A Push for Cart-less Shopping


It seems, the bigger the store, the bigger the carts. SuperTarget, which has introduced fresh grocery products into its offerings, keeps us in the red with enormous carts to contain the bulk items we buy. Box stores know you will also pick up little extras in the aisles along the way, like electronics and kitchen tools. You didn’t even know you needed towels and sneakers until you saw you saw the sale sign and could stuff them in with the toilet paper.

Conversely, Whole Foods and many health food groceries offer the two-tier basket trolleys – developed in the late 1930s – as the best utility for shopping for your fresh items without having to carry the weight.

There is a good argument for sticking to the baskets when you can. Sure, the restriction can be tough when shopping with a baby or child and needing that cart seat, preparing for a party or shopping just one day a week or after a lull and the cupboard is bare.

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But on a regular basis, a basket will help you contain your needs, buying less and with with more purpose. Think of yourself at a large buffet and what you could get on a salad plate versus a China platter. Those being mindful of what they consume usually opt for the salad plates. The same principle could aid grocery shopping, as well. That is why some stores, like Shaw’s in Boston, rolled out a large basket on wheels as the ideal compromise for shoppers.

Here are some other benefits of keeping that cart parked at the entrance to the store:

Spending less money

According to the Get Rich Slowly blog, ditching the cart (and even basket at times) is the best policy when shopping with the intention of picking up a few items, a loaf of bread, a container of milk, some fruit and dog good. This way you can avoid impulse purchases and end up saving money on stuff you can live without.

Wasting less food

We’ve learned from food guru Michael Pollan that Americans waste half of their food from failing to buy for one meal at a time – the way our Depression-era grandparents budgeted. EcoSalon food columnist, Vannessa Barrington, also sings the praises of buying fresh and local organic over bulk and to eat what you need in a couple of days, not stocking up for weeks at a time. Even if you are composting, which is better than tossing scraps, you still waste less food by buying small amounts  – which is easier to do without a cart.

Avoiding cart accidents

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission finds some 24,000 children are injured in cart accidents every year, half from the seat in the cart, first introduced as a mother’s aid in 1954, and half from the cart itself (hands getting pinched, etc).  I equate cart driving to road driving, finding in my city by the bay that the bad drivers also are careless with carts, pushing them too fast around corners or hogging the lanes. When put at the helm, my 11-year-old tends to ram the cart into my feet, arguing “you aren’t supposed to stop when you are walking in front of me!!” Lesson: Leave the kids out of the seats, and only let them drive a basket.

Minimizing the waiting in long lines

It’s no coincidence that human cashiers are disappearing from discount grocery stores and replaced by self-check out stations – which we were first exposed to about seven years back. Not paying workers allows the corporations to reap as much profit as possible. Meantime, the lines continue to grow out of control, especially at box stores where carts are loaded up to the max. We pay a price for those discounts in the time we have to wait for service, and it is better to take charge of our consumerism by eliminating carts when possible. That way we can love rather than curse the store we have chosen when we are stuck in a big line and need to be somewhere else.

Images: J. Reed; Luanne BradleyWhole

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.