Saturday, June 16, 2012

H-E-B vs.Kroger: Not a paid endorsement #2

HEB logo  vs. Kroger logo

If you've read any of my postings you know I am a loyal customer of H-E-B, the local grocery store here in Texas. Growing up, my mother never frequented HEB, it wasn't too abundant at that time, only open in central Texas. We would often shop at Wal-mart, Kroger, Randalls and Fiesta for any foreign food items. It wasn't until I went to college in the city often known as the Oasis of Texas, the capitol of this lone star state, that I discovered H-E-B (or HEB as my friend's father often used to stay with disdain when he repeatedly saw it come across his credit card bill. Yes, HEB does sell beer.).

 Right off of 41st street in the Hancock center existed a grand, new and pristine grocery store with such a vast array of fresh produce, fresh french bread and all the frozen veggie burgers my heart could desire! I was lured in by the hype of all the other students on campus. That and the fact that it was the only grocery store close to campus!  (Notice I did not say walking distance. This is Texas, few things are within walking distance especially when you account for the 105 degree weather.) So it was in my freshman year that I horded up on frozen items (mainly Uncle Ben's rice bowls) to stock my freezer when I did not want to consume another Luby'sesque meal from the dormitory cafeteria. (Because Uncle Ben's frozen meals were better? Hey, I was only 18 then. Don't judge my juvenile palate!)

After my freshman year of college I moved off campus where there was an H-E-B within walking distance. Not that I actually walked. I already told you, this is Texas people, we walk nowhere except from our car to our arrival destination. Anyways, this H-E-B was ghettofied. It must have been one of the original ones, so I never went to it. (A friend of mine had a car full of hoodlums follow her home from this H-E-B. My response to her telling me this story was, "Why did you go to the ghetto H-E-B?") Politically speaking, it didn't have all the bells and whistles (french bread!) that I had grown accustomed to. Occasionally I would  stray to the Albertson's next door, but would usually travel all the way down to the Hancock center for my groceries. There was no monogamy at this point, I went by convenience. And Albertson's definitely tugged a bit more on my pocket strings.

By the time college was over and I moved out of college town, I still continued my love affair with H-E-B. While I did not live close to an H-E-B, I did make the commute every weekend because no other grocery store could compare to it's illustrious produce. And that fresh french bread. 

When Hubby and I settled into our house, one of the draws was the H-E-B plus! that opened up in basically the backyard of the house. Yes, that's right. To call it H-E-B isn't good enough, it's H-E-B is so superfluous that to describe it earns a plus!. That's right, it even has it's own exclamation mark! (We did once walk to this H-E-B. It was after we were hit by a hurricane and there was nothing to do. We actually put on roller blades and laughed at the people waiting in line at the...yes, you guessed it, HEB gas station... waiting to get gas with nowhere to go.) 

So it's been five years now that I've been shopping at H-E-B plus! and it's like a second home. Since I've been a stay at home mom I go at least twice a week. I know the staff, they know me and Bambina. (Bambino has yet to make his first visit since the doctor has orders to keep him away from my grocery mecca until receiving his two month vaccinations, but much of the staff does know of his existence!) While I don't know the names of the staff (Except for one of the managers, Deena. Shout out to you, girl!) I do know their faces. I often talk to the produce workers and on occasion they've gone to the back to get me the good stuff.  The deli peeps are my friend, mainly because they love Bambina and like to give her samples of turkey and cheese, which she loves.  And of course the cashiers and baggers. Hubby is always shocked when we go to H-E-B together and the amount of people who know me and Bambina. He recently took Bambina without me when Bambino was born and people were talking to him because they recognized Bambina!

So why am I droning on and on about the wonderful HEB? Well, a couple of years ago a Kroger opened up close to the house. Initially I was anti-Kroger. How dare I cheat on my true love. Nothing can be better. Nothing. But then, one day on my way home from work I stopped at Kroger because it was on the route I go home. I was unimpressed with the produce, but their chicken was cheaper. (Reminds me of Martin Short's line in Father of the Bride, "You want the cheaper chicken?" But in his accent, of course.) So I would  often go to Kroger just to buy chicken, but then HEB starting carrying their own line of chicken which was just as cheap, so I stopped going to Kroger, until recently.

