Food & Drink

Andrea Weigl: Warehouse store shoppers, let me teach you how to cook

I try not to judge others. But there’s one place where I routinely fail: warehouse grocery stores.

My family has a membership to BJ’s Wholesale Club. We use it mainly to buy paper towels, toilet paper, diapers before our daughter finally (sort of) mastered potty training. It saved us money when we were spending $80 a month on dog food to feed three yellow lab mixes.

We don’t do the bulk of our grocery shopping there. We tend to buy specific things. I buy sugar in 25-pound bags, because I use so much for canning, and it is cheaper that way. My husband buys large containers of mixed greens for a week’s worth of salads. We buy sticks of pepperoni because we get more for the money to satisfy our regular homemade pizza cravings. We have also purchased the occasional lunch meat, Thanksgiving turkey or special occasion lamb chops.

Whenever we go there, I am astonished by the shoppers with carts brimming with prepared or processed foods in those humongous warehouse store quantities.

This is where I tend to judge but probably shouldn’t.

I’m lucky to love to cook, to get paid to do it on a regular basis, to have a spouse who also loves to cook.

I have no idea how harried these folks’ lives are, how much they may hate cooking or how much of the meal planning falls on one resentful spouse’s shoulders. I also have no idea how large their families are or why shopping at a warehouse store makes sense for their family and their schedule.

Eating processed foods

Right after the New Year, my husband overheard a couple, in their 20s, pushing a shopping cart filled with prepared foods around the BJ’s, saying to each other: “We’re going to save money. We’re not going to eat out. We’re going to eat more at home.”

Yes, they will probably save money, eating at home compared to dining out each night. But if I had been the one to overhear them, I would have had to resist the temptation to shake their cart and say: “You want to save some real money? Let me teach you how to cook. Let me teach you how to make a batch of soup, a basic tomato sauce, a pot of beans, a roast chicken. You’ll eat better, learn a new skill and save so much more money. Wouldn’t you rather spend that money on a vacation than frozen pizza?”

I’m sure they would have looked at me as if I was crazy, intrusive shopper.

Let me teach you to cook

No matter. I’m offering up my services to one interested reader or to someone a reader might like to nominate, someone who wants to break out of a cooking rut and learn some kitchen and meal planning basics. Tell me about your family, circumstances and nightly dinner challenges. Tell me your level of kitchen skills and what you hope to learn. I’ll read each submission and choose someone based on their willingness and where I believe I can do the most good.

I promise to withhold judgment and expect that I will not only be teaching but also getting a better understanding of the challenges facing today’s families. Of course, I’d want to write about the experience.

Let me know no later than March 15 if you are willing. You know how to reach me.

Weigl: 919-829-4848 or aweigl@newsobserver.com;

Twitter: @andreaweigl

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