21st Century Puzzles #46

23092009005-001.jpgHow much do you pay for convenience? This pre-prepared stir-fry mix is priced at £1 in Tesco. It makes for a very easy part of meal, no choosing what you’re going to put in, washing or chopping veg and there’s only as much (well not quite actually, but close) as you need. Now obviously, buying the ingredients separately is going to cost less, but just how much less?

Well, I have this little thought, (it’s one element of the mighty cognitive overhead associated with being me) pretty much every time I go to the supermarket. So yesterday I decided to work it out.

Before cooking, I sorted the individual ingredients – there were bits of mushroom, onion, cabbage, carrot, red pepper and beansprouts.

It turned out that there were the following amounts:
Mushroom 70g
Onion 25g
Cabbage 37g
Carrot 37g
Red pepper 5g (two little sticks in fact)
Beansprout 185g

So the first little fact I could see was that it’s pretty much half beansprouts, a quarter mushrooms and the other quarter a mix of stuff (note for further research: does this change much over time, do they just put whatever is cheap and to hand?)

From these measurements I could easily work out the price of each ingredient by dividing up the £1 proportionately.

Then I cooked and ate it all.

After a reasonable amount of time I was ready to do some more field research. I went back to the same Tesco’s to check the prices of the ingredients sold separately.

Mushrooms are £1 for 300g so £3.33 per kg
Onions are sold loose for 26p each. An average sized one that I picked up was 170g allowing for topping and tailing, so thats £1.53 per kg
A savoy cabbage is 78p – a whole one weighed 716g and allowing for two-thirds of it to be edible that comes in at £1.64 per kg
Carrots are sold in kilo bags at £1.22 per kg
Red Peppers are currently 62p (which is cheap for peppers) I estimated the edible part to be 150g so they’re the luxury part at £4.13 per kg
Tesco didn’t have any beansprouts, but back at home I looked them up online and saw that a 300g bag is 48p or £1.60 per kg (more expensive than carrots – who knew?!)

I could now do the crucial calculations:

Ingredient Price packaged Price separate
Mushroom 0.19 0.23
Onion 0.07 0.04
Cabbage 0.10 0.06
Carrot 0.10 0.05
Red Pepper 0.01 0.02
Beansprouts 0.51 0.30
Total 1.00 0.70

(Rounding errors mean things don’t add up exactly…)

So there we have it an extra 30p to have your veg chosen and chopped for you. But then of course you’d have to offset somehow the fact that the individual veg is, in some cases, individually wrapped and so you’re actually getting less packaging with the mix and therefore saving a little bit of your soul. Also you’re denying yourself the spontanaiety/burden of being able to go in and say “I’m going to have a bit of this that and the other tonight”. No doubt there are many other dilemmas that are becoming obvious to you too.

So say you lived on this stuff and saved that 30p every day in a year you’d have £109.50 also you might be a bit bored of stir fry and want to use that £100 to go to a decent restaurant.

Or something.