Friday, October 18, 2013

Nice try, no cigar

Saw an ad in the Sunday magazine from Walmart, suggesting that you can "save over $1,000 per year when you eat at home."  Was intrigued; read on.

The pitch is to buy stuff at Walmart's grocery instead of eating out, thus allowing you to spend $20 to feed your family of four, instead of $42 in a restaurant.

Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?  Until you see what they have in mind for you to buy at the grocery.  It's not like you're going to actually make food.  Instead you buy a package of ready-to-heat stuffed shells ("Delicious oven-baked taste from the microwave.") for $6.48, a loaf of bread for $2.48, a pack of two servings of tiramisu for $2.67, and a gallon of green tea for $2.78.

Various thoughts come to mind when contemplating this menu.

First, I'm not sure exactly how the pictured food items add up to $20 -- on my calculator they add up to $14.41.  I think you're supposed to buy two packs of stuffed shells, since the Bertolli site says one serving/meal is 10 ounces, and the package shown in the ad is 25 ounces.  If so, that adds up to $20.89.  But let's don't quibble.

Second, is this a decent dinner?  No vegetables except the bit of tomato sauce to separate the cheese from the cheese.  Lots of cheese, not much fiber.  Cheese-on-cheese with a side of bread does not constitute a healthy diet.

Third, how do you divvy up two servings of tiramisu among your family of four?  I guess the kids go without dessert, or maybe there's an arithmetic contest to choose the two lucky eaters.

Fourth, why if you're trying to save money would you spend $2.78 for a gallon of green tea?   How about 50 cents for eight teabags, and an investment of five minutes for the water to boil?   Even better, drink water and buy $2.78 worth of carrots.

Fifth, why would you serve pre-made tea to your children, assuming that's who round out your family of four?  Caffeine is bad for kids (although there isn't all that much in this tea) and so are sugary drinks.  The tea shown in the Walmart ad has 70 calories in an eight-ounce serving, compared to 93 calories in Coke Classic.  (Perhaps this could be the arithmetic contest to dole out the dessert.)

Clearly Walmart is marketing to people who can't cook and don't care about nutrition.  Maybe if those folks bought this dinner they'd end up better off, both financially and nutritionally, than by going to a restaurant.  But not by much.

Walmart has been getting publicity for various efforts to improve nutrition, such as encouraging food manufacturers to reduce sodium, sugar and trans-fat in their products.  (Some observers say the company has ulterior motives, but let's take them at face value.)  Too bad they don't promote a really healthy $20 meal, perhaps one with some produce in it.

In fact, the next time I go to the grocery I may poke around and see what I can come up with for $20.  I bet it will be better than this microwave/plastic extravaganza.

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