Saturday, March 26, 2016

Eskimos

The freezer section at your local supermarket.   The folks who shop here exclusively are called "Eskimos" in grocery store slang.


You see all kinds at the grocery store.  Some folks come to the register in their electric scooters with sixteen bottles of orange soda and huge bags of cheese-flavored popcorn.   How they live as long as they do is beyond me.

Still others shop exclusively in the frozen food aisle - buying prepared meals to be thawed and microwaved at home.  Some folks fill their carts with nothing but prepared frozen entrees.   Grocery insiders call them "Eskimos" as they spend all their time in the freezer section.

Are there bargains in the freezer section?   Perhaps, but not as great a bargain as making food by yourself.  However, for single people and those who can't cook, the temptation is pretty strong.   Making an entire meal for yourself is not only time-consuming, but creates a lot of work in terms of dishes to wash and the like - as one reader noted.

As I noted in an earlier posting, the cost of making a basic egg sandwich meal, with coffee and hash browns, is about 92 cents at home.  This does require you own some coffee-making device, dirty a pan or two, and spend about 10-20 minutes in the kitchen every morning.

We recently saw, in the frozen section, new products by Morningstar Farms, which is a division of Kelloggs.  We have used their "vegetarian" sausage patties in the past only because they were a lot less hassle (and mess) that frying real sausage patties in a pan, particularly in the camper.  While in the Eskimo aisle to get them, we saw that Morningstar Farms also sold pre-made breakfast sandwiches for about $5.98 for four, or about $1.50 apiece.

This begs the question - are prepared meals a good deal?   To begin with, I will not address the whole "vegetarian" thing involving a sandwich which includes a real egg.  Some vegetarians claim that eggs are "dairy" but I hold that they are simply mono-cellular chicken or aborted chicken fetuses.   But getting political about the food you eat is idiotic anyway.  We are omnivores, get over it.

But at $1.50 apiece, is this a bargain?   Well, no, not really.   As I noted in my earlier posting, for about 92 cents you can make a breakfast sandwich, hash browns and coffee.  If you just want the sandwich, it is about 50 cents, or about 1/3 the cost of buying the pre-made frozen variety.

And of course, there is the quality factor.  Something you microwave for a few minutes, right out of the freezer, isn't going to taste very good and will have an odd texture.  Microwaves and eggs don't mix well.

To be sure, there are cheaper varieties.  The Jimmy Dean sausage croissant sells for $8.98 for 8 (the "family pack"), which comes down to about $1.12 per sandwich, or still more than double the made-at-home variety.   For a single person the savings may be only $227 a year (really?  That much?) but for two or three people, the costs add up.  For a family of four, you are talking about nearly $1000 a year - and all for the sake of convenience.

This is not to say that frozen entrees are something to be avoided.   They can be a handy way of having something on hand when you are working late and don't have time to cook.  They are still about half the cost (or less) than eating at a restaurant.

But to go full Eskimo?   Probably not a value proposition, nor a healthy one.

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