For some reason I felt like something different so I ventured out again. Bambina sure liked her some Kroger, they had toy cars attached to the carts for her to ride in! Granted, no one showed her love like H-E-B or gave her samples. There was no Kroger mascot to attract children, like H-E-Buddy at HEB. (Bambina can now say buddy because of him.) The produce had greatly improved since my last visit and some was even cheaper! They had more of a variety of yogurts for Hubby and when the new shipment of milk comes in, the old shipment goes down to 2 bucks! And it still has over a week until it expires! I don't know H-E-B, Kroger is starting to have a beauty I had never seen before. 

So here is my dilemma. As much as I love me some HEB, dare I cheat on my longtime love for something cheaper? The answer to that is a big fat yes. Seriously, what has HEB done for me? Provide me friendly, family style service, yes. Save me money? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. Look, I'm not going to end a twelve year relationship with the HEB, not for something new and different. But, I'm not going to feel guilty for straying a little bit, especially when the price is right! 

So at the end of the day, saving money is more important to me than loyalty. Whoa. This is not intended to be an after school special, folks, but it is my reality, at least in the world of grocery stores.



  1. Okay, so I'm from Illinois and I work at a Kroger. I know that might make it seem like I'm biased, but it appears that if you work there, you hate it. But not me!

    My mom took me to Kroger growing up and I loved it! I always got free cookies from the bakery (they still do that), balloons with lollipops tied on the end, and the super cool cashiers always gave me stickers. It was a dream come true. I would always leave saying, "That's gonna be me someday, Mom!"....well....turns out I was right. It was my first job, I got it in high school, and I'm currently working there to pay my way through college. So now that I'm grown up, what do I like about Kroger?

    Here we go (note: this applies to my area. I have no clue what Kroger's outside of Illinois are like):
    -Faster service when checking out. Baggers unload my cart and bag everything, cashiers get customers through quickly.
    -Friendly employees (most of the time)
    -eCoupons via
    -The Supersavers deal that happens every so often (buy 10 items, save $5. Super worth it for certain things like Philadelphia cream cheese...only $1.00! Cheaper than the Kroger brand!)
    -They sponsor community events
    -I have their store charge card, 0% interest, and I get custom coupons and rebate checks every quarter
    -GAS POINTS!!! I LOVE getting $1.00 off per gallon up to 35 gallons. I eat out a lot, so I buy my gift cards from Kroger, get gas points, get cheaper gas, and end up spending less money
    -Their natural foods section and their new organic/green line "Simple Truth" is pretty awesome. It's way cheaper and a lot of times more nutritional than the competitors like Silk, Kashi, only complaint is that it *tastes* healthier
    -My Kroger has a Starbucks
    -The fact that they survey customers once a week via receipt invites instead of using secret shoppers

    So I realize I went on for a long time, but that's what I love about Kroger. I came across your post because I'm thinking about moving to Austin, but there is not a Kroger for me to transfer to. Looking at some other grocery gigs.

    1. Hey Emery,

      Thanks for your comment!

      First of all, if you're moving to Austin you're going to love the city! I lived there for five years through college and graduate school and if I found a job I would have stayed there!

      H-E-B and it's sister/organic store pretty much dominate Austin. While no, they don't offer points they have in store coupons on the regular that are located next to the product and also offer $3 off of gas if you spend $100. With as often as I shop there and as little as I spend some days I have $9 worth of gas coupons when I go to get gas!

      H-E-B and CM have three bands, Hill Country Fare, HEB and Central Market Organics. I use all three, which is why I keep going back.

      If you do move to Austin, you won't miss Kroger's because the city is just so amazing! And if you do, don't worry, you can find solace in H-E-B!