Saturday, January 31, 2009

Grazing (For Free Food) at Costco: A Frugal Way to Pass the Time

Yesterday afternoon me and two others commuted across Puget Sound to do a farewell dinner for somebody retiring from one of the detachments i'm in charge of. Commuting across Puget Sound, via ferry, always adds significant time to any trip. We left early and arrived at our destination a full one hour early. Needing to kill time, one person recommended we go to Costco. One of the three people in the car had a Costco membership. As a military service member, I get cheap food (without sales tax) at our military commissary. It's just me and my wife and we have little need for buying in bulk. I have heard that Costco has a great car buying service. I might join the next time I buy a new car. Other than that, I have no need for a Costco membership.

Once we got into the store, us guys spent an obligatory amount of time in front of the flat screen TVs. We walked amongst other sections of the store but ultimately ended up in the food section. I was a little hungry because it was about 430 pm and getting close to when I normally snack or eat dinner (after 5pm). I started coming across free food sample tables, sampling from each along the way. There must have been about ten free food sampling tables in that Costco! That's the most that i've seen at any store. I ended up sampling from most if not all of them. There were even a few sampling tables with a backed up cue of people waiting for the next batch of cooked/heated samples. Most of them had shopping baskets, but they obviously enjoyed taking the free samples like myself.

While sampling all of the free food, I thought about a term I heard previously called "grazing." Grazing aptly describes what I was doing.

I searched the internet but I couldn't find any entertaining videos on the subject. I suspect "grazing" could be an extreme frugal measure for some people to get calories. It could be frugal if you're already in the area of a store that puts out free samples and you decide to take a stroll through that store for free calories.

I suspect that it would be counterproductive to frugality if you have a large shopping basket with you. A number of people taking the free samples are already hungry and may be prone to impulse purchases of the sampled products. Speaking for myself, I know I would have bought at least one of the ten sampled products, joint juice, if I had a shopping cart with me. During my googling on the topic, I found that one of the highest grossing stores in the Giant Supermarket grocery chain actively employs the use of free samples and includes signage in front of the store encouraging "grazing."

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