Thursday, December 3, 2009

That's a whole lotta cream cheese: A study in contrasts

One thing I didn't tell y'all is that Jason and Nate left for California on Monday. The girls and I will follow tomorrow--we stayed behind to give Ava one more week at school. So it's been a lot quieter around here. This morning Ava said, "Mom, I miss all the noise." Me too!

I didn't mention it sooner cause I didn't want any of you guys to try to stalk us. C'mon--you know you would have! But I should mention that our house is surrounded by a moat of poisonous funnel web spiders and rabid koalas. And my neighbor Andy is a kung fu master. Mean as a snake. So watch your backs, would-be stalkers.

Anyway, Tuesday morning my mobile phone rang. It was a number I didn't recognize and when I answered it, there was a several second delay. Then the connection kicked in and I heard a voice exclaim mid-sentence, "...a three pound tub of cream cheese for 8 bucks!!" "Who is this?", I said.

It was Jason of course, and as soon as I realized that, I knew right where he was calling from.

Costco! Whenever we go home, Jase loves to visit Costco and wander the aisles. He looks at cheap DVDs and electronics and zones out for awhile. His relationship with Costco is similar to mine with Super Target. We each have our happy place.

I think we've been in Australia long enough, though, that some of the stuff at Costco--and the sheer volume of it--strikes us as extreme. The cream cheese being a prime example. Three pounds? Of cream cheese? O-kaaay. Maybe if you're opening a bagel shop.

This morning, I checked my email and found that he'd emailed me pictures he'd taken there. Neither of us could get over the ginormous containers of food that are sold at Costco. I mean, we knew it was like this, but it was a bit of reverse culture shock going on, I think. Where you "re-enter" your home country and it is the place that seems strange and foreign to you.

I thought it'd be interesting to do a price/size comparison to what we'd pay for that stuff here. So for starters. The 3 pounds of cream cheese for 8 dollars. (Jase didn't get a picture of that one.) Here at our local grocery store, I would pay just under $8 for 500g of cream cheese. (500 grams is about 1 pound.) So one-third of the amount costs the same.

Okay, so this is 3 44oz bottles of Heinz ketchup for $6.49. That's nearly 3 liters total of ketchup. Here, the biggest bottle of Heinz I can get at Woolworths is 1 liter. It sells for $4.95. Contrast that with 3 liters of the stuff for $1.50 more. Um, dang.

Are y'all Americans filling your swimming pools with this stuff? Is ketchup the new bath water?

Here's a 20 pound (nearly) box of Tide Detergent for 30 bucks.

I found a special at my local grocery store: a 5 kilo box of detergent (that's about 11 pounds) for 30 bucks. Again, at Costco you can get almost twice the amount for the same price. And the price at my store is the sale price--normally that detergent is $38.

Sorry--this is probably not interesting to anyone but me and Jason. It's just that, when we lived in the States, we didn't really think twice about the sheer volume of stuff you could get for a comparatively low price. And now, it is just funny to us to see things like this:

My peoples, that there is a gallon of mayonnaise. I am agog. A gallon (almost 4 liters). I honestly did not know you could buy a whole gallon of mayonnaise. That's kind of amazing. This picture makes me giggle, truly. I can also feel my arteries clogging just by looking at it. And I like mayo! So it's $9.50. Here, I pay about 6 bucks for a jar of Best Foods Mayo that is about a tenth the size of that monstrosity. So by paying about 50% more at Costco you can get almost ten times as much. (Not that I'm saying you should unless you want to mayonnaise yourself into an early grave.)

Okay, just one more. Now, we can all laugh about a gallon jar of mayonnaise. Cause who really needs that unless you're hosting a potato salad symposium? ( I would totally go to that.) But this is the sight that I'm pretty sure made Jason lay down on the aisle floor in Costco and weep softly.
A 40 inch Sony HD LCD TV for $849. I looked it up at the place we got our TV in Sydney and the same Sony TV sells here for $1699. My poor husband. That is a bitter pill for him to swallow, I know. Be strong, honey. You are doing good work here. And doesn't the Eric Clapton song say, "And I know, there'll be more...TV's in heaven." Something like that.

Let me be clear. I am neither scolding Americans (of which I are one!) for having too much stuff nor berating Aussies for charging too much for food (even though they do!). It's just that seeing these pictures made me realize how used to that kind of stuff I once was. And how when we first came to Oz, I was just flabbergasted at the cost of food. And now, well, I guess I'm used to it. And we do okay without 3 liters of ketchup.

But I'm not so sure I can be so noble when it comes to Super Target. Then it will be my turn to handcuff myself to the homewares aisle and vow to live there forever. That's okay. Jason will have the light of his giant TV to keep him warm.


  1. I think it was an interesting post! I love talking food prices. See, if you were here and did the Black Friday thing at Target, the 40# TV was about $500. This is why some people I know left the house at 2:30 a.m. and never went to bed (not me I left at 4:45).
    I remember when my kids were smaller we did go thru a lot of ketchup. Now it seems it's mayonnaise.
    What are you going to smuggle back to Austrailia?

  2. I think the ethics around food are pretty substantial...I think this especially if we have an understanding of God being revealed in the breaking of bread. I do my best to support ethical food practices, local and sustainable, etc. But man, eating ethically is seriously expensive! And so I fail a lot. All this to say I will not be purchasing Costco's gallon of mayo any time soon!

    Also, I cannot stalk you in Australia, but I can (and very may will) stalk you in NC. So there. :)

  3. Very funny post, Amy ! When we were in Oz, I was constantly surprised by the prices. But like you said, eventually you get used to it because you have to buy the stuff you need. I laughed at Costco being Jason's Happy Place. When you come to the U.S., I promise you there will be forays to Target( and any other place you have a hankering to go.)

  4. OMG, I totally name-checked Costco in my post today.

    And I should blog about that "specialty American food" store in your mall! Remember the can of Libby pumpkin that was like $12?!?

    Awesome post, this never loses interest. And bless Jason's heart.

  5. I am one of those people who loves Costco, so I can empathize with Jason. They sell chicken tenderloins there for $2.49 a pound. That is some cheap chicken (and it is really good quality). Of course, it comes in a huge quantity, but we just freeze it. Now the mayo does make me laugh...I hope only restaurants buy in that quantity.

    Safe travels to the States! I know you are excited.

  6. I know how you feel, when I go home to the UK I wander round Sainsburys and Tescos like some refugee. The aisles are so wide! the choice! how cheap it all is! Still, I love the quality of the fruit and vegetables and a tray of mangoes for $30 seems like a good buy

  7. Okay, did you mean to say jiggle instead of giggle at the mayo? :) Kidding!

    See you soon!!!!

  8. And to add to your post if I may... whenever we went to the US we couldn't get over the size of ya'll's (see I'm catching on) plates and glasses! how in the world does one drink and eat so much!

  9. What a great post. What's interesting to me, particularly with the mayo, is that if you can go through that much mayo before it expires, then there is something seriously wrong with your diet, and if you can't, then you really aren't saving money. My mom tried to convince me to buy these enormous bags of coffee at Costco-- they're like 5 lbs of coffee and that's the smallest size. There is something so wrong with these bulk stores!

    Welcome to Cali!

  10. WOW...that's a HUGE bottle of Mayo. I was kind of shocked at the expense of food here, for what little there is. I think I'd die if I went into Costco again!

  11. "of which I are one"--you rock.

  12. My boys have pretty much gotten to the point where they will not eat meat without catsup on it. I am amazed at how quickly we go through a bottle, since neither my husband nor I will touch the stuff.