Apr 29, 2010

Saving in the Produce Aisle (Carole)

As The Coupon Mom says, "I don't know when we all got too busy to wash lettuce."

I don't think anyone reading this blog can be so young that you cannot remember the days before pre-packaged salad greens took over the lettuce section.  If you are this young, take my word for it, those days did exist.  And they weren't that bad.  I admit that I, on occasion, do buy a Caesar's Salad Kit.  But for the most part I prefer to buy my own head of lettuce, saute up some homemade croutons, sprinkle some parmesan cheese and add a dollop or two of caesar's dressing.  Amazingly, it's not that much more work.  Maybe 10 extra minutes.

A salad kit at my store costs about $3.50 cents.  It serves 3 people and turns all slimy and disgusting immediately after the meal.  Even if I haven't mixed all of the greens into the salad, those bagged extra lettuce leaves are history before morning.  Have you noticed this too?  I'm not sure what special chemical they put inside that sealed plastic bag to keep the lettuce fresh, but as soon as it's opened, forget it.  The magic is over.

On the other hand, an entire head of romaine lettuce (unwashed and uncut) costs less than $2.00.  This one head, if properly washed, dried and stored in the fridge (taking less than 5 minutes) will last -- all fresh and crispy -- for nearly 2 weeks.    And it will make a HUGE caesar's salad that would feed a family of 10!  The croutons are almost free since I use stale bread that otherwise would be thrown out, and the cheese and dressing are bought on sale for a couple of dollars.  The entire super-duper, large salad costs about $4.  If, however, I make a salad the same size as the kit, the cost is about $1.

This kind of vegetable mark-up is becoming very common.  The Coupon Mom says in her great book, The Coupon Mom's Guide to Cutting Your Grocery Bills in Half, that she "saved $6.32 by washing [her] lettuce instead of buying the equivalent amount . . . of washed romaine.  Some quick calculations show that works out to a "salary" of $76 per hour, or $3,040 per week, or more than $158,000 per year."  (pg 140)  That's a lot of money to have someone else wash your lettuce!

These kinds of savings are true of all pre-prepared fruits and vegetables like apple slices, cut-up melon, celery sticks, pre-cut strawberries and those cute little peeled baby carrots versus the regular pulled-right-out-of-the-ground carrots.  Do we even remember what those old fashioned kind of carrots look like??  (Have you kids ever seen one?)  If you've forgotten, you might want to watch an old Bugs Bunny cartoon to refresh your memory!


Melanie said...

I'm right with you on the lettuce, but I swear that the baby carrots taste different (better) than whole carrots.

PS: Thanks for the saving for long and short term goal post the other day. It was very clear and helpful.

Gingerella said...

I'll have to experiment again with washing and drying my own salad; the one time I tried it it took forever (I don't have a salad spinner and the instructions I was following said I had to separate each individual leaf, wash it, dry it, and store it between papertowels untorn. Way too labor intensive for me)
Plus, a whole head is usually more lettuce than DH and I can get through before we're sick of eating salads for awhile, lol.

Carole said...

Even though I posted a You Tube video about washing lettuce, I don't exactly do it like this woman does. I fill up my sink with cold water and tear off all the lettuce leaves and just dump them in there to clean them off. I swish them around or just let them sit for awhile if I'm busy with something else. Then I move them straight from the sink to my salad spinner. After I spin them, I put them into a plastic grocery bag, tie it up and put it in the fridge. No paper towels or patting them dry. They last about 2 weeks this way. The whole process takes less than 5 minutes. A salad spinner might be worth $7. Split a head of lettuce with a nice neighbor, so you don't get overwhelmed by salad every night.

Rhiannon said...

I'm not a huge fan of Rachael Ray, but I do love her suggestion that you wash/dry/cut up all your vegetables after you return from the grocery store/farmers market each week. Then, when you're ready to use it, it's all ready to go.