A while back I somehow ended up with a Costco card, but I have never used it. I don’t necessarily have anything against the store, it’s just that I don’t need to buy in bulk. In fact, I rarely have to buy, period. My wife and I have pretty busy schedules, and often meet for dinner out. In an effort to reduce a ridiculous amount of eating out, we’ve recently begun to have some meals brought in. A small luxury perhaps, but it saves a lot of time. When I do cook it usually takes about six trips to the store just to obtain all the ingredients to grill a slab of salmon.
Although overall I’d say we tend more toward the frugal side, I realize we’re in the minority with regards to meal habits. In fact, as gas prices go up, trips to the store are going down.
Until two years ago, Natalie Stone paid twice-a-month visits to her local BJ’s Wholesale Club
in Greenville, S.C., to buy paper towels and toilet paper for her home,
meat for the dinner table, and diapers for her son. Often, during the
week, she would also swing by her local supermarket for items she’d
forgotten. But rising gas prices and other budgetary constraints have
killed off such side trips. "Now I go to BJ’s just once a month," says
the 29-year-old homemaker.
This change is becoming more prevalent.
The confluence of high food and gas prices, slumping real estate, and
the credit crunch has left the Stones and millions of other
middle-class families feeling pinched. That has major implications for
the nation’s retailers. As consumers get more anxious and more
organized about where and when they shop, they’re drawn to Wal-Mart
Stores, Costco Wholesale, and the like. "We’re seeing some clear changes in consumer behavior," says A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble.
So much for demand-flow, pulling from the customer just the amount needed. So much for one piece flow in the pantry. So much for lean grocery shopping. Where do people store a month’s worth of food for an entire family? Our pantry isn’t that large, or at least it wasn’t the last time I checked. But we’ve done quite a bit of remodeling since then, so perhaps it has changed.
Earlier this century when I started my own contract manufacturing company I wanted to drive home that lean manufacturing isn’t just for the shop floor. So I enforced rules for the purchase of shop supplies, office supplies, and equipment just when they were needed, in the exact quantity needed. Everything was kanban’d. Including toilet paper. I thought it was brilliant… if the extra roll was still on the shelf, all was good. If not, time to go buy another. My administrative assistant was not impressed. As you may imagine, an exception to the rule was created the next day,
although I guess we could have just increased the size of the TP
However I believe there could still be hope for the lean pantry. Instead of making once monstrous trip to the local Costco, how about looking for alternatives? Not the overproduction of leftovers or multiple runs to the large big box store. Although large stores are becoming more prevalent, much of the rest of the world enjoys a luxury we don’t have in North America: the tiny local store on the corner of seemingly every block. Just the staples… a short distance away in just the quantities needed. Go and get just what you need for the day. For some reason those stores just never took off in modern America. So much for the lean pantry.
I think I’ll stick with eating out. It’s much easier.