Shopping For The Best Deal

I read Calamity Jane’s post Consumer vs Producer Prepping with some interest on Monday.  I’d been working on the post below at the time and almost didn’t publish it.  Then I got thinking that, hey, this is real.  This is what I do.  If I’m doing it I’m sure there are others out there as well looking to stretch a dollar.  Anyway, it’s cool to point out the various approaches preppers take when they prep.

Today’s post:

The other day I was driving through town and noticed the Super Walmart they’ve been building over the summer is nearly done.  The traffic light is up, the trees in the driveway have been planted, and the big monstrous building itself is complete from what I could see from the road.

I’m kind of torn about this new shopping mecca coming so close to my home.  The groceries and products they sell are cheaper than what you’ll find at local stores and before now if I wanted to go to a Super Walmart for anything I had to drive nearly an hour to get there as well as fight traffic in the Capital city of Augusta.  Granted it’s not as bad as most cities I’ve been too, but when you live in the country like I do a trip to Augusta, Maine feels like a trip to the big city.

Loyalty vs Money

Let’s face it –  money talks.  As preppers and as frugal and responsible adults we try to stretch every dollar we earn and make it count – especially in this economy.  The media keeps talking about how the economy is getting better and maybe it is, but I haven’t seen much of it around here where I live.  While it’s true grocery prices haven’t gone up that much (but they have gone up some) I’ve noticed that the contents in the package have gotten a lot smaller.  14.5 oz appears to be the new 16 oz.  The ice cream bars I buy today are noticeably smaller than what I was buying six or seven years ago.  I bought a candy bar awhile back and was shocked to see how thin it was compared to what I remember buying a few years ago.  The prices have gone up as well, just not as much as they could if it wasn’t for the trickery in the packaging.  Inflation is there people, it’s just been masked by clever marketing.

So here’s my dilemma.  I want to be a good American and buy local and American made goods, but often times I’ll pick something up and look at the price and go, “Holy cow!  This would be ten dollars less at Walmart!”  Same goes for goods at the local farm stands, although Mrs Jarhead does stop and buy fresh fruits and veggies locally.

If I can shop at Walmart or some other big name store and save $50 or $100 I tend to do it.  That’s money!  That’s sweat off my brow.  That’s time from my life traded for things that I need or want.  Does this make me a bad person?

Of course there are some things you don’t want to skimp on.  Camping gear for instance.   If you skimp on camping gear your experience with it will be directly proportional to what you paid for it.  I bought a cheap poncho at Walmart once and tried to make a shelter out of it later on when it was snowing and windy.  The mountain was not forgiving and by the time I gave it up that poncho was in tatters.  After that I bought a MILSURP poncho and haven’t worried about it since.

But for things like cleaning products, groceries, electronics, and kitchen gadgets I often times make Walmart my first stop because I’ll usually find what I’m looking for at a reasonable price.  The quality ranges from adequate to quite good depending on what you pay for it too.

And it seems like it’s hard to figure out just what’s made in America these days.  Some companies that used to be based here in the U.S. have sold out and moved to China and I don’t always keep up on who’s where.

So how about it fellow preppers?  Do you shop at Walmart or do you do what you can for the country and buy American made?  I consider myself to be a loyal American, but I guess when the chips are down I do what I can for the family by getting the best quality product I can at the best price I can find.

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor



35 comments… add one
  • lynn August 2, 2013, 7:23 am

    just from personal experience, I refuse to shop there. I make the majority of my own cleaning supplies anyway, and what I do have to buy, I can get at Target or wherever. I am a couponer, and WM is not friendly to couponers. I try to buy organic fruits & veges as often as I can, from either farmers markets, or our local coop. At Walgreens, CVS, etc, you can get some pretty great deals on toiletries.

  • Ray August 2, 2013, 8:16 am

    I have this problem with custom leather and leather clothing/shoes. I can’t make it cheap. The leather alone cost me more that the finished product’s cost from an on line outlet. Its that old ” bulk manufacturing” thing. Even though my “stuff” is local-Made in the USA-and custom, often hand made- I just can’t come close to “bulk price” on ANYTHING.

  • Denator August 2, 2013, 9:43 am

    I shop at Wally ( thats what we call it round here ) when I need a variety of items, it is a one stop shop saves gas and time. I use local shops for a lot of items. I dont buy meat or fish there. Go to local butcher shop. Wally has over the last year or so been stocking more made in the USA items. After the new super store opened most of our smaller shops around town are still in business. One grocery store closed but the other one is doing fine. A lot of towns folks work there all in all seems like a good thing for our little town of 6500.

