This week is Thanksgiving. A time to focus on family and amazing food. Most of us in America will spend time thinking of what we are thankful for and acting on that thankfulness by spending time with those we love. I know I will be.
Then comes Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving. Of course it isn’t the day after anymore, now it’s on Thanksgiving day. Sure, why not. After we eat ourselves stupid, make the obligatory “I’m thankful for….” speeches and watch the football games, we are bored. We need to get ourselves out and find deals to alleviate the Christmas Credit Card Conundrum. We will go out and spend more money than we have because “it’s on sale!” and “I got a great deal!” school of thought.
Most sales aren’t that good anymore. They are only riding the coattails of the previous generation when the sales were really on purpose in order to get consumers in the doors to raise their year end profit numbers from the red and into the black. Nowadays it’s not about the sales, but corporate greed. Stores assume that most people will rush the doors to their store and get a sale price because it’s marketed as a “Black Friday Door Busting Event.”
I am afraid to do any further research on the “door buster” pricing because I have already found that on most items that are big dollar items, the sale is quite honestly not that great. Especially when I must consider getting out on Thanksgiving or up at 3 am on Black Friday.
This leads me to another interesting thing I discovered about how stores like to offer a great deal. Recently I purchased groceries for my family at my local Walmart Super Center. Now, I only shop there, against my better judgement, because of convenience. Meaning, it’s closer than the grocery store I would prefer to shop at. Being a busy mom of three sometimes limits the amount of time one will be able to have for grocery shopping. Well, after what I found after this trip, I will find a way to make it to the further store.
Let me back up just a second and explain one thing. I am quite organized in my grocery store and meal planning. I find recipes that I know my family will like and will limit the amount of carbohydrates due to our lifestyle. Having a Type 1 diabetic puts many restrictions on the way we plan our meals and purchase our food. We do not purchase processed items, which accounts for at least 80% of any grocery store. After I spend the time to find out what we are going to eat, I then make the grocery list. Once the list is done I estimate the total dollar amount. Then, more often than not, I cut the grocery list and rearrange the meal plan, because prices are outrageous.
My family budgets $800 a month for groceries. This includes cleaning supplies and health and beauty items for all five of us as well. Most of the time, this means we eat a lot of chicken, because where we are, chicken is cheaper than beef or pork.
Imagine my surprise when I went through all the trouble (and stress) of meal planning, grocery list preparing, meal rearranging, and grocery list re-preparing to make my trip only to be cheated.
Yes, cheated. By none other than Walmart. Imagine that. The store that promises low prices. I have done some research now and find that Walmart is one of the most awful places to work and shop. Of course I already had my suspicions. Their ideals are based on corporate greed instead of jobs and customer service and low prices.
I digress. The only reason I found the cheating is because of another website I had read. A woman blogging about how to make prepare-ahead meals on a super tight budget or some such thing along those lines. She made a comment in passing regarding the weighing technique for the meat department at some stores. She didn’t mention any names, she just briefly mentioned that to make sure that the meat department of the store you choose to shop at gives you the weight in the meat you are purchasing and not including the weight of packaging.
I purchased the ground beef at Walmart this day. It is measured into 2.25 pound packages. My family uses this amount in each of the recipes in which I use ground meat so that we have enough to feed us and have a little leftover for lunches or the frequent fend for yourself suppers. I strictly plan for the additional .25 lbs. This particular night of cooking for my family involved the ground beef and happened to be the same day I had pinched and scrimped and saved at the grocery store to make my budget stay intact.
I opened the package of meat and dumped it in the frying pan. I then thought hmmmm… I wonder how much this packaging weighs. I break out the food scale I have in the recesses of a cabinet and zeroed it out. When I put the packaging on the scale it weighed in at 1/4 pound. That’s the same amount of actual meat on the McDonald’s burger – pre-cooked weight, of course. If you can believe that they are being honest about that. Not being convinced that this fine establishment (insert sarcasm) would be cheating me and only giving me two pounds of meat and a 1/4 pound of packaging, I pulled the meat out of the pan (it hadn’t been turned on yet so no cooked parts) and slapped it on the scale.
Sure enough. The scale read only two pounds. I was livid. In fact, I still am. My family works hard to follow the rules of society by being honest, law-abiding citizens. We don’t cheat on our taxes, we pay our bills on time, we don’t lie, cheat or steal and we live responsibly within a budget. So, when I find that a corporation is cheating me on meat due to a weightier packaging…. I get a little upset. Just ask my husband. I called him in tears (of frustration) when I found the weight discrepancy. What did I do? Nothing. What can I really do? Other than not spend any money at that store anymore.
Well, that’s my plan. Avoid Walmart like the plague and tell anyone else who cares about their meat weighing practices. I have not checked every other packaged meat item that I purchased there but I suspect that it stands true across the board. Any item that has a foam packaging from ground beef to chicken legs, the weight of the meat you are buying may very well include a slightly heavier packaging added in the weight of the meat. Which is found in that absorbent pad. When I pulled the pad out of the foam packaging, it weighed in at slightly under 1/4 pound, leaving the other fraction for the foam tray. It seemed to be packed full of liquid.
Now, before you shake it off as well, burger is ground meat and there is bound to be blood that collects in the absorbent padding, I agree. But almost 1/4 pound of blood? I think that’s a bit of a stretch.
So, what does this mean if you are buying ground beef at $3.389 per pound (via Bureau of Labor Statistics October 2013). What does this really mean one is being overcharged?
2 lbs of beef at $3.389 /lb = $6.78
2.25 lbs at $3.389 /lb = $7.63
The difference is $.85 per package of meat you buy. On this specific day, I purchased 4 packages of ground beef.
4 X $.85 = $3.40
Ok. To be fair I even researched what I could find on packaging prices. As I’m sure Walmart has a bulk supply cost, I can only base it on numbers that I am able to find via the world wide web, but they seem reasonable. Here’s what I found.
Foam tray – $27.05 per 500 trays = $.0541 per tray (source)
Absorbent liner – $49.30 per 3500 = .0141 per liner (source)
Plastic film wrap – $31.99 for 2000 ft by 18″ wide = $.0159 (source)
Grand total = $.211 per package.
You know I could even get behind paying almost a dollar for packaging if they didn’t try to tell me that I was getting more product than I actually was.
So anyway. What does Walmart ripping me off have to do with Black Friday? Well, I guess it all has to do with making a choice on what type of companies you want to support. I am thankful that we have the choice. I am thankful that we can save money on Black Friday deals. Mostly I am thankful that we have the ability to research what a good deal is and choose wisely what kind of establishments we want to support.
Just because a company tells you it’s a great deal and they are saving you money doesn’t make it true. After all they are trying to make a profit. And the bigger the profit per item, the better bonuses for the big guys. Do your research. Shop responsibly.
Eat lots of turkey and fixings. Enjoy a football game and whatever other family traditions you may have. Above all, have a very Happy Thanksgiving.