Pop Culture & The Meaning of Life

The Hierarchy of Grocery Stores

Hi everyone! *dusts cobwebs off website* I haven’t been around much lately but thanks to those of you who have sent me happy wishes to return soon. Jessica Buttram and I were talking about my necessary blogging hiatus when I hinted about how nice it would be to have a guest post from her brilliant little mind while I’m otherwise detained. She asked what she should write about. I told her that I love reading her stuff so much that she could write about her grocery list and I would be entertained. So that’s what she did! Sort of.

Jess is here today to break down the world of food shopping along tribal lines. She’s also from the South which is where I’m heading this afternoon as I fly to Florida in just a few hours to meet my newest nephew! Enjoy this guest offering from J Butt, America’s sweetheart and my hero. We may disagree on the legend of Walmart, but I would follow her to the murky depths of a clearance bin. Take it away Jess.


I spend a lot of time in grocery stores. I cater to two hungry man-childs, plus a very picky Bean who sprouts more each day. And thanks to my extensive Cheese Puff binge academic research, I have noticed a subtle but present hierarchy to these stores. And imma ’bout to fill you in.
At the very bottom of this hierarchy is the Untouchables. This is OBVIOUSLY Walmart. Common knowledge, right? I mean, show me a person who ENJOYS going to Walmart, and I’ll show you a person two steps and a Yorkie away from being on Animal Hoarders [Ed. note: I go to Walmart AND own a Yorkie AND can take a hint 😀].

Walmart is the festering sore in American capitalism. It’s Mad Cow Disease, which is a fitting metaphor, because every time I step foot in that place, my eyes roll back into my head, my lip curls into a sneer on its own volition, and I tend to push my cart up and down aisles rather violently. Also? I am perfectly okay with leaving said cart of destruction in the middle of the parking lot. I don’t return it to the corral, you guys, and I’M OKAY WITH THAT. It’s like I don’t even recognize myself.

The ONLY time I go to Walmart is on Thanskgiving Day because it’s the only place open and someone inevitably forgets to get the jellied cranberry sauce. Every year. The only other time I plan on going there is in case of apocalypse, because where else will you find industrial-size canned beans, bottled water, a hunting knife, and camo pants all in one place?

Then, skipping over to the Working Class, we have Food City. It’s the closest one to my house, and they have a gas station that gives you a 15-cent discount with your Frequent Shopper card, but they NEVER have Honey Bunches of Oats Just Bunches! That’s a deal breaker, you guys.

Plus, they have these weird carts that place the child in the front seat LEVEL with the groceries in the back. Raw meat + carton of eggs / headstrong toddler within arm’s reach of it all = _______? I majored in math, so TRUST ME, folks. The answer is DISASTER. (I’ll also accept SALMONELLA.)

As for the Upper Middle Class, we have Kroger, where I do a solid portion of my grocery shopping. I know this classification isn’t true across the board of Krogers, but ours is brand new and it’s like the Sears optometrist of grocery stores. Still technically considered working class, but of the white collar variety. It can afford to buy its daughter braces and a private school education and a gently used car when she turns sixteen.

My particular Kroger has two RedBox kiosks, a Sonic across the parking lot, AND an entire section of the store devoted to vegans. Not that I’m a vegan, but I respect them, with their soy bean cheese and flax seed Toms. Also, their sustainable-earth granola beats our processed granola EVERY TIME. (I am just now realizing that granola is a pretty heavy-weighing factor in my judgment.)

Walking into Kroger I actually feel calmer. My fridge might be empty and all I have to make for dinner is toast, but IT’S OKAY, PEOPLE, CALM DOWN. We’re in KROGER now.

The store is usually populated with other trophy wives and their adorable offspring, so it’s like our headquarters. Our hub, if you will. And they just smile and nod in understanding when they witness my child throwing a fit because I won’t let her chew on a raw potato…because next week it’ll be their kid. Kinship, you guys. I LOVE IT.

The produce there is fresh and pretty, the meat is never leaky, they often give Bean stickers and a balloon that says, “I’ve been Krogering!” and they ALWAYS offer to walk me to my car. Please and thank you, sir.

And Whole Foods? That’s pretty much Bollywood.

I know I’m missing the Publixes and the Food Lions, and tragically ignoring the Winn-Dixies, so tell me: where do you shop on the totem pole of grocery stores and how much do you hate leaky meat packaging?

