Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Good Deal Food Shopping

It's been fun going around to the variety of markets here shopping for my food staples.  Although I'm new to living in Oregon, I've spent a bunch of time vacationing here so I'm very familiar with the area already.  The big difference is that this time I'm looking closely at prices.  Since there is a ton of competition as far as selling food goes, a lot of good deals are to be found.  I suppose that's what happens when you have so many people living together. 
An aside here:  I'm overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people and traffic.  I knew, of course, what it was like, but this time I'm not going home to a small town where I know almost everybody.  It reminds me of the movie Crocodile Dundee from the 80's when Dundee learns there are 8 million people all living together in NY City and says something like 'this must be the friendliest place on earth!'  
In Aspen I shopped where I worked and bought a little food every day or every other day to stick in my backpack on the way home.  I also purchased my meat from ranchers in bulk.  It's quite a change up having to drive to the store a few times a week.  Anyway, a few quick impressions before I tell you about the deal I stumbled upon.  First, prices in general are way cheaper here.  There are big discount stores and some of them have items that you would only have found in 'natural' stores a few years ago.  Things like Kerrygold cheese and greek yogurt.  Second, there is no sales tax in this state.  If an item is $9.99, that's the amount you owe when you pay at the register.  I had a 10% employee discount at the store I worked at and that BARELY covered the state and county sales tax.  Scary.  

The best price I've found on ground grass-fed beef here is in Trader Joe's which has it at $5.99/lb for the frozen brick (Angus no less).  At most other places it's at least $6.99/lb for frozen and even more for fresh.  In my mind, $5.99 is a very good price.  I paid more in Aspen even when I bough it in bulk quantities from local ranchers.  And buffalo was even more spendy.  One evening my bro and I were Xmas shopping and he asked if I wanted to go into another grocery store that was in the strip mall we were at.  My exact words were 'Sure, I always like going into grocery stores'.  Now, I've been to this place's sister store and know that it is of the higher end variety.  That is to say, if one is looking to save money, you wouldn't be shopping there.  So imagine my surprise when I was perusing the meat section and came across fresh ground grass-fed beef on a buy one get one free deal.  Their everyday price was $7.99/lb for that item, so the discount put it at 4 bucks a pound.  As you can guess, I was a little skeptical.  There was a hand written sign with ubiquitous 'buy one get one free' stickers on the packages.  Not being one to pass on a good deal I first purchased 6 units and brought them home where I then looked the company up online to see if they were putting out a legit grass-fed product.  Check on that one (from the PNW too).  Next, I had some for dinner to see if it tasted good.  Another check.  Then I put the rest in the ice box to see if it froze well.  Bam ... good to go.  The finale of the story involves me going back there multiple times, sometimes twice a day, to stock up.  I stuck the product I purchased in the freezer and when it was solid I pulled it out of the plastic tray and sealed it in a smaller bag.  I wound up purchasing 60 units in total!  The meat manager there must have thought his bogo sale was going pretty gangbusters.  Heck, on the third day he almost doubled the amount of space he devoted to the sale (he could only fit about 14 out at once in the beginning).  

I suppose I could have asked the meat manager to package me up a bunch at the sale price and would have only had to come in one more time, BUT, I was worried he was going to figure out that he was essentially giving that stuff away if he noticed one person was completely pimping out their freezer with it.  Who knows, perhaps they were sitting on a bunch and figured it was better to get rid of it at cost than to lose it.  However, it sure doesn't seem like old product to me and I'm not exactly a rookie when it comes to consuming grass-fed ground beef.

Takes after his crazy uncle
The lesson here is to be on the lookout for good deals.  Even on high quality food.  Deals and Aspen are not synonymous so this is all a bit new to me.  

It's also strange for me to not be working during the holidays (or at all right now)  I worked my butt off this time of year in that small mountain town. 

Happy Holidays to everyone and best wishes for 2014!

PS One of the many perks of living with family is stuff like finding selfies of your nephew on your phone with his tongue sticking out.  Stinker!


Unknown said...

i made friends with my local rancher/beef distributor who knows the ins and outs of the beef business. his farm is near the same farm as whole foods' in british columbia.

he mentioned to me that the only way trader joe's can sell grass-fed beef at $6/lb is if they are buying up sick cows at auction. he just said there is no possible way someone could sell at this low price if there wasn't something funny going on. i guess you have to know the economics of raising, butchering, transporting, and marketing the product in order for that to make sense. just spreading the word.

i also know that the whole foods folks feed their cattle stuff other than grass in the winter. apparently, you can skirt some rules/laws when grass becomes scarce in the winter.

Aaron said...

Yes, buyers beware. The more people talking about this stuff, the better informed decisions we all can make.

We did not have Trader Joe's in Colorado so I'll take a peek to see if I can find some info on their beef. $6/lb for grass-fed GROUND beef isn't completely out of the ball park though. About 5 years ago when I started buying this stuff, that was the same price ranchers in my area were charging. I think some of the determining factor is how much of the more expensive cuts they're able to sell as well.

As far as feeding animals corn or soy in the winter months when grass and straw run out, I'm not going to fret about that too much ... unless I start to hear some ranches are abusing that. This does bring up the question of should there be different labels for purely grass-fed animals raised in warmer climates. Doesn't seem fair to them if other farms can use cheaper feed and still label grass-fed. This very much reminds me of the whole 'what is the definition of organic' dealio. And in a broader brush stroke this rings of larger companies seeing dollar signs in a niche market, then coming in and bending the rules to make as much profit as possible. This practice, of course, extends way beyond food.

Ah well, let's do the best we can!

The Primalist said...

Merry Christmas / Happy New Year!

to Unknown: What's this about Whole Foods' farm in BC?

I love visiting grocery stores too. Especially whenever I visit the US. I can happily just wander the isles of WF, checking out different products.

And I love that PDX doesn't have tax. I try to go (clothes) shopping there at least once a year.

And I know you're not the biggest "foodies", but some of the best restaurants I have ever eaten in were in PDX. Most notably, Le Pigeon and Ox.

Also, PDX is such a foodie town, that there's all sorts of great finds / foodie adventures. I was highly impressed by the farmer's market by the university - best farmer's market I've been to by far, including the one in SFO.

Have fun! :)

Aaron said...

Happy Holidays to you as well!

I just picked up 78oz of Nutiva coconut oil at Costco for $19.99. I handed them a twenty and they gave me one cent back. That's a steal of a deal.

Mostly, no, I'm not a foodie. But I thoroughly enjoyed attending several foodie parties in Aspen with wonderful menus and wine hosted by very well traveled people. I also really got into watching the food network with the likes of Alton Brown, Bourdain, Zimmern, and even Triple D.

My big hang up is going out to eat. I have a very hard time spending money on myself in that way. Even for really good food. Oh well, I guess I just need to find some good parties to attend here!

I'll have to look into that farmers market when the season comes around. I've been to 3 in the area (visiting previously), one of which is very good.