Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Eating really gross food on a budget

We've missed the national canned Spam boomlet at our house. The precooked canned pork shoulder product is a hard-times staple, The New York Times' Andrew Martin reports. I just haven't really cared for it much since a lowest-bidder version, packed two years before I was born, showed up in an Army field rations kit I got 40 years ago.

But Ms. KTnomics put Velveeta processed cheese on our grocery list this week for what may be the first time in all the years we've been married. Velveeta, if you aren't familiar with it, is made of vegetable oil, whey, seaweed extracts and other chemicals and stabilizers. Its distinctive taste has been compared to cheddar, though not always favorably.

"Don't sneer," she told me. Our favorite Jaarlsberg costs $4.56 a pound at Sam's Club. Our Price Chopper card and a manufacturer's coupon knock the normally similarly priced Velveeta down to below $3. Plus it's good in casseroles and works okay in nacho dips.

But is it worth it? Foodies on budgets offer mixed opinions. Basically, when you calculate serving sizes and other variables, the economics blur a bit. And there are ways to eat cheap using the good stuff. Skip value-added prepackaged products as much as possible, suggests blogger Susannah Nofziger. TheStreet.com's Althea Chang recommends checking out the generic brands.

Planning ahead widens your choices and saves money, says About.com's Fiona Haynes. And the simplest solution of all? Eat less. You'll lose weight and save money. Maybe that's how Spam and Velveeta will work for me.

No comments: