I’ve been slowly examining all my purchasing decisions…and something that rattles around in my head every time I walk into a grocery store is Malcom Gladwell’s TED talk On Spaghetti Sauce, where he describes in detail the exact moment in the universe where we went from having a hand full of products different from each other to an entire aisle of products that are indistinguishable from each other. Why have mild, medium and spicy salsa when you can have 40 different salsas? Why on earth is there a breakfast cereal AISLE? ( hint: cheap ingredients, intense advertising, easy preparation and instant gratification.) You get the point…an over abundance of choice can easily overload one’s decision making abilities. See Moscow on the Hudson’s Coffee aisle scene.
A long time ago to help with information overload, I started cutting choices… prepared, semi-prepared, processed, fads, etc…. to be fair I know how to cook and find it pleasant, which gives me a leg up. It helps a lot when trying to control my weight, I allow myself to have anything I want as long as I cook it. I also like making vintage recipes using the original products, some of which no longer exist. I went down a rabbit hole examining heritage products….not just name brands that have been around a while… but the stuff INSIDE the packages.
I was bored one night and created a long list of Heritage Brands (products that have been around forever) and have been figuring out which ones are just labels and which are like the original incarnation. Hence I learned that LEAF is actually using the original Hydrox recipe and Oreo is well…so incredibly NOT. By looking at the oldest version of something I can usually see where the manufacturers started making economic decisions over and over again until the modern version is something else completely. I’m not as religious about being anti this or that as other people, I take things in moderation… IF i want an Oreo I eat an Oreo…It’s not like I can easily find a Hydrox, considering there’s a court case pending because Nabisco was apparently paying chains not to stock them..go figure..
There is a MEME on facebook showing the Heinz US and UK Ketchup labels side by side – showing corn syrup products versus sugar, causing outrage……which makes me laugh.. people think it’s HEINZ fault for the recipe variations…when it’s OUR fault. Government corn subsidies make it cheaper for big agro to use Corn syrup products instead of sugar which brings the product price down so that the best selling corn syrup product becomes the american standard……..Americans want EVERYTHING sweet, so there’s more sweetener in the bottle, we also apparently are willing to pay for more liquid in our products so that everything flows out of the container and we don’t have to smack it on the bottom or stick a knife into it…. (hint kids…squeezeable products are ones with more WATER) To tap into the anti-corn-syrup market Kraft Heinz created a ‘Vintage’ line that uses sugar, does not flow easily out of the bottle and also tastes much tarter than usual.Besides making cocktail or barbecue sauce, I use ketchup on TWO things: scrambled eggs and meatloaf, so I go through about 3 bottles a year.
I like to buy things that very basic or ingredients…I spend a lot of time reading labels in the grocery store. In the case of gherkins, it means reading absolutely every label…every US brand had corn syrup, only the imported brands do not. I finally found some from Poland at Big Lots. Imported Dollar Store products like jams and jellies contain sugar, because they are made in places like Egypt outside BIG Agro’s reach. So finding some things takes a bit of hunting… which is also something Americans don’t want to deal with…we want to walk into the grocery store nearest us and buy our weekly shop; it takes up too much time to find a bottle or this or a jar of that. We want to spend no time at all making that decision.
If you can list every product you buy on a regular basis (this really shouldn’t be that hard,) you can premake your decisions and figure out how to source the things that you really care about. It starts off hurting the pocket book buying things with better ingredients each and every time, but it causes one to trim spending in other areas. In the end the number of name brand products I purchase are fewer and fewer every year, I think they taste better and become more important ingredients. I am certain I make a ketchup bottle last longer when it costs me more.