February 10, 2012 - Posted by | Humor


  1. Awesome post! I myself prefer Publix despite the higher prices. The associates are actually willing to help, none of the carts have squeaky wheels and I can use my posh accent without fear of harassment.

    Comment by Howlin' Mad Heather | February 10, 2012 | Reply

    • SQUEAKY WHEELS. Oh, how I hate those. And carts that have an alignment problem, causing me to veer into towers of cereal boxes.

      We have a couple of Publixes opening up in my town this year. Pretty excited about that; not excited that it’s 10+ miles away.

      Comment by Meet the Buttrams | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  2. Walmart is the bane of my existence. Sadly, we just can’t really afford to break free of it. One day, when I’m wealthy, I will shop only at Farm Fresh. Until then, I’m stuck with the dregs of humanity and Wally World. 😦

    Comment by Kevin Haggerty | February 10, 2012 | Reply

    • I would love to have the financial means to ONLY shop at our local fresh markets. Do you think they’d have Cheese Puffs though?

      Comment by Meet the Buttrams | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  3. Up here in Pennsylvania we have Giant Eagle which is pretty super awesome. I don’t know how many states they operate in, but they own their own gas stations too so you get discounts on gas based on how much you spend on groceries and vice versa. It’s a pretty sweet deal. I used to spend so much money at the grocery store that we’d get free tanks of gas! But word on the street (the scuttlebutt as some old men say) is that we’re soon getting a Super Target with extra food stuff. That will be the new king for above average people I’m guessing.

    Comment by educlaytion | February 10, 2012 | Reply

    • There’s a Super Target on the other end of town from me. I hear it’s a dangerous vortex that sucks people in and drains their savings accounts.

      Comment by Meet the Buttrams | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  4. If I wasn’t now a fellow Tennessean, a good part of this post would have been a mystery to me. We Midwesterners have different grocery stores, yo. Now that I no longer have access to Dominick’s, I am fully loyal to Publix. I supplement my grocery shopping with sporadic trips to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s but only when I feel like dealing with their overcrowded parking lots. And I never, ever, ever shop at Walmart. Shudder. I embrace my grocery store snobbery. It’s the only way.

    Comment by HopefulLeigh | February 10, 2012 | Reply

    • Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

      I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to figure out a way to make trips to the new Publix 20 minutes away once it opens.

      Comment by Meet the Buttrams | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  5. […] availability. And even more naturally, I had to do this over at Clay Morgan‘s site. So click here to read my guest post and let me know where your grocery store falls in the […]

    Pingback by The Hierarchy of Grocery Stores | Meet the Buttrams | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  6. They’ve started providing plastic bags (like in produce) in the meat section for just that reason! That being said, we hardly ever get our meats, butter, and eggs from the grocery store anymore. Just can’t trust ’em. We are not fans of e.coli or salmonella. We shop at farmers markets because we’re trendy like that.

    Comment by Jen | February 10, 2012 | Reply

    • I was wondering if you’d show up, sis. I was looking for more of a tirade against the unhealthy dangers of grocery stores, though. Disappointed.

      Comment by Meet the Buttrams | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  7. Ha! this is fantastic. I love every line. You make me smile, Jessica.
    In Texas, we have this fantastic bit of grocery store heaven called HEB. Fresh, clean, big, store that smells of rising bread. Lots of organic options, and a meat counter that sells free-range meats at an extremely reasonable rate. It even has this lottery-type game that my kids play for free, that is . . . if they’ve been good and haven’t stuck any grapes up their noses. 😉

    Comment by EllieAnn | February 10, 2012 | Reply

    • I cracked up at that last line. Do they put the grapes back at least?

      Comment by Meet the Buttrams | February 10, 2012 | Reply

      • of COURSE I make them put the grapes back. I don’t want to raise a bunch of shoplifting juvies! LoL. p.s. everyone should wash grapes before they eat them. every time.

        Comment by EllieAnn | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  8. Walmart put all the independents out of business here in Colorado so I would rather do without than set foot in one.
    I try to spend as little time as possible in grocery stores so I avoid the big box stores as much as possible.
    When I go to a Whole Paycheck I mean Foods, I feel like I have been to the spa. I come out relaxed and poorer, but with a smile on my face.
    Great post~

    Comment by susielindau | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  9. Nice work, Jess. I’m a little baffled, though, that you acknowledge your omission of Publix and yet do nothing to remedy it. It’s where shopping is a pleasure, Jess. What more could you want? No Whole Foods pretension, no Walmart skeeve. Just pleasure. IYKWIM

    Comment by Tamara | February 10, 2012 | Reply

    • I do enjoy Publix but there isn’t one in my town. There are two being built but neither are going to be close enough for my weekly trips. If one springs up within five miles I’ll enthusiastically dump Kroger for it.

