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Monday, January 12, 2009

Let them eat cake

I was in Whole Foods last night. They were selling red bell peppers for $2.99 a pound, and claiming that this was a great bargain -- that the regular price would be $5.99 a pound.

Uh huh.

The asparagus in there was $4.99, Meyer lemons $3.99, oranges $2.99... But hey, speaking of high prices at Whole Foods, it's been that kind of week.

Comments (23)

Broccoli, $2.99 a pound: about 60% heavy, woody stalk.

If you pay that for broccoli, you'd be tempted to shred that woody stalk into a slaw just to get your money's worth.

Anyway, @#%$ Whole Foods.

If I ever went anywhere near a Whole Foods, I would pick up some of those red bell peppers.

Fred Meyer charges $2.00 EACH.

Want to save your money, shop Winco.

shop Winco

Or just eat at McDonalds. With oil prices down as much as they are, it's cheap, petroleum-based calories.

For lower-income people, high food prices can be a real concern, but it’s also important to understand that our insistence on cheap food has done great harm to the country. Among other things, it has made small-scale, sustainable, family farming extremely difficult, with some pretty bad social and environmental consequences. Consider than in 1901, food accounted for 43¢ of every American consumer dollar spent; by 1950 it had fallen to 32¢; and by 2003 it was down to 13¢. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

For all you brocolli haters, phobes and/or n00bs out there: just peel the 'woody' stalks with a peeler and cook the peeled flesh as you do the rest of the plant. I'm not sayin' I'm down with 'whole paycheck' prices; just sayin' there's no need to let good broccoli go to waste.

My problem with Whole Foods is that you pay and arm and a leg for crap. I've never tasted worse produce in my life than the produce I bought at WF. I took it all back and demanded my money back. After some argument they gave it back to me. I'm not paying $4.99 per lb for Pink Lady Apples only to have them be mushy and tasteless. I find the organic produce at Safeway to be tastier and cheaper than WF. They have their nerve charging those prices for such poor product. Maybe I had a bad day in there, but since I have to go out of my way to get to the closest WF, I won't be wasting anymore gas to get there.

If I want to get ripped off, I can go to the Market of Choice or Zupans. At least their stuff tastes good.

just peel the 'woody' stalks with a peeler and cook the peeled flesh as you do the rest of the plant

Absolutely. And if the broccoli is fresh, you may need to peel it very little or not at all. Also, depending on how thickly you slice them, you might toss the stalks in the steamer a minute before the florets....

When no one is looking, I just snap as much of the stock off as I can, then put it in the bag. I don't want to pay for something that ends up going in the compost pile! BTW, can you get in trouble for doing that?

We NEVER shop there. And Allan L.: You might want to check out the Winco Parking lot at the Tigard Store. LOTS of wealthy folks from Lake Oswego and Tualatin shop there all the time. Last time I looked, there was nothing wrong with saving a few dollars on the same products you can buy at Safeway, Fred Meyer or Albertsons.

Almost all Winco produce is from Mexico and points south. I don't begrudge people who have to shop there because they're on a tight budget, but personally I'm happy to pay more for local produce. It tastes better, it's way fresher, and I prefer to be as close to the source of my food as possible.

I prefer to be as close to the source of my food as possible

Judging from the number of recalls and epidemics, I'd say -- with respect to produce imported from other countries to the south of us -- that some of the folks there may have been a little too close to our food. . . .


You up for a completely blind tasting of produce from Winco and produce from Whole Foods? If blindly packaged, I'm willing to bet that you couldn't tell the difference.

I shop at Winco for some items because I refuse to pay the extortion-level prices other stores charge. I've bought Apples from Winco and Apples from Market of Choice. Both were Granny Smiths (one of my favorites). I assure you that I could not tell which store they came from. In fact, both sourced their apples from Washington. Winco was charging $1.49 per pound; Market of Choice was charging $3.99 per pound.

Do you feel superior because you shop at Whole Foods or that ilk? Do you like paying outrageous prices for no really good reason?

Sure, some of Winco's produce comes from Mexico and Chile and other locales. So don't buy it. But why would you willingly pay significantly extra for the identical products sold at Winco and at WF/MOC/Zupans/etc? Beer/wine/canned goods/pet food/laundry detergent/peanut butter...... I don't get it.

Pete: For lower-income people, high food prices can be a real concern,
JK: You obviously aren’t “lower-income”

Pete: but it’s also important to understand that our insistence on cheap food has done great harm to the country.
JK: And a great boon to the “low-income.” The question is: do you care?
What “great harm”, or is a higher standard of living a “great harm”?

Pete: Among other things, it has made small-scale, sustainable, family farming extremely difficult,
JK:So what? That’s progress towards a higher standard of living. Are we to wish for the return of horse buggy manufacturers because they were small and local? Are we to smash the machines so we can do all work by hand - that would be small and local (and would impoverish all of us.) How about a small & local computer chip maker (who only sells local, not internationally like Intel - you would love you new $100 million home computer)

Pete: with some pretty bad social and environmental consequences.
JK: Care to name some? Lower prices - is that bad? More choices - is that bad? As to contamination: how much local contaminated food is never discovered because only a few people die in each incident? If a nationally distributed item has a one in a million death rate it shows up - a locally produced product would not show up at that rate.

