Value for money
Today I bought a packet of ”Scottish cookies with Belgian chocolate” in my Swedish supermarket. Ah, the joys of globalisation, hey? I must admit it was the word Scottish that attracted me in the first place – that and the rather discreet packaging in white with a picture of – yupp, you guessed right – cookies on it.
I also liked the fact that the package proclaimed “SELECTED GOODS”, i.e. indicating this was a much better product than your run of the mill cookies in garish plastic foil wrapping. This just goes to show I am a major sucker, because of course goods stamped “SELECTED” cost like twice as much as the non-selected ones, and so I sit here with nine (Nine? Now who on earth came up with nine as an adequate number of cookies? Don’t people generally have TWO with their tea, i.e. shouldn’t the total have been an even number?) extremely expensive cookies where I could have had two full packets of chocolate digestives.
This leads me to reflect a bit on my shopping habits in general. Am I the only one who tends to confuse higher price with better quality? (Don’t get me wrong; the Scottish cookies are delicious even if I have no way of verifying the chocolate is from Belgium …) Or does higher price equal a premium product? Hmm. Consider baked beans. I loooove baked beans – and I would never, ever buy anything but Heinz, even if they are by far the most expensive. But had someone blindfolded me and had me taste my way through a selection of baked beans I’m not sure I would be able to tell the difference.
Okay, so baked beans, no matter brand, are not the most expensive item on my household budget, but what about IKEA vs main street furniture shop? Or Apple vs other tablet suppliers? Is there really as big a difference in functionality as there is in price? My husband would instinctively say no. I blame this on his genepool which has considerable Scottish input as well as a gigantic dollop of parsimonious DNA from Småland (Sweden’s own little Scotland one could say). My husband will then line up one rational argument after the other as to why the IKEA couch will be perfectly in line with our needs while I hunger for the designed sofa in black leather that is like five times more expensive. (I generally win. While having no Scottish blood to blame for my stubborness, those poverty striken miners from the north of Sweden that are my ancestors would generally not budge an inch unless they were facing imminent death. Luckily, my husband refrains from going to such extremes.)
Assuming functionality is more or less comparable, why do some of us gravitate towards the more expensive variants? One of my friends dubs this behaviour “the symptoms of middle-age and middle-class “. Agh! I DON’T want to be so predictable, I believe myself to be a true individualist, someone who scorns the trends of the day and goes in my own direction. Yeah, right; that’s why my kitchen contains a bright red Nespresso machine and why my wardrobe now hides a dress in delicious purple – definitely “the” colour this autumn ladies, at least according to the shops I visit. This is also why my cupboards hold Olive Oil Extra Vergine from a minor Italian label, why my apricot marmalade is made in France and why I would never buy machine grated parmesan when I can buy a huge lumpy piece and grate it myself. (This leads to cheese waste. I don’t know how many mouldy pieces of parmesan I’ve thrown out, and yet I persist, thinking that whoever eats my pasta dish will actually notice the difference. Ha. Double Ha when your food is consumed by young males.)
My conclusion is rather depressing. My choice of goods, whether in the supermarket or in other shops, reflects the lifestyle I believe I should have, not necessarily the one I want. The fact that my shopping cart contains far too few ecoproduced goods, that I don’t always bother about the provenance and don’t always select the Fair Trade Goods is testament to a lack of time rather than a lack of committment – or is that just a weak excuse? No, don’t bother answering that one. OF COURSE IT’S A WEAK EXCUSE!!!!!!!!!!! But hey, tomorrow is another day, right?
I break off a piece of my selected cookie (number two; see? I told you, didn’t I?) and nibble it. I shouldn’t even be eating cookies, because no matter how selected, these tasty little items contain sugar, fat, wheat flour and chocolate and are therefore forbidden fruit. I should be nibbling on a carrot instead – or a stalk of celery. Except, of course, that only the truly insane would ever consider such things an adequate replacement for the crunchy sweetness that fills my mouth when I bite into my cookie. Aah. Actually, seen in the light of my weight endevours it was probably a good thing I went for the SELECTED shelf. After all, nine cookies contain far less calories than twenty-four. With that rather pleasing thought in mind, I extend a hand and nab a third cookie. Well, I’m obliged too, aren’t I? We are three people in the house at present, and nine divided by three is… three!