Food Issue: Smart Food

Just Say No: To the frozen food section

By Jacob Lambert
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Dec. 3, 2008

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The total cost: about $3. By spending an extra four bits, you've just produced eight servings of home-cooked soup (at 38 cents per bowl) that you'll struggle valiantly for days to finish.

Egg salad sandwich (prices from Whole Foods Market)

Trying to value shop at the notoriously costly Whole Foods is a comically hopeless endeavor. But even in the land of the $3 avocado, premade food items stand out as particularly poor deals. Some of the worst are the "grab and go" sandwiches, with a $5.49 egg salad job that's the king of the ripoffs. For a week's worth of your own, you'll need an initial layout of $13.45: • Whole wheat bread: $2.29/loaf • 1 dozen eggs: $2.39 • 1 head lettuce: $2.49 • 2 tomatoes: $2.99 • 1 jar mayonnaise: $3.29

That investment will pay off with a proud fleet of seven sandwiches (and plenty of leftover bread, lettuce and mayonnaise) at $1.92 a pop. And that price plummets when you swap Whole Foods for a store that doesn't radiate wallet-draining corporate crunchiness.

The bottom line: It's much cheaper to cook than to be cooked for. It's also far more fresh, nourishing and fulfilling.

Restaurant Deals

-By Adam Erace


27 S. Third St. 215.627.2485.

Ansill is beautifully cheap if you dine on weekdays between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. During those magical minutes, flutes of sprightly Prosecco are $5; pints of a selected local draught are $3; and oysters are a buck-a-shuck.


210 W. Rittenhouse Sq. 215.790.2533.

Chef Matthew Levin must have a crystal ball in his kitchen along with his immersion circulator and NO2 dispenser. He's been running this unbelievable deal for more than a year now: On Monday nights diners can BYOB with no corkage or enjoy any of the award-winning cellar's 500-plus bottles for 50 percent off. Dig the Casa de la Ermita, a flowery Spanish viognier you can nab for $27.50 during this deal.


828 S. Eighth St. 215.629.4980.

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Comments 1 - 5 of 5
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1. phillygrrl said... on Dec 2, 2008 at 08:29PM

“And don't forget Under the Oak Cafe! Read about it in my blog!”

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2. silverbullet69 said... on Dec 2, 2008 at 08:29PM

“And don't forget Under the Oak Cafe! Read about it in my blog!”

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3. paula johnson said... on Dec 4, 2008 at 09:52PM

“I would rather spend more money on an egg salad sandwich that is made using cage-free eggs, mayonnaise free of hydrogenated oils and whole grain bread that doesn't contain "caramel coloring." While I agree that it is cheaper to prepare your own meals at home, I do not think it fair to throw Whole Foods under the bus. Instead of bashing Whole Foods, educate yourself about the high quality products they carry and the small companies that they support. That is why I choose to shop there. Not to mention, eating healthy now may save me many expensive trips to the hospital later on in life. Just sayin'...”

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4. silverbullet69 said... on Dec 9, 2008 at 10:02AM

“it's also possible, with a little research and work, to find REAL LOCAL, healthy ingredients somewhere OTHER THAN WHOLE FOODS where you're paying double the price (or more) for all that fancy "green" branding and b.s. flowery yoga logo design. shopping on 9th street or a farmers market/produce stand with local stuff, regardless of whether it's "organic" or doesn't come with a snappy hippie-dippy save the world packaging you're supporting PHILADELPHIA's economy, supporting hard working communities - mexicans, amish, whatever - rather than A HUGE GIANT COMPANY that MAKES BILLIONS OF DOLLARS off of people's environmental GUILT.”

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5. juliet Wayne said... on Dec 13, 2008 at 11:59AM

“I've lived in Philadelphia all my life. If I ever doubted my city's status as a vanguard of cultural innovation, my doubts were erased when I picked up last week's Philadelphia Weekly. The cover story about cheap food [where to find it, what to do with it after you find it, etc.] nearly made me blush with excitement, and I quickly flipped to the article. I was not to be disappointed! Riveted from the first paragraph, I eventually arrived at the part where the reporter bravely spoke out against skyrocketing egg salad sandwich prices. These "grab and go" rip-offs are one of the biggest rackets perpetrated on American soil since the British government attempted to levy taxes on the head-cheese breakfast wrap — the third most popular sandwich in colonial Philadelphia between 1765 and 1773. Grab and go? More like grab and KNOW! Now, I've always felt the allure of the egg —for both its culinary properties and its presence in Heironymous Bosch paintings—but never believed myself to be the kind of bon vivant (if you will) that could actually put together an egg dish of my own. Luckily the writer walked me through it: where to buy things like lettuce, eggs, mayonnaise and even tomatoes! I really had to psych myself up. "Just pretend you're the kind of person who can cook egg dishes!" I thought, as I tugged at my fleece mock turtleneck, hoping no one would notice me —the novice— at the grocery store. (Thank you for pointing out these off-the-grid snacktopias to me by the way - everything was so much cheaper than at Whole Foods!) Next thing I knew I was boiling, shelling and eventually mashing eggs with mayonnaise, and eating my own egg salad sandwich, created with the help of the Philadelphia Weekly. As I cleared my placemat, walked over to the sink and eventually washed and dried my plate and cutlery, I looked across the cityscape from my kitchen window, confident now in Philadelphia's status as a culinary hub! Look out New York! Move over Baltimore! And me? Well, as I exclaimed with newfound confidence to my pet hermit crab, Joel, I'm a cost-savvy Philadelphian gourmand! ”


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