One of the consequences of graduating and getting an apartment is supplying your own food – Which I actually enjoy! But it also means I have entered the complex maze of “which brand of x do I buy today?” Having done this for a few months, I have discovered some non-intuitive results:
Buying in bulk is not always cheaper
But, but… economies of scale! Yeah, that’s what I thought too. However, Walmart kindly provides a price per ounce, which is what you need to be looking at, and that price/ounce has led me to buy smaller containers of certain things. Also, sometimes the price will curve on you. For example, the 8 packs of yogurt are more expensive than the 4 packs, but if you get the bulk single container, that’s the cheapest by ounce. I’ve seen this too with pasta sauce and cereal, among other things.
The cheaper brand is often healthier
Wait… what? They’re trying to pay me to be healthy? Yep! I don’t have statistics for anything, all I know is I keep comparing brand x and brand y of something (beans, pasta sauce, vegetables, fried onions, cinnamon rolls, etc etc), and I keep picking the cheaper brand on the basis of nutritional value. Little things like an extra gram of fiber, more vitamins and minerals – or more of them, poly- and mono- unsaturated fats instead of saturated fat, lower sodium, you get the idea. I mean, I like eating healthy, but I don’t understand why the more expensive or “brand name” food providers haven’t caught on…
You don’t always get what you pay for
The graph of quality vs price seems to be logarithmic. In other words, you’re welcome to keep buying Ragu pasta sauce, but for less than $1 you could look forward to making pasta! But I didn’t notice the jump from Prego to Whole Foods’ fancy special sauce (which incidentally, was also less healthy), although admittedly, I did not try all 137 varieties… Also, can you really tell the difference between 2% and 3% fat for ground beef? I haven’t even tried 2%, because I can’t imagine there’s a real difference, although apparently it’s valued at something like $2.
I’ve learned a few other interesting things, like the milk in the back will stay fresh longer because it’s newer, but you probably already knew that, so I’ll stop here. The real point is, pay attention to the labels – occasionally they have useful information.