home ec for the spoiled brat

Giving a bare nod to The Food Stamp Challenge whilst waxing profane about Megachain shopping got me thinking.  Not so much about taking that challenge – again, BTDT, couldn’t afford the t-shirt.  But the relativity of Home Economics – it’s a value proposition.

You have a general idea of what you want to eat; what you want to spend over the course of a week (or month); a tipping point between the cost and quality of items; and the lengths to which you will go in pursuit of obtaining those items.  From that point, home economics is about maximizing value, so as to best balance the use of finite resources (time, money).

I use grocery delivery because I want to save time for other things more than I want to save money.  That choice isn’t available to a large part of the population of the United States, and certainly not available to 97% plus of the inhabitants on earth.  I recognize that, so when I talk about some facets of home economics, mentally appending “for the spoiled brat” is absolutely appropriate.

When I talk about bread, it’s home ec without qualification.  Show me a loaf of bread that you usually buy, and I will show you how to make a similar loaf at home for a lower per-unit cost, with minimal equipment that can be found at a thrift shop.  Vons charges $1.09 for 16 oz of basic sandwich loaf ($0.0681/oz).  I made a 24 oz sandwich loaf yesterday for $1.36 ($0.0567/oz) using King Arthur flour and organic milk – a 16.7% cost savings.  I can cut the cost to $0.0317/oz using Safeway flour ($6.09/10 lb) and milk ($3.69/gallon), and save a further $0.004/oz omitting the milk altogether, but that’s where the value proposition comes in.  Why invest time to save money, if the end result tastes like the shit you can obtain at twice the price but with minimal time and effort?

(Yes, you can make that sandwich loaf with a bowl, a spoon and a baking sheet, shaped as a boule or batard.  Add a plastic tub from the dollar store, scale up to mix multiple loaves at a time, let time bear the brunt of the work, and you can have fresh, quality sandwich bread and rolls on demand rather than cheap, shitty, pre-sliced loaves.)

But I digress – back to being a spoiled brat.

Grocery delivery.  I’ve used Vons regularly in the past, Amazon Fresh now.  The products offered through AF have a certain target demographic – there are no generic versions of products to be found.  It’s not targeting those who are frequent users (by necessity or desire) of coupons, either.  (AF has them, but not the kinds of deals that can be found by going through a stack of Sunday papers, websites, and market circulars weekly.)  If I tended to buy generic versions of products, I hypothesize that AF would not be a good choice for me.  (Then again, I can get an organic pint of Half & Half through AF for $0.20 less than a non-organic pint at Vons; this hypothesis is worth investigating.)  If I were a frequent user of coupons, AF would not be on my vendor list, either. 

I’m not looking to minimize my grocery bill – like a spoiled brat, I want what I want, when I want it.  Meanwhile, the home ec geek in me wants what I want for a reasonable price.  It’s on that basis that I compare Vons and Amazon Fresh.   In a head-to-head matchup of products and quantities I usually buy, AF costs $4.70 (4%) more on about $120 worth of product.  Vons wins.

So where’s the value proposition, which caused me to switch to AF?  In the delivery.

I have been scheduling a delivery about every 4 days, spending an average of $104.33 per delivery.  In the very best case scenario for Vons, I’d schedule a weekly delivery to get to the $150 spend minimum for the $9.95 delivery fee, and save a further $6.00 picking a four-hour window – $205.40/year for Vons delivery, versus $299/year for Amazon Fresh.

But I’ve been an Amazon Prime member since it was first offered, and will continue to be whether I use Vons or Amazon Fresh for grocery delivery.  Taking that into account, Amazon Fresh only costs $200/year.  If I don’t change my delivery patterns to suit Vons, it’s a no-brainer.  My average spend and delivery frequency would cost $12.95/per for Vons to deliver, $6.95 if I stuck to the four-hour window.  That’s $634.19/year; using my $104.33 average spend at AF and factoring in the 4% savings shopping at Vons, AF still comes out $53.39 ahead over the year.

In addition to the $53.39 savings, I get access to an excellent local butcher and far greater freedom in scheduling (I don’t have to be home; I can schedule deliveries to be waiting for me when I wake up, or when I get home from work.)  When it comes to being a spoiled brat, Amazon Fresh is a better deal.

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