The other day, I was having a Twitter conversation with Erin of the excellent blogs Films and Foodies and Things Our Mom Taught Us. I had proclaimed my confusion in a tweet about why a pack of Chicken Cutlets now cost on average $5.50 at Market Basket (a grocery store chain known for very low prices) yet a whole rotisserie chicken only costs $3.99. You get a whole cooked chicken for $1.50 less than some raw slices of a chicken breast? That made no sense to me. That is until Erin explained it.
So the labor involved in creating those thin chicken cutlets, and waste lost, makes the price go up significantly. I always knew that buying whole was cheaper but I didn't realize to what extent. Then I started thinking about what I was paying for convenience. How much was I paying for another person's labor so I can spend less time in the kitchen? Is a can of beans more expensive per pound than a bag of dry beans? Do I really want to save the money in beans but add more time to my already packed schedule? Are company profiting off of our busy lives by charging us for the labor that it takes to make convenience foods? I'm I the last one to be smacked in the face by the reality of this?
In budgeting for my family's meals, I've been doing the following
- buying cheap cuts of meat (think ground beef and chicken and not filet mignon)
- make a game out of looking for the least expensive pack
- using more vegetables and fruits and less packaged goods
- only buying what I need for the week
- planning out the week's meals in advance so I don't buy extra crap
- purchasing very few or no snacks
- skipping many name brands and going for generic when I can
What I haven't been doing is looking what I'm spending on convenience. Would it have been cheaper to make 2 Oreo cookie crusts from scratch or to buy 2 already made ones for $4? Do I really need to spend $2.50 on Baker's Dipping Chocolate for one use when a $2.50 bag of Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips would give me multiple uses, including melting chocolate for dipping? Should I buy a block of cheddar cheese and shred it myself or is it worth the money already shredded?
How do you cut back on your grocery bills? What grocery buys are worth the extra money to save you time in the kitchen? Is time worth the money or is money worth the time?