business news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email from MNB reader Claire Tenscher:

I’d like to offer a slightly different viewpoint than the reader whose email you shared on Friday regarding the cost of food. While I agree that good food doesn’t have to be considerably more expensive, I think the issue is much more nuanced. According to a Harvard School of Public Health study ... a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts will cost a $1.50 more per day per person than a diet that consists of processed foods.

Then, the real reason I’m writing: there are costs beyond the dollar value of the ingredients. For many low income Americans, having time to cook and shop can be more ‘expensive’ than actually buying the raw ingredients. Imagine working two jobs and having to take public transit, it isn’t easy to also pick up your kid, spend time at the store, plan your meals and cook. Proximity to full service grocery stores affects the time it talks to do this shopping. Living in a food desert is the unfortunate reality of many poor families.  For other parents living paycheck to paycheck there may not be enough money at one time to cover the cost of buying the ingredients up front. Then food waste is also a deterrent. If you’re asking your kids to try vegetables that they reject (it can take a child 8-15 attempts to accept something novel) you feel as though  just thrown away your paycheck and your kids are still hungry.

A Opinion piece ... really opened my eyes. Here’s an excerpt:

“One mother strove to provide healthy food on a budget. She cooked rice and beans or pasta with bruised vegetables bought at a discount. These meals cost relatively little — if they’re eaten. But when her children rejected them, an affordable dish became a financial burden. Grudgingly, this mother resorted to the frozen burritos and chicken nuggets that her family preferred.”
It isn’t that families don’t want to feed their families right or are lazy. Rather than putting the onus on the shopper ‘making the right choices’ we should shift the conversation to how we as society can help.

I agree with you. However, I'm not sure at the moment that the cultural and political climates are conducive to such a conversation taking place in the public discourse.

Weighing in on the modern shopping experience, MNB reader Jerome Schindler wrote:

Needed some Eureka N vacuum cleaner bags.  These are hard to find now as most newer vacuums are bag free.  Lowes didn't have them, Target didn't have them.  Available at but Walmart has no ship to store option for this item - buying this and paying shipping is not something I care to do.

Had the same issue last December with a Sam's Club order of an item that was out of stock in their stores. When I complained they promised to refund my shipping fee but that never happened.  Less than $10 so not worth my time to followup.

I no longer subscribe to Amazon Prime - a lot of items there are not covered by their PRIME membership free shipping anyway. As for the Amazon automatic replenishment for many items we use every day, I can do much better with local brick and motor retail deals and coupons.
Of course I am semi-retired and have time to do that.  Your mileage may differ.

At this point in my life, at age 73, a few bucks doesn't make much difference, but I have a life long habit of being frugal and use that, and remaining just semi-retired, as an excuse for dining at better restaurants and buying better beer.

Can't argue with the better beer part.

Regarding Chipotle's decision to test out a new burger restaurant concept, one MNB user wrote:

This doesn't make any sense.  After reeling from several food poisoning incidents, Chipotle is going into the ground beef business?  What's next sushi?

And, from another reader:

Good luck bringing this model to the northeast where we are already overrun with the entire spectrum of burger joints - Five Guys, Wayback, Zinburger, Bobby's Burgers, all of the fast food options, Fudruckers, the plentiful amount of local places that have jumped on the trend, I could go on and on and on...when is the burger bubble gonna bust?

Eventually, I suppose ... but hopefully it'll just be the pretenders who get hurt, and the real innovators that make good food will survive. They'll just have to keep innovating ... like a race car that has to speed into the curve, not slow down.
KC's View: