Many years ago, back and back and back (as the Giver tells Jonas every time he tries to explain some phenomena that Jonas won't understand until he has the memory), we were trying to find ways to save money at the grocery store.
It's a typical Western response to needing to find ways to cut back on expenses (you know, instead of cutting the cable bill, or not going to the Mall on Friday night). Most of us do it or have done it. The first place most of us start trying to cut is what we spend on food, and there are dozens of ways we try to do that - from using coupons to buying in bulk to buying the cheapest processed food we can find. Joel Salatin has a great article in this month's Mother Earth News magazine about how cheap and convenient food is actually neither.
So, back and back and back, Deus Ex Machina and I were approached by one of those freezer foods companies. Their spiel was that we could buy six months' worth of food for X dollars, plus the price of a freezer. We thought we were getting this stellar deal.
Until we started adding up the numbers and doing some price comparisons. For instance, we found the same (or at least a similar enough) freezer at the home improvement store for about a third of what we paid for the one from the freezer food company.
Using the freezer food company was very much like shopping at one of those bulk purchase stores, like Sam's Club, except that they delivered. If we were just looking at convenience points, the company is a 10/10.
If we're looking at the entire package, we're looking at a 2/10.
The prices were not cheaper. At best, they were comparable, but a lot of the food was stuff we didn't buy - at least not the brands that were delivered to us. For example, there were many packages of bagels, and we often purchased bagels, but usually we bought the huge deli bagels. The ones that were delivered to us were the grocery-store freezer kind that are about half the size of the ones we usually purchased. We paid the same price for half the food ... because they delivered.
And it wasn't six months worth of food, either. In fact, I was surprised by how quickly the freezer emptied.
Perhaps it could have been six months of food, if that food is supplemented by other things, but if that freezer full of food was all we had to eat, there's no way it would last six months. The meat lasted about two months. We might have had some of the other food products at the end of six months, but not because there was six months' worth, but rather because that food item (like bagels) was not a dietary staple.
Maybe they meant six months, one meal per day for two adults, and not six months, two to three meals per day for two adults, one teen-aged boy and a toddler.
Of course, the company didn't really want us to purchase all of those other foods, anyway. They're main product was meat, but compared to grocery store prices, we were actually paying twice per cut of meat what we'd pay at the grocery store. That said, it wasn't an apples to apples comparison. They didn't sell packages of plain ground beef. What they sold was single-serve packages of seasoned meats - things like chicken breasts marinated in lemon-pepper sauce and teriyaki-seasoned sirloin steak. It was incredibly convenient. Everything was done for me. All I had to do was to take the package out of the freezer a few hours before our meal to thaw, and then, pop it in the oven or fry it in a pan. Easy-peasy.
And that's what the company is banking on - that we want easy-peasy. The slick-talking sales woman who came to our house did some Pa Kettle math on us, and we thought we were getting a deal, but as it turns out, there wasn't a lot of anything (especially meat), and the price was a lot more than we would have spent in a month on our whole grocery bill, and worse, we still needed to go to the grocery store for other stuff, anyway.
We saved nothing, and we had nothing to show for it, but a very expensive freezer.
We only ordered from that company the one time, but we kept getting calls - of course. Eventually, we stopped buying meat from the grocery store, and one day they called, and I explained that there was really nothing their company had to offer us. The prices weren't that great, and besides, we'd transitioned to a local diet. I asked, "Where does your meat come from?" The answer was, essentially, "Not here." I explained that we were raising our own chicken, and we bought beef and pork from local farmers. I haven't heard from them in a very long time. I guess they took my name off the list ... finally.
I was thinking about that company today, not because I wanted to buy anything from them, but because, when they delivered our one order, it looked like quite a lot of food when they brought it in, and I wondered, how on earth they were going to fit it all in that freezer. The guy who delivered the freezer told me that the guy who would pack our freezer was a pro. He could fit six months' worth of food in a thimble.
I picked up our pig share today. The almost 200 lb. pig (hanging weight, and so the actual weight of the pork is less), joined the half cow, the 40-something whole chickens, and the sundry other bits and parts of previous farm-shares we've purchased or raised over the years (things like organ meats I'm not sure how to cook, fat I haven't gotten around to rendering, and chicken necks I still need boil for broth).
I was thinking, it would be nice to have someone to help me pack the freezer, because I thought it was full before I brought home the five paper bags full of pork.
Now, it's really full.
We'll eat well this winter.
One of the two brown ones pictured was the pig we brought home for our freezer a couple of years ago, raised by a friend of my daughters on her three-acre, rural suburban farm.
The butcher, who now knows me by name, packages the raw meat exactly the way I want - which is incredibly convenient. He will only season the ground pork (for sausage - and it's delicious!), but over the years, I've learned to season exactly the way my family likes, using herbs and spices that are organically and sustainably grown with no chemically-derived "natural" flavorings.
We were silly to try to save money by buying convenience, and even though we were duped that one time, we did learn our lesson. Convenience does not equal cheaper, and even when the freezer is full, there's still room for a pint of ice cream.