Thursday, July 24, 2008

Help me find the best shade of grey - The corn flake dilemma

As you know, doing the right thing is never black and white. There are always a million factors that can be taken into account. Being "green" is certainly no exception. So I need everyone to weigh in here. I'm having a dilemma and am not quite sure what to do. I'm hoping you can bring up issues I've not considered.

The dilemma? Cornflakes. My hubby loves his morning corn flakes. We recently switched from the original to an organic version to escape that high fructose corn syrup that lies hidden in so many processed foods these days. The organic version, I was amazed to see, includes only 3 ingredients - none of which is HFCS. Woo-hoo! Thankfully the organic flakes have been on sale, so I have been able to stock up and save a little moola. Unfortunately, though, the sale is over and a box of organic cornflakes at my big-chain grocery store now costs about $4.79 a box. I certainly don't mind paying a higher price for higher quality food, but here's my dilemma... I could buy them at Amazon.com for $3.50 a box (they come in lots of 6 boxes, but that's not a problem). So do I spend more money at the chain grocery store or have them shipped in bulk to my house from Amazon? It seems to me, they have to be shipped either way (to the store here in town or to my house). 

As I said, I  know this isn't black and white, so here I am, lost somewhere in those shades of grey (or maybe we're talking shades of green). Anyway, what do you think?

25 comments:

Burbanmom said...

Yikes, with a price difference like that, I'd have to say Amazon. But, obviously, don't opt for overnight delivery. In fact, if they offer US Post, choose that option, since you know the mailman comes to your house every day.

Also? Watch out for more sales and call the company that makes them to ask for coupons...

Joan said...

Both take fuel to get to the grocery store and Amazon. Both take fuel when you acquire them whether it's you driving or having them delivered. For me, my family wouldn't eat 6 boxes of the same cereal without tiring of it. Yesterday I posted about wasting food and throwing it away. If this isn't the case at your house, then Amazon sounds good.

JAM said...

I think you're right, they're getting shipped either way, so you're not being "greener" by buying them at your store. Plus, I think arduous made the point a few weeks ago, that since Amazon and others ship so much all over, your package is just going on a truck that would have been going anyway, so it's incremental cost is basically zero. Now if we all stopped shipping, then we could reduce trucks, but right now, I think shipping from Amazon is the better deal. And you will either reuse or recycle the box, and I'm not convinced that all the boxes that go to grocery stores get recycled - certainly not reused. So it might be better there.

Tammi said...

Amazon. It's the lesser of two evils.

eco 'burban mom said...

Do you have a Trader Joe's close by? We have been buying the organic corn flakes for $2.49 a box. Great deal when you have big cereal eaters!! We find TJs also is the best price on Gorilla Munch, a staple for our 4 year old. I have used Amazon for Annie's products (mac n cheese, bunny crackers etc.) and I found that it seems to be the best price and as the UPS guy passes our house every day on his route anyway, I don't feel so bad about the gas.

fearlesschef said...

I agree with the Amazon option... I buy our toilet paper (7th gen) from Giam due to the lower cost from Kroger's and I also see the UPS dude everyday... so I don't feel so bad about the gasoline.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

I would have to go with the Amazon option as well. You are right, the cereal has to be shipped regardless, but in the end, you'd probably save more energy by buying in bulk than making weekly trips to pick them up. And the cost savings is quite substantial.

Simply Authentic said...

I think this is a hard one. While you'll probably get a better deal via the Amazon route, I have a personal love/hate relationship with the online seller. They are a very environmentally unfriendly company and I have never received good costumer service from Amazon itself. I buy from the independent sellers on its site (which I'm sure Amazon profits from), but have refused to buy directly from Amazon for over 3 years. I have to wonder if you can buy direct from the cereal company? But financially I would agree that Amazon is the most frugal choice.

connie said...

I wish it were easy to be frugally green, and hate when they seem at odds with each other.

Amazon would be your more frugal choice, but is not the greenest. Yes, the stuff has to be shipped either way, but it take more fuel when the truck has to make many stops delivering door to door rather than dropping a whole trailer full at one stop. Unless your pantry is warehouse sized, it's unlikely that you have space for a trailer full of goods.

To be green either buy from the chain grocery (but wait for another sale), or ask a smaller independent grocer to carry the cereal that you want.

Jenelle said...