  • riverrider August 2, 2013, 9:50 am

    only shop at chinamart if i can’t find what i need anywhere else or when i buy bottled h2o. locals are charging way too much for the same water. i’ll pay extra for u.s. stuff, but i refuse to pay extra on top of that for buying local. if you think about it, wallyworld is a u.s. company.

  • irishdutchuncle August 2, 2013, 9:52 am

    I won’t cut off my nose, to spite my face.
    if Wal-Mart or Home Depot has what I need, for self or family, I’ll buy it there. but many times I have walked out, without. I can’t bring myself to spend the money, unless I’m in dire need. my first inclination is to buy better items used, rather than buying mediocre items cheap. (flea markets and thrift stores have always been good to me)

    (if I had Ray’s skills I would make more things for myself too, rather than buy Chineese Junk)

    • irishdutchuncle August 2, 2013, 1:33 pm

      the purity of my convictions won’t put food on the table.

    • irishdutchuncle August 5, 2013, 7:24 pm

      another problem with Wal-Mart, and the other big box places: they don’t stock the “specialty” items I end up needing for my projects. sometimes I can order on-line and have it delivered to the store. (in theory. in reality I can barely send e-mail)
      for serious gear, electrical or plumbing stuff I still need to go someplace else.

  • Steve August 2, 2013, 10:07 am

    We are looking into moving to a more rural location in the hopes it would be more survivable in a variety of SHTF situations. How far away from a Walmart the final retreat location is definitely figures into our plans. A place a few miles away from a town of 4000 with a Walmart is a lot more valuable to us.

    Another benefit of a Walmart is that it forces the other small town retailers to be a lot more competitive in price and service.

    And if the big cities turn into Beiruts,,,,

    • Justin Case August 2, 2013, 10:27 am

      When it was still available, ammo was half the price of what you would pay at a gun store or Big 5. Kind of nice to be able to pick up 250 rounds of 45’s, laying mash, canned goods, sun screen all at the same place.

      • Steve August 2, 2013, 7:53 pm

        Over the last few months, my hobby has been to check the ammo dept at every Walmart I drive by. In 4 States and a dozen Walmarts I have seen 22LR, 380, 9MM luger, 40 S&W and 45 ACP. It gets put on the shelf and gets sold. They aren’t greedy about the price either.

  • Pineslayer August 2, 2013, 10:28 am

    Most people face this dilemma. Luckily there is no Wally-world close to me, so no temptation. Most of my clothing, sans underwear and socks, come from thrift stores. I hoard good used stuff. The down side is I am not spurring consumerism that spurs economic growth. Costco is my big box store addiction. Food and sundries mostly. The local grocery store is nice, but doesn’t sell much in bulk. My local Ace gets my business, the rest of the local stores are geared toward tourists and drinking over-priced alcohol. I will be making a pilgrimage this PM to cover my route. I am an opportunistic buyer trying to support the locals, is that possible? I have a friend who has opened up a restaurant very close to me, but I can’t bring myself to spend the kind of money it takes to go out to eat and drink . I was there last weekend, bought a round for my table, 2 drinks and a beer, $18! Maybe I need to get over it and put a crowbar in my wallet, but that kind of money goes a long way at Goodwill. I will continue to do my best and hope for the best.

  • JAS August 2, 2013, 10:28 am

    I hear what you are saying. I like to buy American made if I can find it, but being retired I have to be as frugal as I can. I don’t buy a lot of extra junk that I don’t really need. When I decide on something to purchase, I then start looking for the cheapest place to get that item (not a similar item). Walmart has the best price a lot of the time, but I can also get it from Amazon cheaper at times. One thing I do is keep a running wish list of items on Amazon that I plan on buying and use these items to fill up an order to get free shipping.

  • Kate August 2, 2013, 10:44 am

    I do not shop at Chinamart. That is the price of my convictions. From posts I have read it is apparent that people are willing to purchase items that are not safe (recalls of tainted products occur regularly) from a company that does not pay fair wages. All for savings of between $1 and $10 per item. Really? That is the price of your convictions? How many of you were willing to sacrifice your life for this country? But not $1? If everyone would chose to purchase locally or products made in America that would translate into more goods sold by American firms, that would translate into more goods that need to be MANUFACTURED by American firms which would translate into more JOBS. Proven mathematical fact. Pity we are willing to sell our fellow unemployed American to China for 50 cents. Or our dogs (recall of tainted dog food) or our children (fact recall of children’s toys). By the way I am not wealthy. I am on a minimal budget. But instead of eating out I save money by purchasing my food and eating at home. Instead of going to the movies I borrow movies FOR FREE from the library. ….

