your blog and don’t view it in a negative light at all. I don’t agree with you all the time such as when you associated emtional eating with psycho-babble in one of your posts, an issue I struggle with every day!

I think you write beautifully and your posts have often been the forum for enlightened and passionate debates. I appreciate your honesty and candor about your choices and struggles and I hope you will continue to write about them. I’m sorry if what I wrote was perceived as a personal attack or a criticism of your choices – that was not my intention at all. I was simply trying to point out that certain choices you make may appear as beautiful people options to others who don’t have the same privileges or choice.

I think it’s unfair of you to take a jab at a group of people, label them as beautiful people, and not be open to your comment being challenged.

I DID perceive that your post was about ethics v. wallet and addressed that in my comment by mentioning that my struggle was more ethics v. environment.


Robin November 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Amazing. People are getting hung up on one small phrase and ignoring the larger point. If I had to choose between shopping at NS/WF and paying off my debt, I would choose paying off my debt in a heart beat! Honestly what’s more important?!! Well done Katy for making the right choice.


Katy November 9, 2010 at 9:29 pm

I think you’re actually the first person who noticed that I was writing about saving money in order to climb out of debt.



Robin November 9, 2010 at 9:42 pm

What creates a better, safer more secure future for your family? It’s a very easy choice in my opinion. And would your children prefer having expensive veg or their mom home with them?
Good on you for being so close to being done with debt! It’s such a good feeling!!

And isn’t it ridiculous that I felt I had to weigh in on the food side with my own ‘food cred’? Good grief.


Robin November 9, 2010 at 9:37 pm

And btw , I shop at trader joes mostly because the prices are good and they have what I want, Safeway at times and the farmers market for the veg and fruit I don’t grow myself. I don’t always buy organic. I have my own hens for eggs and I’m a vegetarian though I would NEVER tell someone else they should be. It’s a personal choice, like religion. I have the money to shop at WF but choose not to unless I’m looking for olives or cheeses because their prices are ridiculous ($5 for a bag of flour versus $2.50 for the same king arthur flour from TJ) and I’d rather support my local farmers at the market.


Ruth November 9, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I have really enjoyed reading your blog, and hope to continue to do so. I know you’ve written about why you’ve chosen to prioritize getting out of debt over other options, and I admire that you’ve made such a conscious decision in that regard.

Nevertheless, I bristled a bit over this post, and considered commenting (for the first time) when I originally saw it. Not because of your beautiful people comment, which I thought was plain true. But because it seemed like you felt yourself superior to the woman who bought the $50 bag of groceries. You must know that it is perfectly possible to buy a $50 bag of groceries at Safeway or even a discount market– some things just cost more. As you said, you DIDN’T see what she bought– so it seemed to me you were being deliberately inflammatory.

That said, I do hope you come back soon. Though I may not agree with you on everything, your blog is one of the very few I visit daily.


Gerard Kiernan November 10, 2010 at 2:59 am

Hi Katy-

When I read your blog post about the groceries, I kind of knew that people were going to start fussing. ‘Cuz it’s basically touching on politics and identity, two things that get peoples’ undies all in a bundle.
You asked people to share their own struggles between ethics and savings and, instead, some of them judged your journey. Don’t sweat it. My guess is that some of the folks who are pissing you off right now in the blog-o-sphere are people you would enjoy knowing in the real-life world, and vice versa.
Me, I do things that are noble and I do things that are stupid, often in the same day. As a parent of teenagers, I know that I have kids who will point out the stupid, hypocritical and annoying stuff that I do. I also know that in a decade or two those teens will see how complicated it all is.

so, please take care of yourself, and feel free to continue trying to work it all out in your blog. I think you are going through something that many blog writers go through at some point and need to come to grips with: people who don’t know you fully will judge you completely on the basis of one sentence. It is not about you , but it is about them and their identity and internal struggle.

ps- sometimes I think you’re a little nutty in the whole frugality thing but mostly I am into it.


Charles Swanson November 14, 2010 at 6:13 am

Katy is tough enough to spend the winter in a house that’s less than 64 degrees, so she’s tough enough to withstand a little to and fro on your blog. I hope she will take a deep breath, and jump back in.

I didn’t say this first, but wish I had…. “We never gain a real understanding of both sides of an issue when all we hear of the other is what our own side tells us.”

