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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Best deal on bananas

I stop at Trader Joe's every couple of weeks.  Their pricing is very competitive, especially on dried fruit, nuts, organic foods, tofu, soy cheese, whole wheat pasta, cocoa powder, wine, vitamins and bananas.  Yes, bananas!  Most grocery stores price bananas by the pound. Trader Joe's prices them per piece.  At the Trader Joe's in Lynnwood, WA, bananas sell for 19 cents each,  regardless of size.

Naturally I choose only the largest bananas.  By picking out the biggest ones, I pay about 38-44 cents per pound.  My two daughters don't want to eat an entire large banana, but will happily split one.  In fact, I often cut a banana in half for myself, and refrigerate part for another time.  Buying the larger bananas makes sense when making fruit salads, blending smoothies, baking banana bread, and in our case, we're happily splitting.

Beyond bananas, this principle can be extended to other items priced per piece.  For example, when I buy strawberries in the one pound clamshell (plastic box), I make a quick search for what looks like the 3 or 4 fullest containers.  I take those containers to the scale and weigh each, to find the heaviest one.  When buying bagged produce, like sacks of potatoes, oranges or apples, I lift a few bags to get a feel for a few that are heaviest, then take 2 or 3 to the scales to see.  And it's not just produce, when I buy a liquid, like cooking oil, in a clear or semi-clear bottle or jug, I look through the stock on the shelf to find the bottle/jug that has just a little bit more than the rest.  I wind up getting an extra amount, basically for free.

We tend to think that every container is precisely filled to the measure listed on the label.  That's just not the case.  Many years ago, I worked a summer in a cannery.  I was in quality control, specifically it was my job to make sure that every package went out with, at the minimum, the amount stated on the label.  We often erred on the side of too much.  It's a lucky bonus for the smart consumer who bothers to look for the fullest, heaviest, or largest.

*note* I bought bananas at Trader Joe's last Thursday.  When I got home I weighed them.  They weighed on average 8.2 oz -- so less than my low end price of 38 cents/pound.  They're priced at 19 cents per banana.

June 21, 2013  It's been over a year since this post, and Trader Joe's bananas are still 19 cents each, and I still hunt through the bunch for the largest ones. My only other source of inexpensive bananas are at QFC with their marked down baking bananas (39 cents/lb). They red-band their baking bananas when they are still just a bit green and good for fresh eating. Such a bargain!

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