  • babycatcher August 2, 2013, 11:11 am

    Its a nice sentiment, buying everything American, but the practical fact is, the unions have driven most manufacturing overseas, so what’s left here may be better made(and most of the time it is), but if I only have $50 to spend on preps, thrift stores and yard sales get first dibs, specialty stores/websites get second, and wallyworld comes in a distant third, but is there none the less. Less than 10% of our budget gets spent there, but what does is still less money out of my pocket ( think first aid supplies, for instance). We are on a fixed budget, so its the way we go….

    • Spud August 3, 2013, 7:15 am

      Yes Unions played a factor, but by far it was the 1 or 2% more profit margin that motivated the wealthy to move manufacturing offshore.
      Pretty sad that they sold us out for just a few bucks more ain’t it ? Considering that they were already getting wealthy making it all here…

  • Novice August 2, 2013, 1:30 pm

    I think your last paragraph sums it up best. You have to do what’s best for YOUR family first. I do shop at WM quite a bit for the cheaper food and items but, I won’t even buy their cloths since I can get them cheaper at the thrift store. If the price is close and the quality is similar I’ll choose made in the USA over foreign produced (I’ve never owned anything but GM cars) but, every extra dollar I spend “supporting the local economy” is a dollar less my family has. You may consider this a short sighted way to live but I paid off one house in 7 years and I’m on my way to paying off the second in 5. That’s worth a whole lot more to me than buying local.

  • Robert August 2, 2013, 3:40 pm

    I buy the things there if they are items I would buy somewhere else–item for item, NOT their substitutes. So if I need motor oil, paper towels, laundry soap, etc., I get it at Wal-Mart. Ammunition too, when I can find it.

    Produce, meats and other items where the quality is lower at the Mal-Wart I get locally. Farmer’s Markets and local butcher shops are MUCH better than any major retailer.

    Clothing and shoes and such are a mixed bag.

  • GoneWithTheWind August 2, 2013, 3:42 pm

    I like Walmart. I like the fact they employee millions and they are an American company. Suprise! All their employees are “local”. I know of no Walmarts that bring cashiers in from other cities or countries. All of their products are made in the U.S. or overseas just like all the other big stores and small businesses. So what’s the difference?? Simple; bias. Some people are biased and dislike Walmart. Often they are clueless as to why and will usually fall back on the buy local mantra or that Walmart destroys small businesses. There is a Walmart near where I live and there are about 600 small and some large businesses with a mile from it. Before the Walmart was built the same area had about 30 buisinesses. So much for it destroying small businesses. Walmart saves the average American (who isn’t too biased to shop there) about $2300 a year and other studies have shown Walmart does more for poor people then food stamps or welfare. Geee, what’s to hate?

    • Jumbo August 2, 2013, 6:07 pm

      Being over 50, I remember when all the local towns just had local merchants. The prices were high and the merchants bought lots of crappy stuff in bulk from the cheapest producers they could find (foreign or domestic). When Kmart finally came to town we were all in awe of the price and yes “quality” of the merchandise, and then Walmart came to town and there was competition and the prices went even lower. Just like the “china marts” the local stores were all about making money for themselves. I support local PRODUCERS of quality goods. But there’s not a lot of PRODUCERS in the US, so I support the cheapest importer of chinese crapola, be it local or a giant chain store. The employees at large chain stores are getting paid about as good as any local store, and tainted goods can be imported by any company, or produced here in the good ole USA – (see the tainted lettuce that’s causing all the havoc around the country now).

  • The Road Warrior August 2, 2013, 5:08 pm

    Ahh, the great American moral shopping dilemma. I personally will shop there for things that I don’t need to be of good quality, or if I need a lot of something, cheap, since I don’t buy memberships to BJs or Sam’s Club or the other mass-quantity buying places (though maybe I should…). For instance, Whenever I buy jeans from Wally World, no matter the brand, they seem to come apart far more quickly than the same label at a better store. Same with shoes and other clothing. I won’t buy, say, a fishing rod there, because the stuff they have just plain sucks in my experience, but the Trilene fishing line I’d put on it I would buy there. I guess I don’t have a method to the madness, but like I said, things that should or need to be of the highest quality (like my preps) I generally won’t get there.

    My brother is a manager at a Best Buy, and he’s had many complaints from customers about how the “exact same” TV from Best Buy is so much more than the Wal-Mart obtained one. he points out that, yes, that 52″ big screen TV DOES indeed look the same and may even have the same model number between the two stores, but the ones that are destined for Wal-Mart have a different part number, and they are indeed made with lesser components and materials than the Best Buy one. So I won’t do electronics or anything else that may fall into the same category. However, I figure the can of Del Monte peaches I buy there will be the same I buy anywhere else.

