I went to the movies the other day. While there, I made the concession to purchase the food they had available at the kiosk. Like a lot of people, we realize that the price of snacks at certain places are somewhat exorbitant, raised to recoup the expenses of putting butts in the seats at the theaters. Naturally, we snuck a couple of things in, but in addition to the bags of sweets that we had, I purchased an order of Pretzel bites with movie cheese for six dollars.

I began to think about it. I looked over the prices of some of the other items on the board, and it made little sense to me that we hold a skewed sense of value for foods that are out of convenience. Wherein we would normally spend a considerable amount less for a comparable portion at home, millions of people, for a bag of popcorn that costs less than 50 cents to make, willingly shell out six, seven, eight dollars for the privilege of feedbaggery at the movies without a second thought.

Now, where I work, there is a price structure in place that is slightly higher than your average grocery store. For a pound of ground meat that is lean and grass-fed, you can expect to pay $7.99/lb. We’ve registered a few complaints in the last week about the rise in prices, especially with the price of ground bison at $9.99/lb. The fact is that the cost of raising an animal is going up. Commodity costs are higher for corn, wheat, and even pasture raised animals. It happens every couple of years. So what?

It goes back to convenience. For $7.99/lb, you get the equivalent of four 1/4 pound burgers, and still have money, even when buying the highest quality meat in the case, to buy your lettuce, tomato, and a good quality bun or hard roll. When did we get so complacent in our desires to eat right? Is it merely because we don’t want to think about making our meals?

There’s no filler in our meat. None. If you buy ground beef, it’s ground beef. There’s none of that horrible ammonia washed offal powder filler that is in something like 70% of our fast food burgers these days. You can probably find a good quality tomato, and a delicious mustard. If you end up paying a bit more for it, shouldn’t you take comfort in the fact that you’re paying a couple more pennies on your dollar back to someone who is raising an animal to be an animal and not a frozen fast food patty?

Back to the pretzels and nachos. Even in the grocery store, an entire box of pretzels costs 3-4 dollars. A frozen box of soft pretzels, if you want to get technical, costs around 5. Why do we feel that it’s alright to pay the premium for something merely because we are beyond the velvet rope of a movie theater? I don’t.

You can get an entire bag of good tortilla chips for $3. Salsa? $2.50. Cheese? $4. That’s at least three or four servings of a complete nacho extravaganza for under ten dollars, if you just make it yourself.

Soda? Any soft drink that you purchase at the movies is going to be $5 or above for a liter or larger. Even when looking at a six pack, it’s cheaper at the store. Want to know what else is less expensive, and a lot better for you? 2 quarts of orange juice. $3.99.

What everyone wants is a meal that can be made in one pot in less than 30 minutes, with a minimal amount of steps. You can make a hamburger or cheeseburger in that amount of time. You can get inexpensive pasta, chop up an onion and garlic, throw in some frozen vegetables, and add some cheese that you shred yourself on top when you’re done. Toss it together and serve. Total time? <30minutes. Total cost for a family of four? <$10. Compared to a bucket of chicken from a fast food joint, the five minutes you spend chopping vegetables is more valuable than the 15 you spend debating in the restaurant queue about what everyone wants to eat.

In addition to money, few things cause dischord more than going out for fast food. At least one person feels exasperated, because it acts as a last resort for a parent with less energy to spend on dinner plans. The aspect of ordering is always a chore, especially if you have children, who are notorious in their indecision. Lastly, nobody feels good after they eat fast food. You only feel full. Extra salt and fat make us feel not satisfied, but sluggish.

Quick- name a fast food chain whose prominent advertising color is green. Subway, right? That’s about the only one I can think of. And their slogan- Eat Fresh? If I want to eat fresh, I’ll eat at home. If I eat at Subway, there’s no way I’ll load up on green peppers and iceberg lettuce just to increase the overall health of my sandwich. Those things barely have any nutritional value to begin with. I don’t know what the reason is behind many restaurants having a logo that is comprised mostly of hot colors (red, orange, yellow). Maybe it gives the illusion of fire, of something being flame broiled. There hasn’t been an open flame at Wendy’s for years. The only reason there’s a flame broiler at Burger King is to keep the frozen patties from melting into piles of goo. Yes, goo. If you drop a frozen BK patty on the ground,it doesn’t thaw into a pile of ground beef- it melts into a puddle.

Yet somehow, you get the illusion that you’re getting a whole meal at these places, that what you’re eating is satisfying your appetite. It may be, but it doesn’t satisfy your hunger for real food, does it? If I eat, I want real burgers, real fried chicken, a salad that doesn’t come pre-loaded with precooked bacon bits, an egg, cheese, turkey, and everything else that doesn’t make it a salad. In the time it takes me to walk to the Polish sausage joint down the street, order, come back, and start eating, I can look in the fridge, throw some stuff in the oven, and sit down to relax as my food, my real food, lightly browns on its way to my plate. We eat with our eyes, I understand, even though in reality we eat with our mouths, but watching a popcorn popper at the movie theater triggers the impulse buy. The popping sound. The manufactured smell of artificial butter. It is just as easy to replicate that experience at home with real food. You have a pan. You can make some music with a sizzle, a bubbling boil, and a percussive rap of a knife blade against the cutting board. The end result, along with the sounds and smells, will give you far more satisfaction and a better sense of value than a trough of movie popcorn ever could.

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