Are Big Box Stores Really a Bargain?

I stopped in at Sam's Club this morning. I don't go very often, but I've had a membership for a few years. And it expires in 3 weeks, as the young man at the checkout later reminded me.

Starting off in my usual mode, I walked down a few extra aisles on my way to the coffee. If I have the time, I try to travel a few extra footsteps in any store I'm in to increase my activity for the day. Every little bit helps, right? While I was walking, I started thinking about that $40 yearly membership fee. That's really quite of hunk of change. Is it really worth it to me? After all, there are only 2 at home these day and all I usually buy there is coffee, yogurt, Cabot light cheddar cheese, dishwashing "pods" and fruits in season. Every once in a while, I see another deal and pick it up.

So, I started observing what other people had in their carts. Many were piled high with huge packages of paper goods. I'm sure those were good deals, but I certainly don't have room to store 36+ rolls of bathroom tissue. Either they did or maybe they have large families at home.

I noticed that most every cart I passed was piled high with huge multi-packs and extra-extra large bags of chips, cookies, frozen prepared meals, desserts, baked goods, hot dogs, sausages, and big flats of beer and regular soda. Some had milk and eggs in a corner. One store worker was setting up samples of cheesy somethings. Even though the store was relatively empty at that time of day,  people were lined up with their carts waiting for "freebies." Store samples don't have calories, right?  And the thing is, most of the people waiting there and those pushing the loaded snack carts were overweight or obese. And, it made me sad.

Who doesn't like a great deal? But are some of these "buys" truly bargains? Big Box stores like Sam's, Costco and BJ's are clearly doing well in their quest to push people into buying more than they may need. Shoppers are subjected to free samples and giant packages of everything imaginable towering toward the sky. See more, buy more, eat more. Do shoppers even have a change to make healthy choices?

I'm flashing back to research that showed when bigger servings are offered, people simply eat more. Bigger bowls of chips out at a gathering silently nudges people to overeat.  Even dietitians who are schooled in the fine art of portion control, actually doled out bigger servings when provided with bigger bowls.  So my question is, when people purchase large volumes of snack foods and sugary drinks to bring home are they creating environments that end up producing obesity? Are they eating more of them than they would have if they didn't have the big bags? Or, do overweight people tend to choose to buy bigger packages of unhealthy foods? Maybe it's a little of both. Or maybe there is no true correlation at all...


I thought about my past. Many years ago, I had a doctor write as my diagnosis: "OBESE." And now, I'm in that healthy category. I succeed the weight lose challenge, but maybe it was a good thing I wasn't a Sam's member in those peanut M&M's days.  I placed today's bargains into the car: two pounds of fresh blueberries, strawberries, plain non-fat Greek yogurt and coffee into the car.

The way I look at it, one thing is certain. Big box stores are not helping encourage healthy food choices to help fight the current epidemic of obesity in our nation.