Katy, keep on using it up, wearing it out, making it do or doing without, and keep telling us about it.



Tonya November 10, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Dear Katy,
Sorry you got judged so harshly. It was wrong. I appreciate the fact that you are able to work part-time and still be there for your family, and wouldn’t it be ironic if you had to go back to work full-time just to afford your healthy groceries?

I too choose to shop at my local, non-trendy grocery store in order to live frugally and appreciate that you are trying to do this too. Keep doing what you’re doing, and writing about it for us. It’s inspiring and informative. Don’t go, Katy! Or if you must, please come back soon.


Mary Anne November 10, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I am lost.. I haven’t read every last comment but I am missing the insensitive and mean-spirited comments, although someone did say you were a ‘little nutty’ but she qualified it by saying she mostly gets it. I suspect that being a blogger is a bit like being any other kind of public figure, when you ‘put yourself out there’, people do take their shots. You do ask for the comments. That, as they say, is the price of fame.


Nick Palmer November 11, 2010 at 3:53 am

This “beautiful people” comment. A lot of people have been stung by this. They are over-sensitive. I’ll give you an analogy.

I live in Jersey, Channel Islands, United Kingdom. There are a LOT of people who drive SUVs here. We have very crowded and narrow roads with few, small, parking spaces. Driving here means constantly having to pull over because some un-necessarily enormous yuppie mobile is coming the other way with a yummie mummy taking her tiny child to a private school or ballet lessons or some such. When they park in car parks, they overfill a space.SUVS are very popular here.

Sometimes people write to the local paper about this selfishness imposing irritation and inconvenience on other people and the floodgates are opened. For days afterwards, letters appear from people who have SUVs but felt mortally offended by the original comments. They, however, go onto say that they need their SUV because they tow a boat down to the water or have a horsebox or live on a muddy farm. What the reflexive responders wrongly got from the letter was that the writer was not criticising all people who have SUVs but only those who have them for NO GOOD REASON and thereby impose on others. They were over-sensitive. Exactly the same sort of thing seems to have happened here. Come back Katy!


Nick Palmer November 11, 2010 at 6:41 am

sorry – I meant:

wrongly got from the letter was that the writer was criticising all people who have SUVs – instead they were criticising only those who have them for NO GOOD REASON and thereby impose on others.


Jenn November 12, 2010 at 4:02 am

I just started reading your blog a few weeks ago. I really enjoy reading it and am sorry you will be taking a break. Hope you come back soon.


Michelle November 12, 2010 at 4:47 am

I’m really sad to see you go, Katy!


wendy November 12, 2010 at 7:02 am

Katy, I will miss your blog, but do understand why it might have to end. Just know that you have made a difference in countless ways by sharing your wit and insight with your readers over the past several years. I know that you will continue to impact others in a positive way in other areas of your life. You already live a rich life that is not limited to the blog.

Thank you for sharing this aspect of life.

Be well.


Danielle Albright November 12, 2010 at 10:01 am

Oh no. Sad to see you go as well! I found out the blog through the frugal girl blog and I’ve been loving it! I’ll have to check out some of the archives.


Deb November 12, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Jimeny Cricket, I take a few days off from the computer and look what happened! Holy smokes, I cannot believe how reader response to that blog post snow balled into an emotional hootananny!

Katy, don’t go. Don’t let a post that brought such an onslaught of responses run you out of town – you’re the Sheriff here! You know we adore you and love following your blog. You are so smart, and compassionate, and witty, and FUNNY as heck. You’re family is extremely lucky to have such a fabulous CEO at the helm.


Trina November 16, 2010 at 7:10 am

Katy – I understand, and share, your dilemma regarding choices of worthy foods and causes vs. financial security. The choices get even harder as you build a little financial reserve and have to decide whether to support local organic farmers or put your kids through college. There are no right or wrong choices here, but I’ve wrestled with this issue over and over again. I care about my family’s health, and the planet, and the local farmers, but I only have so much money available.

I also completely understand why you would want to take a break from a demanding blog that opens you up to disrespectful comments. I hope you will come back to the people who appreciate you for who you are! One of the things I really like about your blog is that you don’t pretend to be perfect – you tell it like it is, including the messes, challenges with kids (teens in particular), and realities of making tough choices in a complicated world. It’s refreshing and reassuring to know I’m not alone in these challenges, and I value your practical approach. Please take a much-deserved break and then come back!


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