Price check, please?!

These days everyone is shopping around for a bargain - but, is it really worth it? I had this and various other thoughts while planning a special meal for Mr. P - should I sales ad it, what about coupons, am I really going to go anywhere besides my favorite two stores anyways? So, I decided to find out for myself.

The plan:

Visit three stores with the shopping list for making a mostly-from-scratch special dinner, restocking my pantry, and getting ready for the following week. Points would be given for the best value and the best quality (individually) and taken away if a store did not have a product or an outrageous price.

The meal: Steak, bacon wrapped scallops, potato-leek-vegetable soup, wilted spinach bacon salad, Parmesan focaccia croutons with butterscotch pumpkin trifle and rum eggnog for dessert.

The grocery list:
Can of Pumpkin
5 lbs Russet Potatoes
1 lb bacon, packaged
Fresh Baguette
1 gallon of milk
1 dozen large eggs
Packaged cheddar
Sugar, 4 lbs
Oatmeal (Quick, pkgd)
Oatmeal (bulk)
Chicken Breasts
Ground Beef
Skirt Steak
Shrimp, 31-40
Pork Chops
Rotisserie Chicken

The grocery stores:

1. Kroger: Your regular, every day, double-coupon-Tuesday, main stream grocer.

2. Sprouts: Eco-friendly, responsible grocer who supports buying local and carries a great selection of organics, bulk and gluten free products. Phenominal customer service, everytime. Does not honor coupons, because most products are not from food producing mega chains like Green Giant or Prego.

3. Market Street: A higher end main stream grocer which seems close the gap between 1 & 2 by carrying both brand name products and some natural, organic-like options.

The findings:

First, the price difference between the three stores was not all too bad.... Kroger won out for cost only, while Sprouts was the most expense by $8.52 and $13.33. One reason is Kroger did not have bulk oatmeal or leeks (thereby not receiving a $ for these items, points lost too). Also, at Sprouts, a pound of bulk sugar and bacon cost about 3 - 4 times more than the other stores (points lost on both).

Second, when looking at quality, the three stores have marked differences. Market Street only received one point, and in hindsight, that point could have gone to Kroger too. Sprouts won due to their quality of vegetables, fresh bread, finer cuts of meats, cheese... plus they do not freeze their chicken or pork, the vegetables are not pesticide covered, and the cheese are not processed with preservatives and the like. Kroger got the main stream points: bacon, ground beef, milk, eggs... but not enough to win.

Third, I ran two charts to compare shopping strictly for value and then quality. When shopping for value, I would need to visit all three stores and would only save $1 from the original best value price.... which is spent in gas. When shopping for quality, I would visit two stores, and would only spend $3 more than the original best value price. As for the "points" I have been talking about. Over half of the quality points were lost when I tried to save $1 compared to spending the extra $3 and retaining the taste.

The conclusion:

Know your grocery stores. Unless you are cooking for ten or more on a nightly basis, I do not think it necessary to scour all three grocery stores every time you want to shop or cook a big meal. I do think it is a good idea to pick two which consistently offer reasonable prices on items you know you buy often, and compare between these two while keeping watch on the mail ads. And the "in between" store, ended up not providing the best quality or value... just a lot of hype.

Mostly, do not be afraid to buy a quality product. We noticed since we started buying quality bulk (cheddar, colby jack, monterrey, mozzarella) cheeses we use less because there is more flavor than in the pre-shredded generic products AND the cost is actually the same. Best of all when the gas prices went up we hardly noticed it because our grocer was selling more local

All in all, the meal was fabulous. We did some adding up in our head, and after shopping for value and quality, our two person meal, which cost about $30 to make (and could have easily served four for an extra $7.50) would have easily cost us $60 or more had we gone out to eat. Now all I need to do, is figure out what to do with all the remaining leek?! Suggestions anyone?

www.kroger.com (my second favorite, winner for value)
www.sprouts.com (my ALLTIME favorite, winner for quality)
www.marketstreetfrisco.com (blegh, don't believe the hype)


Quantum of Solace : a review

Okay, so I am not one to believe I know everything about movies... certainly not James Bond... in fact, I know so little about 007 that a non-critical part of the story line continually left me asking "What do they mean by Vesper? Huh?"