Pete: Consider than in 1901, food accounted for 43¢ of every American consumer dollar spent; by 1950 it had fallen to 32¢; and by 2003 it was down to 13¢. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
JK: Again this raises its ugly head: People must lower their standard of living to satisfy someone’s pet desires. (Lower food prices leave more room for other spending on items - and that is a definition of a higher standard of living.)

I get so tired of seeing people advocate that others give up their high standard of living to live like some advocate lives.


I shop at Winco for some items . . .
JK: In some cases I have found better produce at Wall Mart. And you can avoid Oregon’s bottle tax at the Wall Mart just across the I205 bridge. (You just flash your Oregon ID to avoid sales tax)

You’ll avoid Sam’s baggie tax too (If he really is stupid enough to force it through.)


Something to consider:
Only buy the fruits and vegetables that are the best deals!
I never go to the store determined to buy broccoli, but, when it's on sale, I buy a bagful. Same with apples...I buy whichever variety is on sale. I'm not about to pay twice as much per pound to get a particular variety. I don't make my plans for fruits and vegetables ahead of time, so I won't be paying $2 each for red bell peppers. When they are $1 each, though, I'll buy 3 because I love them! The point is...if you are determined to buy a particular item, be prepared to pay the market price. If you shop the sales, you'll get the variety over time.
And as far as Winco goes....I don't buy produce there anymore. I'm tired of buying beautiful pears and oranges and onions, only to find that a very high percentage are rotten inside. I suspect they get the great prices because the other markets wouldn't touch the stuff.

well red peppers in the middle of winter are bound to be expensive and shipped in from far away. and probably taste kind of waxy. food tastes better (confirmable in blind taste tests) and costs less when grown locally and in season. it's the way everyone used to eat, not just the privileged. and it wasn't that long ago: really only since the mid-1940s did we go for auto-centric supermarkets filled with chemical-infused food-like products from thousands of miles away.

we need to re-localize our economy, and the place to start is with food. we're so lucky in our part of the world to have a mild climate, rich soils, and plenty of rainfall. there's a vibrant food culture in portland and vicinity, and i'm not talking about restaurants. it's so easy and fun to get involved: start with shopping at the co-ops, farmer's markets (people's has a year-round one), and even new seasons (choose from their locally-grown labels); join a community supported agriculture farm; invest in local food producers; grow and preserve your own! it really is fun.

sorry to say, but whole foods is not a good place

Flora, if you think I'm going to stop eating things that you can't grow around here, you are mistaken. No oranges, ever? No bananas, ever? Tomatoes one month out of the year? How dreadful.

I'm all for buying local, but one of you preachers needs to come up with a sensible and realistic way that the average person can actually follow.

join a community supported agriculture farm

This is emblematic of the la-la land character of your message.

My family eats very local for a couple of months each year. We grow corn, beans, tomatoes, onions, squash, etc in our garden during the summer but that only lasts from July to September and then it is back to the supermarket.

We're lucky to live in one of the most fertile places around but even here you can't live on fresh local produce for more than a fraction of the year.

Just keep repeating many times "just eat local" and maybe we can, maybe not.

We seem to live on words around here and not common sense.

I grew up on a farm and have a little common sense. Yes we kept the carrots in the ground through end of January before they became woody, but most of the other forty some garden edibles lasted a month or so. But there was always mom's canning.

Bought a can of Snows Minced Clams at Fred Meyer: $2.39 (had a buy one get one free coupon). Bought a can of Snows Minced Clams at Winco: .98 cents. Bought a cat litter scoop at Petco for $3.98 / exact same cat litter scoop at Winco for .78 cents. You really can save a lot of money shopping at Winco if you're a smart shopper. I shop both at New Seasons and Winco and they really couldn't be more different worlds. I like that I feel comfortable in both (though I do feel a little more like I fit in at Winco).

Flora, if you think I'm going to stop eating things that you can't grow around here, you are mistaken. No oranges, ever? No bananas, ever? Tomatoes one month out of the year? How dreadful.

You don't have to be absolutist about buying local; small steps in that direction help create a more vibrant local market AND result in far better food. I buy bananas and oranges, sure. But the corporate agri-businesses have effectively marketed this idea that you shouldn't ever have to be without your favorite produce. Never mind that most of it sucks. Need a bright red pepper in January? Fly one in from Chile! Want some green beans in February? Mexico has what you need! And tomatoes? You can get them year round, but I challenge you to find a single one from a supermarket that is worth eating. (Mario Batali has been asked if you can substitute fresh tomatoes in his sauces that call for canned, and he asks why would you? If you're in the 4-6 weeks when tomatoes are fresh, just slice them and eat them.)

Ever since we started eating seasonally and trying to eat locally, I get so much more pleasure out of food. We look forward to the spring greens, late spring strawberries, the berries of mid-summer, the peaches, tomatoes, and corn of late summer, the fall beans and apples, the winter squash and kale, the pasta, soups and stews through January and February until the greens come around again.

People often wonder why food seemed to taste better when they were younger. There are two reasons: most families only ate things that were in season, and their food came from Farmer Joe down the road.


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