      Comment by Meet the Buttrams | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  10. I am one Canadian out of a context. Walmart is the only name I recognize, but it’s too far from me to frequent (10 minutes). Plus, I don’t go to supermarkets because I grow all my own vegetables in my garden and do enough canning to last the winter.

    You can stop laughing now. Really.

    I got confused with my mom and my farm upbringing. (Ironic-Mom-Mom does make the best dill pickles in the world, though!)

    Comment by Leanne Shirtliffe | February 10, 2012 | Reply

    • The beauty is you can pretty much just interchange any given store for the ones I highlighted above. It’s universal.

      And I would like some IMM dill pickles.

      Comment by Meet the Buttrams | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  11. I live in the heart of Whole Foods Land: Boulder, Colorado. Within a 3-mile radius, I can find at least three, possibly four WF, from fairly small to ridiculously large. A half-mile walk from my house is a great, small independent grocer called Lucky’s; Alfalfa’s also reopened recently, and we also have Sprouts and Sunflower, as well as a Farmer’s Market that runs from April thru November. Oh, and of course there’s always Safeway for those bulk purchases of TP and PT … I have never set foot in a Walmart, but I do hit up CostCo maybe 6 times a year!

    Comment by Judith Houlding | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  12. The Corvette (awesome product, but at a reasonable price) of our stores here in Northern Virginia is Wegman’s. That place is divine. The best thing about it, as the mom of young children, is the model train track that hangs from the ceiling and traverses the store. Many a tantrum has been saved by the darling train. And Wegman’s sells this Italian bread that (mouth watering) knocks my socks off.

    Wal Mart should be shot.

    Target is lovely.

    Giant will do, since it is located 1 mile from our house.

    And Costco: gah!

    Comment by Running from Hell with El | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  13. Clearly, you have never been to Wegmans. I feel so sad for you. Google it and prepare to weep, Buttram. 😉

    Comment by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson | February 10, 2012 | Reply

    • Ditto. I visited the Wegmans in Ithaca, NY, and it was better than Disney World. So overwhelming I had to sit down in the furniture section.

      Comment by Mark Kaplowitz | February 11, 2012 | Reply

  14. If I had all kinds of money, I’d shop exclusively at Publix, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and the like. Those are quite nice. Sometimes I just have to settle for the not-so-favorite Walmart. My best stories come from Walmart. You never know what or who you’ll find there. I shopped there yesterday and had a riotously funny laugh-at-myself moment (at least it was in my mind) all because of what being in Walmart does to one’s mind.

    Comment by Kim Wilson | February 10, 2012 | Reply

  15. Lol. Hi Jessica. I love your description of Whole Foods as Bollywood. And your description of Kroger is dead on, though our local Kroger doesn’t have kids that go to private schools. It has kids that go to charter schools — you know — private schools on a public ticket. Thanks for the laughs.

    Hope you’re having a productive sabbatical, Clay.

    Comment by Piper Bayard | February 11, 2012 | Reply

  16. My wife and I spent a couple of weeks shopping at Whole Paychex, er, Foods–where two pounds of organic ground beef cost $18. Then we switched to Sprouts, where we can get Whole Foods quality without paying Whole Foods prices. Also, I drive four miles to Wal-Mart for prescriptions (cheaper there than anywhere else).

    Comment by randomlychad | February 12, 2012 | Reply

  17. We have Smith’s and Albertson’s nearby. My wife prefers Smith’s and I prefer Albertson’s. It’s two minutes further away, but I make up the time by the fact there’s never a line. Might have something to do with it being the Geriatric Ward’s Official Grocery Store, but I don’t care.

    Comment by Ricky Anderson | February 13, 2012 | Reply

  18. I live in a suburb of Chicago, and we have Mariano’s. I cannot adequately put into words how much I love this store. The produce is super fresh, superior quality and less expensive than Jewel. The bakery is amazing, and they have delicious fresh dinner options like pizza and sushi. Homemade gelato and an espresso bar. They will even throw your fresh fish and meat on the grill for you while you shop! They give out samples and did I mention the live music on the grand piano?? First-class treatment all the way, and you don’t pay extra for it. Makes me feel like the queen or something…

    Comment by Becky Baudouin | February 14, 2012 | Reply

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