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.