I was at Price Choppers on Wednesday at bought a package of Lean Ground Beef. This in not remarkable. I have purchased many such packages over the years. The ground beef in question was on sale. That also is not remarkable. I got the ground beef without having to buy a club pack. That is remarkable, and increasingly so.
With my somewhat lowered income, I’m going to need to do more grocery shopping and less restaurant eating. However, whenever I go shopping I’m always confronted by the signs that say for example Apple juice, $1.59, 2/$3.00 or $.99 each if you buy 6. Clearly, the last price is the best deal, but when you’re buying for one person, those offers can really mess up your budget. If the product in question is perishable, it can also go to waste more easily.
I used to think that grocery stores had something against single people. This was particularly true in the meat section where everything seemed to come in large portions in multiples. That is, four large pork chops for example. There are some exceptions to this. The Foodfare at Burnell and Portage Avenue being a notable case. However, the more I think of it, the more I think that there is a more sinister motive at work.
It’s well known that we in North America waste a lot of food. Even if the numbers aren’t as high as this Atlantic Monthly article suggests, we still waste a lot of food. I think, that one of the reason for the increase in large size packages, is that they build in waste, and cause us to buy more groceries.
This may sound hard to believe, but look at the shift over the years. When large size packages started appearing on grocery store shelves, they were advertised as “family packs.” The suggestion being that these large scale purchases made feeding a family cheaper. Then came Costco, the Warehouse Club and Sam’s Club, and suddenly everything was “club pack.”
A subtle shift, but one that moved the idea of making large scale grocery purchases away from being about families (which are getting smaller all the time) to being about being special. You are able to get these prices because you belong to “The Club,” whether literal or imagined. As we buy more of these gargantuan packages it seems only logical that we would waste more of them too. If anyone has any data on food waste and club packs, I’d love to have you share it with me.
In the end, the single consumer is not the target, but merely collateral damage in the push for ever increasing desire to have people make bulk, and I suspect, wasteful grocery purchases.