This is the first in an occasional series of short articles about Grocery Shopping In Berkeley. In these articles, I will briefly illuminate where the best quality might be found, the best prices, and the hidden secrets of shopping successfully and–I admit–cheaply.

It’s no secret that many families today, particularly perhaps middle class families like our own, have been hit and downsized by the economy. My wife muddled through the past few years, keeping her job and benefits despite a bump or two, while I got laid off and proceeded to rebound into the retail world locally to earn significantly less than I once did. I’ve bounced now around several retail jobs from barista to wine and cheese purveyor to comic book grader.

So these days, when I shop and try to buy gourmet foods, I find I use gourmet methods but simply use the best ingredients I can find–at the best prices. Sometimes it means that I need to eschew (love that word) the high priced stuff for my local Hispanic grocer. You get what you pay for is an old expression which can be matched by A ribeye at $8/lb can sometimes taste just as good as a ribeye at $27/lb.

Hey. I’d love to support organic, grain fed beef raised and slaughtered humanely (whatever) but at $27 a friggin’ pound, sorry. It ain’t gonna happen. It may be good for the environment, I have no doubt, but…$27/lb. Later for that when I win the lottery.

Berkeley Bowl West. Good quality meat market. $14.99 per pound for ribeye, generally. I’ll buy a steak and my wife and I will split it one third/two thirds. Mi Tierra Foods? $8.99 per pound. Usually a thicker cut, not quite so marbled and maybe the cow was two years old rather than 12 months. But it’s a steak. It tastes good. I can cook either pretty well.

Given that having a steak is something of a special occasion for many, not the least of which is the price but also that no one really needs to eat a steak every day, paying a higher price for better quality might be a reasonable idea…except that IMHO that while there may be an appreciable difference in quality between the more marbled meat rather than that which is less so, my feeling is that once you’re biting into a properly seasoned steak, properly cooked, unless you’re a really tweaked aficionado of steaks, You. Won’t. Care.

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