Friday, January 23, 2009

Money Saving Tips? Maybe

Even Epicurious is getting in the frugal bandwagon. Their top-10 money saving ingredients is both obvious and limiting, largely indicative of the diet that already puts poor people at risk for obesity and diabetes.

Here's the list:

  • Potatoes - Duh, everybody knows it's cheap.
  • Rice - See potatoes
  • Pasta - Okay, we get it - load up on raw carbs. Diabetes takes years to develop.
  • Chicken - Sure it's cheap, as long as you don't buy white meat trimmed tenderloins. You might as well pay someone to chew it for you at that point.
  • Beans - Duh, but with a better glycemic index. One note though - every time I get dried beans from the supermarket - usually Goya brand - they never get soft after hours of cooking, probably because they are too old. Perhaps I am just the only person who buys them. I have had much better luck with the ones from the discount produce store that appear to be packaged locally.
  • Apples - They quote $1.50/lb for Red Delicious, but the recipes they list call for more expensive apples that are actually edible and might stand up to cooking something other than apple sauce. Red Delicious apples, bred for their unnaturally red skin rather than taste, represent everything that is wrong with the last 50 years of the American diet and food system. Supermarkets sell the better apples for $2.50/lb or more, but Trader Joe's has honeycrisps and other great varieties, $4 for a 3 lb bag.
  • Canned Tuna - Canned tuna, like Spam, is convenient but it's not actually all that cheap, especially considering a can of tuna is half water. Obviously Starkist paid to be listed in this list. But it is tasty, and you know you don't get enough mercury in your diet. Cheaper, however, is canned salmon. It's half the price of tuna by weight, and much lesswater. Some bones though, which they say you are supposed to just eat. I can't bring myself to do it though.
  • Eggs - Yup, eggs are cheap.
  • Cheese - Cheese is not all that cheap these days. $5/lb for cheddar is optimistic.
  • Flank Steak - Yum, flank steak, and also skirt steak, are delicious and one of the main reasons to visit Whole Paycheck (better if I ordered from a CSA, but I am lazy)

They are all fine ingredients, but they are mostly basic staples that can form the basis of expensive or cheap dishes. Better advice would be listing cheap nutritious vegetables that are a good value in winter, such as cabbage, broccoli, and squash in all its varieties.

One thing I did find interesting was that they got prices for these ingredients from the Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. The bureau seems to be finding good deals on dry beans, but $7.29/lb for flank steak is a little high - Whole Paycheck sells if for $6.

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