Amazon: They might use extra packing material in their box to secure the product from sliding around. The fuel consumed in their shipping probably be used for BCS shipping. You would recycle the cardboard box. They use fuel when driving from the airport (easterwood?) or BCS main site to your house. Cheeper price. Buy carbon credits to offset (but raises the monetary price).

Grocery store: They don't have packing inside the boxes they ship all the cereal in, but use that plastic stuff to keep the smaller packing boxes together. Have to talk to them about if they recycle the cardboard boxes. You expend only calories walking to the store. More monetarily expensive.

organicneedle said...

I use Amazon for a few bulk purchases, including my used TP. If you subscribe to their repeat service, which you can have delivered as little as every 6 months and even bump it up if you are not ready for it, they also give you an additional 15% discount. You can avoid any plastic packaging by including a note saying you don't want it. As far as carbon spent...I have always heard that items in stores verses warehouses use up more because stores require more heating, lighting, etc. Plus...most of the time people are diving to the store in addition to it be being delivered to the store.

maryann said...

my question is - is there additional shipping charges for amazon and if so what does that bring the cost per box to? If there are no additional charges then I say go with the amazon deal.

Rebecca said...

Per Grist's book "Wake Up and Smell the Planet", "Shipping a 10-pound package by overnight air-the most energy-intensive delivery mode--uses 40% less fuel than the average roundtrip drive to the mall. Ground shipping by truck uses just one-tenth the energy of a trip by car to the store."

Glenda said...

I have that dilemma with the Dr. Bronner's bar soap I like to use -- cheaper to buy online and I don't have to use gas to have it shipped to me (UPS is on our road every day), but I opt to buy from the local health food store instead. It does cost more, but I'd rather hand the money to a local business, whether it's a chain business or a mom-n-pop business. I don't make a special trip to get the soap, rather I bundle that errand with others I have in that area, so I'm not making a special trip.

It depends on which is most important to you, really.

For me, it's spending money locally whenever possible. Even if the item is not made locally and is shipped to a store here from elsewhere, the money goes into the hands of a local store. (When I can, I do my best to ensure it's a mom-n-pop business or a Texas-based store, such as HEB, rather than Walmart.)

kim said...

Did you try going to the website of the company that makes this cereal? Maybe you can order it direct?

kim said...

Oh and there is a group near me, that orders from Sand Creek Farm!!

Michelle said...

I have been a lurker and LOVE your site. OK - so here is the CPA's perspective. You can buy 26.4 oz. bags on Amazon for $38.03, or $6.33 each. That works out to be $.24 an ounce. If you buy the boxes on Amazon, it works out to be $.33+ an ounce. Buy the bags, save the most (I have no idea, but it seems to reduce packaging, too) and make the best of your "lesser of two evils" situation.

Keep up the great work! I have added your blog to my (very selective) list of favorite blogs on my blog!

Melissa said...

I vote for the amazon...if the choice was between supporting a local business and there, it'd be a tougher call, but since it's not, I think the fuel use difference is negligible, especially if you combine that order with other stuff you may need to stock up on, like TP.

Heather @ SGF said...

Burbanmom - Amazon actually offers free shipping. That's the cool thing and through my credit cards points program I can even get free gift certificates for Amazon. As far as coupons, my grocery says they won't take internet coupons so that's out. I guess Nature's Path might mail some if I call them... Thanks for the suggestion!

Joan - Oh, that's not a problem. My hubby has eaten a box of corn flakes a week AT LEAST as long as I lived with him (2-1/2 years now). No waste around here, that's for sure. :)

Jam - That's definitely what I'm leaning towards. It just makes sense. Amazon is definitely the frugal option and as long as it isn't less green, I think I'm going to go for it. Thanks for weighing in!

Tammi - Your right. I am dealing with two evils here - both of them big corporations.

Eco burban mom - nope. No Trader Joe's here, unfortunately, cause that's an awesome price! I see the UPS guys here a lot too. In fact, because I walk in town so much, most of the UPS guys know me and always wave :)

Fearless chef - Ooh. I hadn't thought about toilet paper too. Thanks. I'll start looking at that too!

Jennifer - I walk to the grocery (only 4 blocks away) so at least I don't waste any gas getting to the store. But it's really looking like Amazon is the better option and if I go with Amazon, I'll have to look into a few other things I might be able to get in bulk there and for cheaper. It just feel weird buying grocery stuff online. For that price, though.I'll get over it :)

Simply Authentic - I looked at buying from Nature's Path directly but believe it or not, it's more expensive through the maker's website. Go figure.

