Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's Not Quite Time for Stone Soup

chickenImage via Flicker

With all this talk about the recession it’s not surprising that websites like have started becoming popular, even as a joke. I’m not suggesting anything quite as radical as boiled shoe leather, but thinking about where and how people used to get their food can give you some great ideas for ways to save money now.

Butchers are a dying breed in America today. As with many local businesses, butchers have become overwhelmed by giant box stores and grocery mega-marts. However, not only can butchers compete with the prices of your major grocery store, they often knock them out of the park. Take the time to compare prices—you can feel good about supporting local business and you’ll save a couple bucks along the way.

Yesterday at my local butcher I bought a whole chicken and half a pound of boneless chicken tenders for $7.01, plus tax.

Almost everywhere the cheapest way to buy chicken is as a whole, uncut bird. And so the whole chicken I bought wasn’t a deal; it was the exact same price per pound ($1.49) as most store brand chickens. But since it’s the same price at either store, the math, for me, is simple. Same price + convenience + supporting a small business = Purchase.

But the tenders! They were a steal. At the butcher I paid only $2.49 lb., while at the grocery store I would have shelled out $6.49 lb.

I’m also able to buy more economically at the butcher, with much less food and packaging waste. I can order half a pound if I don’t need a pound, while at the grocery store all the meat comes in pre-packaged, Styrofoam wrapped lots that are much more than one person (me) needs.

A butcher can normally tell you exactly where the chicken you are purchasing came from, and chances are it will be from much closer than the chickens shipped by the hundreds into your major chain groceries. Now, as Mother Jones recently discussed, local does not mean more sustainable; however, it can mean fresher. Don’t be afraid to talk to the people behind the counter and find out if you like the way they do business.

When you’re living on a budget don’t count out small businesses. Sometimes they’ll surprise you. Also, if you’re in the mood for some angry money talk, has a great article on small businesses and the recession.

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Mendacious Being said...

You'd think eating less meat would be a good way to save money. But I can't figure out why fake meat (usually made from wheat gluten or soy) and tofu seem to be more expensive than everyday meats like ground beef and chicken. Tofu's usually $1.00 to $2.00 for 12oz. The package in my fridge is $1.49. How can it be more expensive to process beans and grains than to process animals? Or is it that tofu et al. are considered health foods, i.e., chic specialty foods?

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