Sunday, July 11, 2010

Only in America

I am a thrifty Yankee, which is just my fancy way of saying that I like saving money. Don't get me wrong -- I love SPENDING money (as my checking account balance will tell you). Spending that money, though, brings an even greater thrill to me if I am saving in the process -- getting a bargain, using a coupon, that sort of thing. It is not unusual to find me spending a Saturday going to multiple grocery stores to take advantage of the sales each one offers. (And yes, I realize I'm probably blowing any savings in gas used, but hey! Don't rain on my parade!) My friends often tease me that any display of a new item is usually followed by a reporting of where I got it and how much I saved on it. There are times, though, when I draw the line.

I encountered just such a line Friday afternoon. I was at my local Hy-Vee taking advantage of an amazing meat sale they were having. (All the meat and cheese you could fit in a bag -- 15% off. I bought roughly 20 meals worth of meat for $50 and that $50 included buying a pint of raspberries, a pint of blueberries, curry powder, and seasoned salt called for in a recipe I have planned for later this week -- and the thrifty Yankee in me knows that Hy-Vee is the BEST place to buy spices for a reasonable price!) I stocked up on pork chops, steaks, and some organic chicken breasts.

As I headed towards the front, I happened to notice that there was a coupon on the front of the chicken announcing $1 off. My heart skipped a beat -- not only was I saving 15%, but now I could save yet another couple dollars? SWEET! Well, it was sweet until I looked closer at the coupon, and that's when I literally laughed out loud and marveled at the insanity of food consumption in our country.

Only in America, you see, would you be able to save a dollar off organic chicken . . . IF . . . you buy . . . a box of Velveeta shells and cheese.

Yes, the coupon was essentially encouraging you (and giving you a pretty nice little incentive) to pair this delicious, nutritious, healthy chicken breast with what is probably the most processed brand of macaroni and cheese you can get. In other words, be healthy but don't go crazy there!

It reminded me of a conversation my friend Danielle and I have had before. Both of us make concerted efforts to eat healthier and to buy healthy, nutritious foods. We often bond over the kind of smug self-satisfaction we both feel at the grocery store when we're loading up the conveyor belt with fruits and vegetables and healthy food rather than all sorts of junky, unhealthy foods like chips and candy. (Okay, yes, I still buy chips, but I go for fat free Pringles and have finally reached a point where I can make one tube last more than a week rather than one sitting!) Danielle says that she always feels like she's "sticking it to the man" in those moments.

Friday, it became clear that the man was "sticking it" back. Clearly, the producers of less-than-healthy foods are not going to take it sitting down when people opt to eschew their foods for better options. The Velveeta people made their appeal in the way most likely to get them some success -- offering money off. Organic chicken breasts are not cheap. The price can often be a bit prohibitive to people on a budget. Saving a dollar makes the cost much more appealing -- and closer in price to non-organic breasts. So let's "reward" them for both buying organic AND buying processed junk at the same time. People can leave the store feeling like they've done their part for the earth, for their health, and for their wallets, and the makers of Velveeta keep injecting their nastiness into American diets. Win-win.

I'm onto you, though, Mr. Man. I did NOT buy Velveeta Shells and Cheese, but I did buy plenty of organic chicken and other healthy foods. Keep it coming, though, Mr. Man. I welcome your challenges to my fortitude as well as your appeals to my thriftiness. Don't forget, though, that while I am a thrifty Yankee, I'm also a stubborn Irish girl, and this will is hard to shake, pal!


Danielle Mari said...

RIGHT ON!!! I just heard a story about this same phenomenon (specifically how the poorer you are in the country, the more likely you are to be fat). STICK IT!

Mel said...

It's a heckuva lot easier to load up on mac and cheese than vegetables. I have to give props to Aldi's -- they have a LOT of healthy foods for super cheap -- like whole wheat pasta and veggies. :)

NICKI said...

I'm heading to the grocery store now, thanks for the inspiration! (I am, for some reason, suspicious of discounted meat. Not that I like paying full price but...I often wonder why the sale??)