You get what you pay for

The wife and I had one of those typical “Blah blah we’re broke blah blah” talks the other night. Alright, we’re not actually broke, but thanks to the wonderful tax department here in sunny Essex County (remind me to send them a fruit basket or something) as well as my somewhat capricious youth (did I really drink that much in Hoboken?) things are pretty tight around here. Aside from the usual bank robbery plans we’ve been coming up with other ways to cut down on expenses.

One of the big ones is food. I mean, seriously, do we really need to eat EVERY day? There’s probably some stupid report that says we do, but imagine the time AND money you could save… Back in the real world, however, we have a bad habit of eating out. Not so much at night these days, but for lunch. The problem is that the Wife (perhaps I should capitalize to make it more formal) is as lazy as I am when planning ahead – at least for meals. Typically we have to be so hungry that all energy has drained from our bodies and we can barely slither off the couch to the kitchen before we’ll start planning “what’s for dinner”. So imagine how successful we are when thinking up lunches before work…

Now, I think I had a totally different point when I began to write this post, and wouldn’t you know the darn thing got me all confused. My point was that I am willing to try to save money when it comes to eating, but only if it is helping me eat better – not cheaper. As you all know, I bear just an ever so slight affection for Whole Foods. Alright, if we could afford it I might just quit my job and work as a stock boy so that I could be there all the time! Regardless, the most common complaint about them is the price of the food. And while I agree that it is overall pricier than most supermarkets my question is, so what?

Sure, I’ll look for cheaper alternatives in some cases, but I’ll pay the extra dollar or so to have eggs from cage-free chickens or produce that hasn’t been sitting around for days or fresh chicken sausages that are healthier and tastier or organic milk that doesn’t make me fart so much doesn’t bother my stomach like regular milk… You get my point. I’m getting more into this whole kick of “you get what you pay for”, because I’ve realized that sometimes you have to pay a premium if you want quality goods. And what better time to spend that premium than on something as vital to your life and health as food.

Suddenly this post is sounding like a really bad advice column. But to tie it back in with the second paragraph, we’ve actually started buying groceries that can be formed in one shape or another for easy transport to work for consumption. Believe it or not (and this will shock anyone related to me reading this) I currently have a bag containing ham, cheese, and lettuce wrapped in a bread-like substance waiting for me in the fridge. No, it’s not a sandwich (it’s a roll-up!), but it’s darn close. And the thing is, we still bought quality food stuffs to put it together. I may not be eating at Panera everyday, but that doesn’t mean I have to switch to eating processed meat by-products on bleached bread just to save money…

Holy crap, I think I tied all of my points together! Go me!

3 thoughts on “You get what you pay for”

  1. 1 – Why don’t you start making bread? It’s really a worthwhile investment, and the stuff is about a thousand times better than anything you can get from any store. When we head out to Lancaster, we buy about a year’s worth of rye, pumpernickle and whole wheat flour. Even if you don’t have a machine, it’s not that terrible a task, but with a machine it’s about 10 minutes of setup to wake up to freshly baked bread – and let me tell you that nothing in the universe smells as good as fresh bread baking on a Monday or Tuesday morning in the dead of winter. It actually makes me want to get out of bed. My next task is learning how to make good rolls. I figure once I have that down, I can freeze the dough and just bake them whenever I need them.

    2 – You might want to try the bulk animal product X that creates leftovers & lunches thing. I almost always make some sort of large piece of meat a week, and then use it in sandwiches and leftovers for a few days. It’s crazy easy, especially if you have a slow cooker, and has potential for lots of meals. For instance, on Tuesday night I threw carrots and celery (whole and crisscrossed like a lattice) on the bottom of a roasting pan, and stuck a chicken on top. I dumped a block of frozen homemade chicken broth next to the chicken, and scattered some more carrots, celery, onions, turnips and parsnips around the pan. Bake at 400 for 30 min, and then 300 till the chicken is done. It took about 15 minutes of work in total, and last night’s dinner was amazing. Sure we couldn’t eat it Tuesday night since it was done at about 10 pm, but I had other plans for food that night, so it wasn’t a problem, and we have lunch makings for the week, and the spices are generic enough that I could throw it in a salad, add it to quesadillas, bake with pasta, etc.

