Price check at the 99p Store

2 Aug

I’ve been scouring the Internet for some new healthy recipes lately. You know why more people don’t eat healthily? Because it’s expensive. And requires ingredients that people like me who throw barbecue sauce and chicken into a slow cooker and call it dinner don’t have — things like tahini, couscous and nutritional yeast. Yes, I said nutritional yeast. So yesterday morning I set off in search of yeast, knowing full well I would have to go to the store I’ve managed to avoid since I arrived in London: Whole Foods.

I have a lot of friends who swear by Whole Foods. When I was in college it was the only grocery store within walking distance. I think the store took advantage of that fact and jacked their prices up even more. While I wish I could buy all the natural, organic and exotic delicacies “Wholes” has to offer, there’s a reason my friends used to call it “Whole Paycheck.”

I walked into the store and immediately found the first item on my list — almond butter! Like peanut butter, only almonds, which is supposedly healthier. It was £11. ELEVEN POUNDS. That’s $17, American friends. Granted, it was a rather large jar (for British standards) and organic, but there was no way I was going to pay that. I eventually found a smaller jar for £3, which is still a lot of money when peanut butter costs £1, but I couldn’t suppress my desire to try almond butter, so I grabbed it. I then went in search of nutritional yeast. This tahini salad dressing recipe I found called for it and the vegan Internet raves about it, saying it tastes like cheese and you can put it on popcorn and it’s amazing. I finally broke down and asked an employee. “Brewer’s yeast?” she asked me, and handed me a large bottle. I politely thanked her and pretended to read the label when I was really looking for the price sticker. It was really tiny but it looked like £14. FOURTEEN POUNDS. Almost $22. For some deactivated yeast to put in a salad dressing made with tahini and I don’t even know if I like tahini. But then I was in that awkward position where you ask a sales associate where something is and they find it for you and then you realize you don’t want it but can’t put it back in front of them. So I carried the bottle of gold yeast around for a little bit until I abandoned it on the Japanese shelf when no one was looking. I was about to abandon the dressing recipe too despite already purchasing tahini, but decided to try one more health food store. Their brewer’s yeast was £4 something, which seemed like pennies, so I bought it. And then I got home and discovered that brewer’s yeast and nutritional yeast are not the same thing. This is after I opened the box and stuck my finger in. Crap. I’m still determined to use it in my recipe and hopefully it doesn’t taste like £7 down the drain (for the yeast and tahini).

All this healthy cooking requires a lot of steaming vegetables and straining couscous and I don’t have a strainer. So my next stop was the 99p Store, where everything is 99p. I found a lone little mesh strainer sitting amongst the kitchenware section, like it was waiting for me. It was the only one and it didn’t have a tag, but considering this was the 99p Store, where everything is 99p, I didn’t think that’d be a problem. I placed it down at the till and the cashier looked at me with panic. “It was the only one,” I told her. She looked nervously at her colleague and called him over. They whispered for awhile. “There wasn’t any other ones?” she asked again. I couldn’t figure out why this was a problem. I remember in the early days the Dollar Store would count how many items you had and that’s how many dollars you owed — there was no scanning or price checks. Eventually the cashier left and came back with a Pepsi Max. Because obviously a Pepsi Max is the closest thing in shape and utility to a mesh strainer. At this point the people behind me were getting antsy. I just wanted to buy this one item, I even had my £1 coin in my hand, ready. “59p,” the cashier said.

They did a price check at the 99p Store, and the price they came up with was 59p.

That boggles me. As far as I know, the only things at the 99p Store that don’t cost 99p are the candy bars and pop, which are usually 2 or 3 for 99p. Nothing in the kitchenware section costs less than 99p. Was my strainer part of a set? Is that why it was tagless? Do strainers come in sets? I decided not to question it and happily accepted 41p back from my £1 coin instead of the expected penny. I’m sure that strainer would have cost at least £15 at Whole Foods, which makes me feel better about the yeast fiasco.

…And for the record — almond butter tastes like almonds. Ground up almonds that cost £3. I don’t think I’ll be going to Wholes again anytime soon.

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