It is unwise for me to leave the house without a snack in tow. I’m the sort of person who needs a steady flow of food for a myriad – okay, at least a couple – of reasons. I’d never willingly fast. Are you outta your head?!
Since I’m generally on foot I have to think like a day hiker or maybe a pack donkey, which I often suspect I resemble depending on how much stuff I’m toting about on my person. This means I want light, easily transportable snack food that isn’t likely to become questionably inedible before I get to it, especially on wicked hot summer days.
One of my simplest go-to’s is homemade “trail mix” usually composed of raisins, unsalted peanuts and sunflower seeds stowed in a plastic container. Sometimes I’ll add other ingredients like unsweetened coconut but since I’m tossing my snacks down the gullet from the plastic cup, that can result in unknowingly walking around with coconut crumbs on my face after the fact.
To round out my mini-meal and get a fuller compliment of nutritional fare, I occasionally take a pre-wrapped portion of string cheese that I keep in the freezer. Oh, being the frugal, practical sort, I’ve also tried cutting & wrapping my own single portion size from a block of cheese but that doesn’t always work so well; the cheese gets melty in its plastic wrap and a good bit less appetizing. Or, if I store it in a plastic container, then I’ve got TWO containers taking up space. A nuisance I tell you! Especially once they’re empty and I still have to carry them around. Like they’re dependents adding nothing to the team. As with so many of life’s activities, once the food is gone, I lose all interest.
So string cheese it is. I wait for a sale and buy a bag of pre-portioned, wrapped, 1 oz morsels of part-skim mozzarella. My goal is to get them at .25 each, so that I’m paying $4/lb. That’s about as high as I’ll justify. A local chain grocery store advertised just such a sale on their in-house brand this very week. Hot diggity! (I thought to myself.) Cheap cheese. Yay! I eagerly went to buy my dairy. Why, I’d even brought a freezer pack from home (more crap to carry) so I could escort my perishables home.
The store had the cheese in stock and I was all set to load up when I noticed something fishy (or is that cheesy?). What was this?! The traditionally 1 oz string cheese portions were a shocking .83 ounces. .83 ounces??! What the hell kind of size is THAT? I’ll tell you: A cheap, sons of bitches size! The cheeses looked stunted. My clever, observant eye could plainly tell the difference. Tricky dogs! This is the kind of shifty practice I expect from name-brand businesses, i.e., whittling away the size of products slowly and almost imperceptibly while maintaining or raising the price till the day comes nobody thinks twice about paying $3 for a 5 ounce bag of potato chips and the suits sit in the board room chuckling and congratulating themselves on how smart they are and wasn’t hiring that ivy league social psychologist to decipher exactly how much they could decrease the size before customers balked well worth her fee?
For the briefest of moments I considered sucking it up and permitting myself to be robbed of .17 ounces of cheese per stick. Then I came to my senses. No way! Maybe other less vigilant, more forgiving consumers were willing to look aside or worse, never notice the egregious gouging at all, but I was going to fight The Man by gum! (Or is that by cheese?) I walked out, my head high. Well, not entirely. I exited by way of the seafood and prepared foods aisle, which leads into the donuts and cakes area, staring right and left all the while, my head swiveling to gawk at the array of various overpriced, tempting, and often not-so-healthy delicacies, muttering to myself, “Look away, look away.”
I made it out but I was string cheeseless. The following day I ventured to my small local grocery store which has recently reintroduced a no-name store brand it carried some years back. I checked out the cheese. Voila! Not only did they have bargain brand string cheese but it was on sale! A sale set to expire that very day. At a lovely .237 per piece (I’ve done the math for accurate reporting purposes here). I quickly examined the portion size. A full one ounce portion just as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. I’m certain it’s in an amendment somewhere.