Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Sublime, meet Ridiculous

First, the sublime: Zapp's Voodoo Gumbo kettle-cooked potato chips. I bought these strictly because the name and label were irresistible. In fact, they are loaded with all sorts of awful ingredients (including my personal favorite, MSG) and tasted pretty much like any other "flavored" potato chips, which is to say vaguely sugary with paprika and salt. Thank god the Boy was home or I would have eaten the entire bag of crack I mean chips by myself, in one sitting.

Next, the ridiculous. I was at Safeway to acquire cheap club soda, so I decided to pick up sharp cheddar for quiche while I was there (more on the quiche later).

I discovered that most of Safeway's cheese is inedible. It is rubbery, and, when prodded with a finger, bounces happily back like a squeezed nerf ball. GROSS. So I headed to the "gourmet" cheese display. There I found a selection of exactly the same cheeses, dressed in their Sunday best. These cheeses are in fact Lucerne (Safeway's everyday brand) repackaged as Primo Taglia (Safeway's upscale brand, designed to look Italian - and marked up 200% or so). Unsurprisingly, these fakers still fail the nerf-poke test.

So, why not try a non-Safeway brand? Because at Safeway, eight ounces of Canadian cheddar will set you back $14. That's right kids, $28 a pound. USD. And it's either that or Safeway brands. So I left.

(PS - I went to the local and got organic cheddar from Marin County for $5 a pound, and it was awesome.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eating well ≠ expensive

Eating well is not cheap - but it doesn't have to be expensive, either. If you avoid ridiculously overpriced places like Whole Paycheck - excuse me, Whole Foods - and trendy bullshit gourmet/organic boutiques, you can load up on great foods at about half the price. That's right - HALF the price.

The catch is, this takes a little homework. You need to explore your neighborhood and find a good, reliable place to get your produce that's convenient (or you won't go). While you're searching, bear in mind that large grocers like Safeway (or Whole Foods) screw you on prices because they can - they know you only want to make one stop, so ... why not charge $2.50 for a head of iceberg lettuce? That kind of rip-off pricing is exactly what makes people think they can't afford to eat right.

So. When I lived in San Francisco (and Daly City) I hit my local bodega for frutas y verduras. Now that I'm in Pleasant Hill, I'm lucky enough to have family-owned Pleasant Hill Market right down the street. The photo above shows a recent haul - for $29:
  • Half a watermelon (organic)
  • Bunch of celery
  • Heirloom tomatoes (local)
  • Blackberries (organic)
  • Bell peppers (red and green)
  • Persian cucumbers
  • Carrots (admittedly, these are for the horse)
  • White nectarines
  • Corn tortillas (pack of 50)
  • Fennel
  • Bosc pears
  • Fuji apples
  • Vidalia onions
  • Apricots (FYI - these were 79 cents a pound, vs. $3.99 a pound at Safeway. Srsly.)
  • Cilantro
  • Lemons and limes
  • Navel oranges
  • Garlic
Twenty-nine bucks. If I'd bought this at a major grocer, it would have been at least $50, and probably more. It's obscene.

So find that local joint, eat better, and save money. Please.