Tuesday 16 December 2014

Ask The Tight Fist: Sharing Food For a Group Trip

Eggs for All!

Hi Tight Fist,

I am going on a trip with a group of friends. We'll be renting a cabin and hanging out for a few days. The inevitable question arises, how do we divide up food purchasing? It seems that any solution leaves someone feeling ripped off. What is the best policy to suggest? I tend to lean toward anarchic self-organizing principles as a rule, so potluck?


Dear Potunlucky,

This is certainly a difficult situation. The problem is that undoubtedly, your cabin buddies do not know how to adhere to Tight Fist principles. But how can you remove yourself from that culture without looking like a cheap mooch?

Well, I see two possible solutions. If the group wants to do a bulk purchase of food/drink that everyone shares, just take charge and do the purchasing yourself. This allows you control over that amount that is spent per person, and you can ensure that the shopping is done efficiently. But this solution is kind of annoying- it requires you doing all the shopping, which sucks.

The second solution is along the lines you proposed above: every man for himself. But you don't want to be in a position where everyone is trying to cook different meals- groups meals are both nice and efficient. So instead, you can volunteer for a couple of meals, and hope that others do the same. 

Now, we are working under the assume that others in your group are going to want to spend more than you. So how do you make sure you don't come off looking like a cheapskate? The key is to make sure that your food offerings are of high quality, even if they are easy on the wallet. Any Tight Fister knows it's easy to make great meals on the cheap. (Pancakes and eggs are a great idea, especially if you happen to know someone with chickens who is always looking to give away eggs...) For drinks, you could make a nice cocktail with an inexpensive bottle of booze, instead of shelling out for the 20-yr old scotch. 

Happy Camping!

Friday 12 December 2014

Tight Fist Tip #52: The Supermarket Bulk Produce Scam

Walking into the produce section of a supermarket, you have a lot of options. But usually the choices are pretty straighforward: should I buy broccoli or cucumber? Do these nectarines look good. Etc? But there is one scam that you need to watch out for: the old "prepackage mark-up". For instance, say you wanted to buy some carrots. Well, mere feet away you'd be presented with two options:

Putting Things into a Bag is Soooo Hard

Which one should you get? (Note that these are both store brand, so probably literally came out of the same field.) Well, without looking at the prices, any reasonable person would probably think that if you want to eat a lot of carrots, you should buy the bagged one, since buying in bulk is generally cheaper (my last post not withstanding). And if you don't want a lot, it's probably better to buy the loose ones, so you don't waste money on spoiled carrots. But let's take a look at the prices: the loose carrots cost $.79/lb, and the bag of carrots costs $1.69 for a bag. And the bag weighs...1 pound.

This is where minds should start exploding. That's right, the same goddamn carrots sit two feet apart in the supermarket, with one option MORE THAN TWICE AS EXPENSIVE as the other. And not to mention not only is the loose option cheaper, but it allows more choice as the buyer can buy exactly the amount that they need. How the hell do those bagged carrots survive as a product?? Well, we all know that normal shoppers are idiots, but the fine readers of this blog do not have to fall this trap.

Now let's look at an example that is even more mind-boggling. In the potato display below, they literally sat the packaged potatoes in the middle of the loose ones. It isn't so clear from the picture, but the packaged potatoes cost $2.99 for 2 lb, while the loose ones cost $.99/lb. Ok math geniuses, which one is cheaper? Yes once again, the incredible strain of having to choose how many potatoes to buy allows you to buy potatoes at 2/3 the price of the packaged ones.

Although it's not shown in the picture, the potato situation was even worse. Just out of range, are little bags with 4 of the loose potatoes, simply pre-bagged for your convenience. So even if for some reason you are too brain-dead to choose a number of potatoes on your own, you can still take the cheaper option.

Proof that Supermarkets Think Their Customers are Idiots.

And OK, just to belabor the point, here is one more example:

Ewww! Dirty Shroom Slime on My Fingers!

The packaged mushrooms are $6/lb, while the loose ones are $4/lb. And just in case you think that the X-ed out "normal" price of $8.99/lb on loose mushrooms means these are on sale, that's just laughable. Crossing out fake high prices is another favorite trick of supermarkets. 

Now, this is a rule of thumb and is not true 100% of the time- it's always good to check the prices. Specifically, the big bulk bags of apples or onions are generally cheaper on a per-pound basis than the loose ones. But mushrooms almost never are. Happy shopping, Tight Fisters!

Friday 5 December 2014

Tight Fist Tip #51: Supermarket Multi-buy Scam

Welcome to the first of a 3-part series on efficient shopping at the supermarket.

If you've been to the supermarket lately, you've surely noticed a multitude of so-called "specials": 10/$10.00! 4/$5.00!  For instance, check out the below price tag for avocados at a local Safeway:

Guacamole or Nothing!

This is a ridiculous price tag on many levels, but let's abstract from the "club price" nonsense. The tag says in REALLY BIG letters that the avocados are four for $5, and in really small letters, it "clarifies" that they cost $1.25 each. Based on this, many people dutifully grab 4 four avocados, and then have to make a big bowl of guacamole or risk having their delicious avocados wither and spoil. 

But this crap is all JUST A SCAM. What's the price if you just buy 1 avocado? Well, it's just $1.25. The 4/$5.00 sign is meant to mislead people into thinking they need to buy four to get some kind of special price. (Or if you want to be a bit more charitable towards the supermarket, you could call it a "nudge".) But in any case, it's a scam to try to trick people into buying more stuff. Prominently displaying the unit price would clearly be more useful to shoppers. 

Now, you might notice that in the lower-right corner is a note explaining that the unit price is indeed $1.25. But again, it's unclear to the uninitiated whether this price can only be obtained by buying 4. But the inclusion of the unit price does not give any additional information. Consider the example below, where there is no unit price. 

What the Fuck am I Going to Do with 10 Cans of Sardines?

Again, one can of sardines is just $1.00. The whole 10/10 thing is just some misleading bullshit.

The only time that multi-buys are real is when a price tag says "Buy one, get one Free", "Single Item Costs XX", or something like that. 

Just in case you don't believe me, here is the receipt below from when I bought exactly what I needed: one avocado and one can of sardines. Damn good sandwich.