Connie - we do have a local health food store that could stock it. I know they don't because I've looked, but I bet they would if I asked them. Although I don't know what the price would be and it's far enough away that I would have to drive to pick the cereal up. Always the dilemma...

Jenelle - yeah, it really is a difficult question. Crazy that it should be so complicated. Geez!

Organicneedle - Ooh! I'm going to try to do that - ask for no packaging inside. And the 15% discount is a great tip! It's not like they'll go bad in 6 months. You're awesome! Thanks, organicneedle!

maryann- nope. No additional shipping. Cool, huh? It qualifies for free super-saver shipping!

rebecca - No need for overnight. He doesn't need his flakes that bad - he he. I'd just do normal ground (and free) shipping.

glenda - right now I'm buying them from Kroger - not local at all. If I did the health food store, I'd have to drive to bring them home although I would combine it with another errands so as to not waste too much gas. I do prefer to spend at a local place like our health food store but would have to special order it since when I looked last time, they didn't have it. I'll have to think about that. Thanks!

Kim - I looked at the manufacturer's website and it's actually more expensive. Yeah, didn't make sense to me either. Glad to hear you know someone who is fan of Sand Creek. We just LOVE it!

Michelle - Ooh I didn't know about the bags! Dave looked it up as we were reading comments and that is SO the best way. Thanks! I never would have thought to look for that. I'm so glad you're enjoying the posts and came out of hiding to say hi! Keep the great comments coming!!!

Melissa - i think that's what we're going to do, combine it with ordering TP (and anything else we can come up with that we actually buy in packages.

Thanks everybody! You've been a HUGE help!!!!!

CindyW said...

I have a love and hate relationship with Amazon. I think shipping many boxes of corn flakes from Amazon is probably not less green than buying from grocery stores. But watch out for their packaging!

Sorry to link to my own post. But the packaging is truly absurd

Erikka said...

this seems pretty cut or dry to me. you're not shopping at a locally owned store to begin with, so save yourself some cash and order from Amazon.

peace,
Erikka

Heather @ SGF said...

cindyw- I'm hoping that because we're buying in bulk that will cut down on packaging and someone in this post mentioned that you can ask them for no packing stuff. Who needs it when there's so much air in those cereal bags. We'll try it once just to see what happens I suppose. If it's a hassle, I might see if I can get the local food store to order some for me.

Erikka - we're definitely going to try it once, especially now that we know to order the bags instead of the boxes. Cheaper and less waste. I'll have to post again once we get our box to report on how it went (and if there was any extra packing inside the box). Stay tuned!

kale for sale said...

What a great question and a dilemma of our times. I totally get why Amazon is the popular choice and I would still buy the cereal to support the store near my home. And I feel ridiculous because I was taught to always go for the best deal. Even if the store isn't owned locally though I consider the people in the community working there and it's contribution to the tax base or the local little kids sports team or trees in the parking lot. Corporately owned or not it's part of the community in a way that Amazon never will be. Has he ever thought of having pancakes or yogurt buns for breakfast instead? Kidding. Thanks for such great food for thought.

Glenda said...

kale for sale, you said what I was trying to say, but better =)

My hubby worked in the grocery store business for lots of years and I know how much it impacts a community when money is not being spent locally. When a store (or restaurant or whatever) goes out of business, even if it's part of a chain, people in our community still lose jobs. So, I'll spend a buck extra to buy something in my hometown, if it can be found locally, before I go online.

Heather @ SGF said...

kale for sale - In the end, I think we're going with Amazon. Well, we're going to try it once to see. They have the option of buying larger bags instead of all these little boxes we keep buying here at the store. I think we'll be saving on the waste side of things. I mean, we're going through a box of cornflakes every few days now. It's crazy!

Glenda - You and kale for sale are right. It really is better to buy locally, but I'm hoping that since we'll be cutting down on so much waste, and the fact that we spend the rest of our moola locally, it'll work out in the end. I'm hoping that in getting those bulk bags of corn flakes, we'll be wasting less packaging. We'll just to try it once and see how it turns out. If it seems too wasteful, maybe I can talk our local health food store into ordering the bulk bags for us.