I love reading other people's food blogs. Every day I add a handful of new recipes to my mental collection, garner little tidbits to make my favorite meals even better (vegetables in oatmeal! Who'd-a-thunk?), and get a taste of everyday life in exotic locales like Boston, Singapore, Osaka, and Great Britain.
There is one aspect of others blogs, though, that makes me feel a little left out: popular product placements. Authors don't purposely push things, but they often sing the praises of brand-new loves that feed the wildfire of hype. I can't remember a single day since I started blogging that I wasn't bombarded with images of POM juices, Chobani yogurt, Barney Butter or Larabars.
I wrote on Saturday about how my boyfriend and I like to save money on food by making things like pizza and bread from scratch. Lately I've been especially frugal at the grocery store because I want to take a trip to Japan next year. The aforementioned boyfriend has decreed that we're not allowed to buy plane tickets if, at the projected time of departure, the expenses will exceed half of the total in my bank account. I think that's a pretty arbitrary measure--it would have made more sense if he had said the remainder in savings had to equal the income I will lose for a year by starting graduate school--but no matter. The end result is the same: I have to pass on the products whose mouthwatering photos grace the pages of my fellow bloggers, or risk chipping away at my precious Tokyo funds. Here are some particularly popular foodstuffs I can't afford:
These pomegranate juices have crept their way into smoothie and tropical oatmeal recipes throughout the blogosphere. The company sneakily sends bottles of iced coffee and other flavors to authors for review. Those lucky ducks; they get to bypass the $3.99 for a 16oz bottle at my local Kroger. Sixteen fluid ounces is approximately two cups, so that's like paying the same for a single cup of this stuff as I do for a gallon of Ocean Spray!
I started this blog with a Tribute to Yogurt, in which I exalted in the buried treasure of greek-style yogurt. It isn't so buried anymore, thanks to the explosion in sales of this creamy fruit-on-the-bottom brand. The protein-rich snacks aren't terribly expensive at $1.19 for a 6oz cup. Generally affordable, but when you consider that for less than $6 I can strain 64oz. of plain non-fat Dannon and mix with fruit preserves for the equivalent of 6-8 of those Chobani cups, it's a bit of a rip-off.
Barbara's Bakery Puffins
Chobani cups are often pictured topped with this Cap'n Crunch look-alike. Wheat-free and low-fat, heralds the box. At $4.39 for an 11oz box, a few weeks of these puppies could lower the numbers on both my bathroom scale and my bank statement. Other flavors, like cinnamon, cost the same for 12oz, but when I'm used to paying $2 for an enormous box of bran flakes, that's still a bit much for me to swallow.
An aisle down from the organic Puffins I found Larabars, nestled in the sea of energetically decorated plastic encompassing "energy" and meal replacement bars (energy meaning, of course, sugarsugarsugar). Individually wrapped bars are ridiculously priced in general, so when I saw the "$1.49 each" on the open-topped box I wasn't surprised. But when I looked inside, I was taken aback: like Hollywood celebrities, the bars look voluptuous on screen but are tiny in real life. Each Larabar is 1.6oz. Yes, those are a healthy nut-and-fruit-only 1.6oz, but the neighboring Clif bars were 2.4oz and selling 10 for $10. I'd rather stick some walnut pieces together with pureed dates myself, thanks.
My Kroger didn't carry Barney Butter, so I can't make any data-supported snarky comments about it. But I did pass by the nut butters for kicks and giggles, to see how much the haloed non-peanut butters cost in comparison to your generic Skippy. I don't usually hover on the brink of heart attacks, but the price tag on Earth Balance Almond Butter almost pushed me over it: $11.49. MaraNatha was a bit more reasonable at $9.39, but still cost just as much as the enormous bag of frozen Talapia fillets I picked up in the Seafood section.
I don't object to paying more for quality foods. It's much better to savor a fantastic square of 70% Lindt than it is to endlessly reach for cheap kisses in search of satiety. But for some of these products, especially the POM and Larabars, I think the ratio of cost:quality has been blown way out of proportion.