What I do know is this movie was very well shot, choreographed, and designed to show all of the flawed imperfections revealed in the roughly lit cinematography; and actually it may have been the genius of videography which lent to the authentic realism. It is this same concept of revealing shortcomings which not only worked to enhance the visual appeal, but the story line as well.

I am not sure what critiques would call the techniques used to shoot the action scenes but I have decided to use the phrase "point of impact." Rather than pan out the shot out wide, so the viewer can see the entire scene, Quantum of Solace takes the viewer to the exact point of impact whether it be a head on collision, a crashing leap from one balcony to another, or a fiery explosion. It create a sense of being there side-by-side with 007 as he races through the crowds, jumps dangerous across hurdles, drives recklessly around tight corners.

One scene in particular left me feeling guilty as JB holds an agent down as he dies. It's uncertain whether he is choking the man, or just containing the spastic physical reaction of a dying body. Either way, I was thinking "Stop all already! Is this neccessary?"

And now, I think for Quantum, yes it was. Part of the beauty of the movie is that it exposes JB as fallable, which means it is important for the viewer to see the scars, knicks and bruises (which you do see in a shirt off scene... woo hoo!!). It is equally important to see the mars come from the hard blows his opponents successfully deliver or from the leaps miscalculated which end with 007 crashing into patio furniture or hanging perilously by one arm.

Now for those of you who know me... you know there is something I found unappealing. For QOS, there were two. First, because I was so drawn into the action, the jerkiness of the filming left me a bit disoriented about spatial relations. This actually left me feeling more secure in JBs fate, because I was not able to accurately gauge his peril, which took away a bit from the suspense.

Second, the final action scene was... hmm... I dont' quite know what it was. I don't want to say flat, I don't want to say boring -- because it wasn't. But there were certainly points where I thought "Oh, that line was delivered badly." or "Oh, now... really? What!?" But essentially, all stuff I could easily forgive.

So whether you are going to see the latest 007 flick, simply bored, or in love with the blue eyes of Daniel Craig you will leave happy you made the choice to get out of the house. The best thing is it has all of the great JB 007 qualities: great opening action scene, stellar opening credits, fights, cute gals, a great bad guy, and a really good looking 007. Okay, now for my gal pals - if the only reason you are going is for the good looking 007... well, I say GO NOW.... what a dream boat!!


This blog is a work in progress

This blog is a work in progress - and I am looking for the right network of contributors to help make it successful. Read below to find ways you can help make this a more interesting place to kill some time… no wait… shoot the breeze… hmm… I just can’t think of a peaceful way to say it.

1st - "I love to read I love to write" is a program I need help creating. It will be a posting forum for those who write, and a quick pit stop for those who enjoy reading. All will be encouraged to interact by sharing objective opinions, critiques or kudos who those who have shared their work. For now, it will be an open forum for those whose interest are peaked – so we can do this the way we want to do it.

2nd - "This or That" is an experiment in progress. The first edition will be a comparison of grocery stores to help provide insight on whether its better to shop around for value or quality, neither or both. If it is not up now, it will be soon. Other posts will compare processed & natural foods, whether its better to feed your dog in the morning or at night, walking v. running, wax or thread… etc… etc. The fun part is the results will all come from mini experiments and comparisons conducted by yours truly, or trusted allies.

3rd – “Do More With Less” is a frugal living section with posts about how to get the biggest bang for your buck, live a healthy lifestyle, be a responsible eco-friendly human, and what not. The goal is to find ways enrich your lifestyle without going broke or doing damage to yourself or the environment. Though I adore il2ril2w and this-or-that will certainly be a blast – I think this section will have the biggest impact on the most people.

4th – “Art Smart and the Sound of Music” is all about art, music, literature… all things creative. Have you recently read the next best thriller? Were you at Cannes? What about that band you saw that day at that place? Let us know – we want to enjoy too!

So, enjoy it, and have fun. It is all for you. And me. And him. And her. And the planet. And... well... just go enjoy it already!

A test of the MPNC Emergency Response Signal

This is a test... and only a test of the MPNC Emergency Response Signal.

Were this an actual event of chaos, you would likely not be warned.

Be ready... I repeat... be ready for chaos to strike at anytime.
Be prepared... I repeat... be prepared to create peace in the event of chaos.

Together, we can do it.

Yes we can.