    I think the thing is really trying to get the most out of your food. When I buy chicken, I’ll save the carcass and boil it down for soup or stock or broth and then use that for another meal. When I buy ham, I make pea soup with the leftovers. Corned beef gets turned into reubens for lunch and hash for breakfast on the weekends.

    3 – You must try Trader Joe’s. Everything is just amazingly tasty and packed well and fresh. It’s more than worth it.

    4 – I don’t know if you have any that are convenient to you, but we were considering joining a CSA this year. We normally go to the farmer’s market in Summit every Sunday, but this might end up being a better deal, depending on how much you want seasonal local produce. Either way, farmer’s markets usually start in the area around June, and they’re pretty fantastic. I’m always happy when I can find a huge thing of overripe peaches for $1.

    Not to say that I’m not a fan of Whole Foods – I very much am. I really like the CEO, John Mackey, plus it’s the only place I can find certain elusive beauty products without having to pay shipping fees. There are more options for healthy, homemade, just plain good food, though 🙂 You just need a slight amount of planning.

  2. Wow, thanks for the huge write-up. You’ve got a lot of good points:

    1 – When the whole bread-making fad started years ago, lots of people had trouble with it, so I always shied away. I am all for trying it now except for one simple problem – our oven is broken. We haven’t been able to bake for a couple months (the stove still works) and we’ve held off on replacing it until we’re sure what we’re doing in the kitchen as far as remodeling goes. Once that’s replaced (or we get a bread maker) I’m up for it. I’m sure we’ll bug you for help later.

    2 – We’ve done similar things in the past – most notably with soups. Lisa used to make a lot of soups, but just hasn’t had the time lately. I hope we can change that. And the big problem with the slow cooker is, as I said, planning. But I think we’re getting better – so that may be more of an option.

    3 – I do like Trader Joe’s. We’ve bought a lot of good things from there. But the convenience factor plays a big part here. As the weather warms up I can walk to the Whole Foods to do shopping. The nearest Joe’s isn’t that far, but it’s a big difference when you’ve got a place right across the street.

    4 – I love farmer’s markets, but a lot of them only run during the week when we can’t go. Let me know about the one in Summit, maybe we’d join you. I’ll have to read more about the CSAs as I’m not sure how the price really works out.

    Reading about John Mackey was a big reason I got into Whole Foods to begin with. And as long as we live in this house they’ll be used a lot because of the convenience. But I’m definitely up for supplementing them with farmer’s markets, etc.

  3. If you know someone with a bread maker they don’t use – there are a lot of them out there – ask to see if they’ll trade with an appliance that you don’t use, or if you can borrow it for a while. We’ve had our machine for about 5 years, and I think the only replacement part we need is a new paddle. The old one is kinda scuffed from repeatedly running a knife into it 😛

    I like that I can make it with oats and wheat germ and local honey as opposed to something that’s uber refined and has HFCS and soy flour (which makes me allergic and miserable).

    Make it a point to come up with a vague weekly dinner list when you do your shopping list. If you have it written down, it’s harder to end up in that “what the hell’s for dinner” rut. If you know you’re going to say, be cleaning or doing stuff on the computer for a few hours on a weekend, set up a stew and let it sit while you do everything else. Also, having IQF fish, especially fillets that are individually wrapped, cuts defrost time to nothing. Put it in a pan of cold water with the tap slightly dripping into it, and it will only take 15 minutes to defrost.

    I know what you mean about the convenience. TJ and WF are about the same distance from our house, but TJ is closer to Jeff’s work, so we hit that more often, but they both have good food, and different strengths.

    The farmer’s market in Summit is not that big, but they have a nice selection from June to November. It’s on the corner of Maple Street, every Sunday from 8:30 to 1:30. We usually go some time around noon, and it’s got the standard veggie stands, plus some organic ones, bread, frozen meats, cheese, pies, pickles, and random other stuff. It helps that it’s on Sunday, otherwise we would never make it. If you want to join us for one, I’ll let you know when they start.

    A CSA is basically they deliver you a box of produce, and it’s randomly what they happen to grow that week. I think the individual share at the one I looked at worked out to about $30 a week.

    And John Mackey is awesome. Jeff and I have been thinking of getting into grass fed beef, and we might start by buying a small amount at Whole Foods.

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