Sunday, August 13, 2006

Too Rich for My Blood

So, I walked out of a grocery store yesterday without buying any groceries. For the first time in my life, I walked out of a grocery store because it was too expensive.

On the way to the Trader Joe's that I usually go to when Jenn's out of town (when she's here, she drives us over to a different one. I, however, am carless, so I ride the train and take a long walk while carrying a big backpack), I noted that there was a Whole Foods. Since the Best Buy I was visiting was right next to the Whole Foods, I figured I'd pop inside the Whole Foods and save myself the three or four extra blocks to Trader Joe's. I figured shopping somewhere else would be a nice change.

Now, I knew Whole Foods was pricer that TJ's, but... I didn't realize just how much more pricy it was until I got to the substantial cheese section (oh! A substantial cheese section! I was so happy!)

It was an amazing cheese section. I recognized several chunks of Spanish cheeses - David sent me a great selection of these a couple months ago, and they were damn good, so I figured I'd pick up a couple more. I selected a hunk and turned it over.

It costs $13.99.

It's a testament to just how damn good that cheese was that I did actually consider buying it.

But I put it back.

The next one?

$10.99

For a hunk of cheese.

Well, I thought, screw that, I'll just get my regular mozzarella and go home.

Mozzarella?

$8.49. And it was half the size of what I usually get at TJ's.

It's $3.49 at TJ's.

And, it occured to me, standing there in the cheese aisle, that I was going to spend 2-3 times what I usually spend on groceries this week if I continued shopping. I have thousands of dollars in medical bills that I still owe. I've been working my ass off to get my finances together this year, after three years of angsting about it. I want to be able to move next year, and that's only going to happen if I stop being an idiot.

I went back through the store, replaced everything to their proper shelves, and walked to Trader Joe's.

It was a strange feeling, to empty a cart and leave the store because it was too expensive. It felt vaguely humiliating. I feel like I've worked really hard so that I can afford to go out, to live well, and the idea that I had to walk out of a *grocery* store of all things because it was too rich for me was just disconcerting.

At the same time, I can't afford to pay $13.49 for cheese.

Someday, maybe.

Not today.

8 comments so far. What are your thoughts?

Steph said...

Don't feel bad about not being able to afford Whole Foods--my in-laws (with their duel income) cannot always afford to shop there and they're adult-adults (as opposed to us) ;)
And, hey, if you can get just as good a product for half the price at TJ's, why spend the extra dough? You should not feel bad for being an informed and intellegent consumer.

Jackie M. said...

Heck, a quarter of the price! And the stuff at TJ's is every bit as good.

The kicker is, of course, that very little of that $13 cheese is going to get purchased before the sell-by date. And you know what happens to it then...

Miss Robyn said...

Oh my god- that Whole Foods is ridiculous. I try to go to Stanley's or the Wicker Park farmer's market (on sundays) for as many things as I can get away with, and get the rest from Trader Joes. After the contents for a caprese salad sandwich cost me more than 20 bucks, I'll never go back 

Posted by Miss Robyn

David Moles said...

There are luxury groceries, just like there are luxury clothes, luxury cars, and luxury office supplies.

(Jesus, Trader Joe's. I don't want to think about Trader Joe's right now. Frozen pizza over here is as much more expensive than Trader Joe's frozen pizza as imported Whole Foods cheese is than Trader Joe's cheese. And there are no frozen tamales anywhere.)

That Girl said...

Im not gonna link it cause Im lazy but there is a whole online forum devoted to Dumpster Diving for the truly frugal. DumpsterDiving.com i think.
So if it gets you down that you cannot overspend at Whole Foods you can always go to Traders Joe and think - to THOSE people I am hopelessly overspending and frivolous.
I hear ya tho. Ive been re-considering my grocery purchases in anticipation of finally getting my finances under control too.

evelyn said...

Can't comment on Whole Foods as such, but I will say - it seems quality cheese, considered a staple of daily life in most of Europe, is significantly over-priced in the English speaking world. Why did we fall for this idea that quality cheese is a luxury and that the cheap processed cheese from a supermarket is normal (and when you consider the quality - its actually overpriced too)

great gluttonous ian said...

I agree on the cheap cheese thing. Why pay money to do that to your tongue when dirt is free? Even my puppy agrees. Once Tessa ate some off the ground before I could stop her and then immediately had to lick her rear end to get rid of the taste. She's a classy dog.

There are only a couple things I ever bought at Whole Foods and they were all rare treats rather than staples: my favorite kind of coffee could only be found there, several rare microbrews when I really deserved a treat, and once in a while food from the deli when we got super savings coupons in the mail. I love deli food and theirs is good.

Roni said...

WF is only for special treats for us. Ella's bday cake was only about $20, so not that much more than a Jewel cake. But yeah, if we can get it at TJs, we do.  

Posted by Roni