  • paseodelnorte August 2, 2013, 10:25 pm

    I have noticed that Wally World has a lot of “stuff”, but not much of anything. Everything they have is on the shelves. I was looking at pinto beans, and the total stock was less than 100 lbs. Same with rice, and just about every other staple. More and more space is being given over to processed foods. I buy all of my meat from a local butcher. He doesn’t add 12% broth (water) to “enhance flavor”. I buy some things there just because of the price, but I am finding that careful shopping can find as good a deal at locally owned franchise stores.

  • Ken August 2, 2013, 11:43 pm

    Pretty much just get dog and cat food there because they have way bigger bags than shop&save. But I do check the ammo whenever I am there 3 box maximum, so last time they had what we shoot I called my brother and he was at the hardware store around the corner, so he got 3 too.

  • Ned Ludd August 3, 2013, 9:33 am

    The only problem with any big box retailer is the profits leave your community and go to where the corporate officers live. A small business owner lives in your community and uses their profits there, I hear all the time that when you shop local 67% of your money stays in the local economy. I feel fortunate that I have local choices in my community and have the option of avoiding the big box stores, many do not have such choices.
    I personally believe that the big box stores have created a lot of the economic problems smaller communities currently face by taking money out of communities and continually squeezing labor costs (wages) to the lowest possible rate.
    For these reasons I avoid them as best as I can.

    • ThatguyinCA August 6, 2013, 6:47 pm

      THANK YOU, NED!!!!! Glad to see someone here can see the bigger picture and doesn’t get their information from the Walmart home page or the local politicians being greased to have one put in the community.

  • Becca August 3, 2013, 11:24 am

    Giant Foods, Weis Markets, Rite Aid, Dollar General and Family Dollar are all with in a 15 minute drive from my house. Yes, I coupon some and search the “reduced” bins – but it’s not enough.
    Our local stores are not selling “bulk” sizes anymore – I went to the store the other day and noticed sugar is no longer in a 5 pound bag!!! It’s 4 pounds for 10 cents less then the 5 pound bag was!!! And our stores aren’t even carrying over the 10 pound bag now.
    Walmart and the discount stores are the main way we are still holding our heads above water while trying to prep.

    • irishdutchuncle August 4, 2013, 8:30 am

      hi, neighbor.
      I also recommend the Aldi store, Bottom Dollar, and
      Dollar Tree. (although I always heard that ‘dolatree was a sin)

  • Prepper J August 4, 2013, 3:48 pm

    I hate to admit I shop at Walmart, but I can get a great deal on canned food for my stockpiling. I take my gun, ammo, and camping supply shopping to my local dealer though. Saving money at Walmart allows me to spend more at my local stores for other goods.

  • Roseman August 4, 2013, 4:57 pm

    We were not Walmart customers until recently when one of our dogs was prescribed pain medication for a chronic condition. Walmart was one third the cost that our Vet charged . This is not always the case as we found Walmart more expensive on other meds. Now that we are in the store once a month, we tend to look around. My wife needed new hearing protection for our visits to the range and we found a decent unit for a decent price. Overall we purchase very little there. They offer very few ‘made in USA’ items.
    The wife shops at thrift stores and we buy groceries form Price Rite which is a discount no coupon no shoping bags partly bulk limited product store that is part of the Shop Rite chain (a local family owned corp). We are lucky that a Price Rite is close by (twenty mins.) as their prices beat Walmart (also twenty mins) in most cases.
    We buy eggs and beef from local farmers.
    I always try to buy made in the USA products often utilizing on line sources. Sadly not everything we need can be found there.

  • JL August 4, 2013, 10:21 pm

    I hate going to walmart, I will rarely go but it’s to big. Produce is terrible and I refuse to buy clothing there. It is not cheaper to buy clothes that are ruined after 3 washes. I know my prices, Kroger for food is cheaper and I shop clearance for clothing. Going there is also not worth the headache of the other shoppers.

  • Pineslayer August 4, 2013, 11:35 pm

    But without Walmart we wouldn’t receive those Walmatian shopper pics :)

  • Chuck Findlay August 5, 2013, 12:17 am

    I shop at Wally-World every few weeks. Mostly for food. A Red Barron pizza is pretty much the same anyplace with one exception, the size of the portion. I buy Jack Links beef sticks at Menard’s 1 ounce for $1.00, Wally –World sells the same thing, it’s the same package, same color package, same price. But it’s .8 ounce (20% less meat) So you have to look at the size of the package weight. I also buy DVD movies there as not much can go wrong with a DVD.

