Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas cookies and other ponderings

Two shopping excursions recently put me to pondering...a lot. Pondering the costs some people are willing to pay for items during the Holiday Season. At the health food store, they were selling a package of two cookies for nearly $4.00. I suppose they were all sprinkled with organic gold dust.

I am a grocery store snoop and I love to see what other people have in their carts. Sometimes I can be self righteous, other times I put a head of cabbage and a bag of romaine lettuce over the Dove ice cream.

Last week, I was waiting in line for a very long time and tired of skimming magazines, so I started looking at other people's carts. The lady in front of me had begun putting her items on the conveyor belt and they just happened to be food (I assume) for a party. I winced as I saw the price tag on some cut up celery and carrots but the true shock came when she put the cookies on the belt. I had to look twice and then when she wasn't looking, I leaned over to check the third time at the price tag for cookies.

The cookies did come in a nice plastic serving tray with a plastic cover to protect them from wind, snow and rain. However, even then they were not worth $18.99 for 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies. They weren't even the pretty sugar cookies with frosting or sprinkles. They were simple chocolate chip and it looked like some oatmeal raisin mixed in, slightly larger than the normal cookie one would make at home. Perhaps there was another layer I missed or at least, I hope there was. If I'm paying that much for food, I want a caterer to come with it.

I understand the need for cutting corners when one is busy. I've had to get help myself when I worked full time. I've even been known to keep a couple bags of Pepperidge Farm cookies put back for unexpected company but that is a lot of money for cookies made at a grocery store.

My mind kept coming back to those cookies on the drive home. It is hard to understand the willingness to pay that much for about half a pound of butter, a few cups of sugar, flour, vanilla...yikes...and I doubt they were made with butter or real vanilla. I don't know, perhaps it really is just me. Baking comes easily to me and I enjoy it. For a few dollars I can whip up something that looks and tastes great and people love to receive it as a gift.

I'm sure there are those who would never pay $4.00 with their allowance money for a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. You see, I don't have the equipment to make a latte like they make them at Starbucks. I'm paying about a quarter for the ground beans and $3.75 for their equipment and expertise. As I mentioned in an early post, one is really paying for an experience when they go to Starbucks (or Panera, or Einsteins', or any other place that makes lattes). But grocery store cookies?

I've been known to pay for good quality for clothing that I expect to wear for years, shoes made of good leather, furniture I expect to hand down to my children, and other items for our household. It's just I've had to be very frugal for so long that spending that much money for a few dozen cookies just amazed me. Was I wrong to be shocked, have I been off the party circuit for so long that I'm unaware of what it takes to have a party these days? My mind is still pondering these things...

Note Added Later: I do recall a cookie exchange I hosted a number of years ago where a friend who owned a business purchased her cookies at a specialty bakery. Now, those were worth the money she paid. They were delicious and very special. The Starbucks equivalent in cookie baking. I thought I'd add that little morsel as there are times when one appreciates a little something extra (just not in grocery store cookies that taste like lard). :)


lady laura said...

I am regularly as shocked as you were. I am very frugal when it comes to something I can make at home myself, and better. Or even cut up veggies :)

I also often look in others' shopping carts. I always find it very interesting. I wonder if they find what I buy as interesting....

Heather said...

I was shocked today when I added up the cost of the ingredients that I used to make a triple batch of biscotti - Toasted Almond Brownie Biscotti. My total without time and electricity (the oven was on 1 hour total) came to $17 - replacement prices, not the sale prices I got the ingredients at because I hit those sales in November and might not see butter and ghiridelli chocolate that cheaply again for some time. I made 4 bags of 8 good sized biscotti and it is delicious. I suppose when I see folks paying $4 a piece for biscotti at out local coffee hang out, I can understand better that is isn't cheap to produce quality biscotti, but still, they are undoubtedly 'gouging' in my quiet opinion!

After so many 'cookie' disappointments our children are sweet - when the lady at the grocery bakery offers a cookie they always politely decline now 'NO thank - you! They just aren't as yummy as mommy's and they leave a film on the roof of your mouth'

Brenda said...

I don't know what it is they use in the store baked goods these days. It does leave a film in my mouth.

There is one bakery in town that I know uses real butter, vanilla, etc. but they charge for it. Years ago I would go in there for one of their cinnamon rolls once in awhile. I don't want to know what they charge now.

I think they can get away with charging so much because so few people bake at home now.

You know prices are getting high when I look at a "sugar goodie" at Starbucks and think it is "only" $1.99!