The cost of convenience, case study: Pineapple

30 Mar

You may recall my little rant from a while back, where I stated that the main product supermarkets sell you is convenience. It doesn’t always have to be that way, though. Fortunately, we’re often still being given a choice between getting “convenient” products or not.

Just for kicks, let me try to show you the difference.

Here’s a fairly common product that you may find in the cooling section at the fruit and vegetables department. It’s pineapple.

It retails for one pound. Although that may be a bit steep for me this month, but normally it’s not something I lose sleep over. Notice that the pineapple is ready to eat as it’s peeled and cleaned (although some of the eyes of the pineapple haven’t been properly removed).

Now, what I found interesting is that about ten steps away from there, in the fresh fruit department, you can buy pineapple as well. And it will cost you exactly one pound, as well.

The only difference, in essence, between these pineapples and the pre-prepared ones, is that these fresh pineapples need to be peeled and cut before they can be eaten. In contrast to the pineapple fingers in the previous picture, you’ll be able to keep these outside the fridge for a few days while they’re not peeled. The peel protects them, to a degree.

The problem is, if you want to eat the above pineapple, you’ll need to spend a bit of effort peeling it. Now here’s where things get interesting.

The thing is, if you buy unpeeled, fresh pineapple, you get a whole lot more pineapple for the same price. Remember how much pineapple you’d get if you bought the pineapple fingers in the first picture? A smart 200 grams. Do you know how much pineapple you get, at the same price, if you peel your own?

Wait, what? Let me zoom that in for you.

Yes, you’re seeing it right. A whole pineapple is over 1.3 kilograms of fruit. Lets say, for the sake of argument, that you’re doing a quick and lazy job on that, and you manage to produce a whopping half a kilogram of pineapple waste. You’ll probably have a pretty hard time being quite that wasteful. Even then, you’ll still end up with four times the amount of good clean pineapple that you would get by buying pre-packaged pineapple fingers. In marketing-speak:

BUY ONE, GET THREE FREE!

Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. I know what I would choose. Pineapple is not only nice as a snack, it also works well in Chinese sweet-and-sour sauce. Or, if that’s your thing, on a Hawaii pizza. Or juiced, in a piña colada. Or char-grilled with a Jamaican Jerk Chicken. Or simply in a mixed fruit salad. Or perhaps all this doesn’t inspire you – maybe you could offer some to your neighbour.

But if you insist on buying the pre-peeled pineapple fingers, go ahead.

By the way, if you want a better deal than “Buy one get three free”, check out this video showing how to peel a pineapple. By cutting out the eyes along their natural spiral placement, you’ll minimise waste and likely get another portion of pineapple fingers out of that one fruit. If you live in a hot climate, you can plant the crown (attached to a generous top slice of the pineapple) and grow your own.

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5 Responses to “The cost of convenience, case study: Pineapple”

  1. Mr. Fed Up March 30, 2012 at 8:02 pm #

    Great Post…The “cost of convince” is seriously a problem I face every grocery trip.

    This really is a good topic.

  2. Conor Bofin March 30, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    Here in Ireland we are going through the worst recession in living memory (I am 53) . I see the ‘convenient’ fruit option in ‘convenience’ stores and it makes my blood boil. I work in the advertising business so I get to see some inside track on retail stuff. This is referred to as ‘value add’. The value added is the convenience of not having to have either the wit or inclination to peel a pineapple. I too recently posted a few pictures showing how to do it. Apart from getting multiple of pineapple for the same money, it is a lot fresher, not having been stored in inert gas for however long.
    Best,
    Conor

  3. sarah March 30, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

    In addition to the hugely inflated cost, the fresh fruits are washed in a “bleach-type” solution to kill the bacteria, so they can stay fresh longer, OK, maybe it is not that harmfull to have some diluted bleach in your snack every now and then, but I am not sure if it is very healthy to have it every day.

  4. Elizabeth Hull April 1, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    Wow, I never knew the pineapple eyes grew spirally ! And I LOVE pineapple, this will make life so much easier when making fruit salads – thank you !!

    • kleinebre April 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

      You’re very welcome! As you can see in the attached video, don’t follow one spiral at a time – just cut wedges out of the side of the pineapple as you go along. It’s a bit more cumbersome than just slicing off a fat slice of skin but the few extra minutes of time it takes will give you so much more pineapple.

      If you want to prepare the pineapple 100% Asian style – they also tend to rub it with salt, then quickly rinse off the salt again. Apparently the salt helps neutralise some of the acid/enzymes (though I don’t have evidence for this – I’d like to find a reliable source).

      Also, did you know that in some Asian countries they suggest avoiding pineapple when pregnant? Might be based on superstition though!

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