    Also I have found Wal-Mart shoes and clothes to be poorly made. Buttons fall off, seams unravel and shoes fall apart in a short time. I no longer buy any clothes or shoes from them. I have always found the people from Wal-Mart as nice as can be and helpful, just don’t buy shoes or clothes from there.

    I also get prescription meds from them as they are $4.00 a month.

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. August 5, 2013, 8:53 am

    I like the fact that Wal-Mart has on-line source that allows you to order items for less cost than other on-line sources and charge you nothing for the shipping.

  • Leslie Anne August 5, 2013, 12:37 pm

    Why should I shop at a mom-n-pop store and overpay for items just because the owners “don’t want to work for someone else”? So, they have their lil’ store with them and family members working there and everyone is stuck paying more for items purchased in their store and the owners’ lil’ family unit then spends the money the store earns in the community. On the other hand, you’ve got Walmart providing hundreds of local jobs–lower prices–and then I have more money in my pocket to spend–and all those hundreds of local Walmart employees get a check which they spend in the community. Walmart brings more bang-for-the-buck to a community than some mom-n-pop shop.

    • ThatguyinCA August 6, 2013, 6:42 pm

      Numerous studies have shown that the average Walmart costs taxpayers anywhere from $250K – 1.2 million per year (that’s per store). Why? Because of the low wages on those “hundreds of local jobs” and the small/non existant benefits packages; a lot employees are receiving government assistance (housing, medical care, food, etc.). Walmart is not alone amongst the big retailers but they are by far the worst offender. I’m far from rich but I would rather pay 10-15% more to shop at businesses/companies that compensate their employees better (supermarkets, Costco, etc). I consider it my civic duty. Everyone, especially Walmart shoppers, demand “cheaper, cheaper, cheaper” so we end up with nothing being American made because no one is willing to spend that extra 10-15% to keep American manufacturing from going extinct (too late by the way). Then before you know it, all that are left are companies that squeeze the employees and the manufacturers. Sure we benefit by lower prices but then on the flip side jobs disappear and dry up OR you are scrounging to make ends meet as the only job available is the local Walmart. Where your check will cover rent on a hovel and the cheap processed food they sell. Regarding the mom and pops,their wealth stays in the community, where does Walmart’s go?

      I’m no union hack, I think most unions are REALLY good at driving up wages so that we are less competitive and less productive.

      I do not own or currently work at a mom & pop. I have worked for large big box stores and I have worked for a locally owned hardware store. I was treated better at the locally owned store. I had great benefits and made a decent wage. Then Home Depot came to town. They beat us on price on most stuff by about 15%. The mom & pop tried their best to keep the pay and benefits the same but they couldn’t compete. So they had to lower wages and benefits to offset some pricing changes. At a mom & pop, you are family. They stepped in MANY times to help out families of employees during hard times (illnesses, unexpected death). They were involved. Not like the big box people.

      I have NO problem with you shopping where you want to shop. It’s America, you are free to choose as you want, but you have to be willing to accept the consequences of your choice. The last sentence of your post is ignorance at it’s best. It’s what the local politicians will tell you. About how the store will generate a lot of tax revenue because it will bring in people from other communities to shop there, that is of course until the next community demands a Walmart because they have nowhere to go to buy stuff because they weren’t supporting the mom and pops.

      Enjoy your Walmart and do what’s best for your family. Me, I say whatever is good the community is good for your family. I am within 10 minutes of a Walmart, it’s been there for almost 15 years. I can count on one hand the times I shopped there and even then it was begrudgingly. And I hope to keep that streak going.

  • Shai August 6, 2013, 1:29 pm

    I remember before Sam Walton passed away, he REQUIRED everything carried by Walmart to BE American made. His family are the ones that sold out. Me? I go to Sam’s Club, but rarely into a Walmart. My grocery store is a regional, and they have their own shrimp boats, seen em! And they make a point to purchase most of their produce from local farmers and it’s marked as such. Not to mention the store brands are generally better than name brands now! Nope, seen way too many small businesses run out of business by Walmart, Home Depot and Lowes. Prefer raising own meat and it’s getting harder to find a butcher that will provide full service, meaning all we have to do is pull up with the trailer, off load the calf or pig, and a week or so later, I pick up the to order vacuum sealed cuts. Last time, we had to wait in line for an hour with an appointment to drop off a live animal. Nope, not gonna eat Walmart meat, ew… If having a Walmart near you is a requirement for your “rural” retreat, I’d rather not.


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