So, I’ve been working at Schinkels’ for a couple months now.
Aside from the usual and expected growing pains of trying to
balance the schedules, laundry, cooking, cleaning, drives and activities of
four kids in three schools around a slowly increasing work schedule, it’s been great.
I absolutely love my time at the store.
The moment I walk in the back, I’m thrilled to put all my home woes and worries
behind me and focus on the practical needs of the immediate now up at the front of the store.
“Time to Trim the Chicken”
has been slowly modified to also include,
“Time to make the Slavenkin”,
“Time to bread the Schnitzel”,
“Time to make the Cordon Bleu”
“Time to make the Broccoli Cheddar Chicken”,
and a host of other responsibilities to make the shift fly by.
It sometimes feels like we never catch up,
we never get to the point where all the ready-made fresh meat options are all loaded in the counter.
Just at the point when I finish a lovely tray of 10 Cordon Bleu and load it into the counter,
I realize that some irresponsible staff has sold off most of my pretty Slavenkin,
so I will have to fill that tray as well.
And when I finish making them just right, bacon edge down,
and looking so pretty, wouldn’t you know it?
Someone decided to clear out all of the Cheddar Broccoli Chicken!
And, so, back to the cooler I go, to get the fresh broccoli
and then back to the deli for the medium cheddar so I can start another batch of those,
only to be told in passing that we are down to only 2 Cordon Bleu,
and won’t I mind working on those as soon as I can, please?
Just typing about it on a quiet Sunday at home makes me a bit anxious.
Customers certainly don’t need to worry about our
ready-made fresh dinner items getting old in our counter.
The thing is, I keep hearing from customers little things
that have made me pause in my complacency of taking
Schinkels’ for granted in our family’s weekly food provision.
Let me explain.
When I married this guy from Essex 20 years ago and began to set up our new family’s routines,
I was coming from a family that often used the local butcher for most of our meat needs.
“Half a cow” or “half a pig” was understood to be the basic freezer filler every year,
and then we would make a trip to our butcher for other things such as
sausage or bacon to complement our usual fare on an ongoing basis.
Using a grocery store for meat was seen as the last resort,
or perhaps if time didn’t allow for an extra stop.
So, this idea of using a local butcher to provide our family’s meat was totally normal to me.
The fact that I married the actual butcher was just an added bonus,
because that meant that if I forgot to buy a key ingredient,
or decided to make something spur of the moment,
I just had to call him at the store and ask him to bring it home at lunch.
So, it’s been a bit of an eye-opener to realize that so many people don’t live this way.
Because of work schedules and distance and hosts of other reasons,
some people actually depend on big box grocery stores
to supply most, if not all, of their fresh or frozen meat.
(That’s a bit of an exaggeration, people.
I’m adding drama and hyperbole to my blog for purely theatrical reasons.
I’m not being judgemental about your family’s lifestyles and choices.
We all do what we need to do.)
Anyway, the thing that keeps coming up,
is the assumption that because Schinkels’ prides itself on
quality meat and exemplary service,
we must also be more expensive.
I keep hearing customers exclaim to each other or to the staff
how surprised they are at our prices being so low.
Ok, I know that for some things,
Schinkels’ tends to be a bit more money than some other larger stores.
But that’s pretty much because we can’t even come close to the purchasing power
of a corporation that can buy thousands of cases of ketchup to keep their cost down.
But, since November, while I’m doing my non-Schinkels’ groceries,
I’ve been trying to see if that is true for our basics.
Almost felt like an undercover investigator at times.
Furtively pulling out my phone and snapping pictures of
prices and weights of what I would call “usual fare”.
You know, ground beef, pork chops, deli meat, sausage.
Stuff like that.
The stuff we need to buy to keep our families eating healthy, balanced meals.
I couldn’t believe that over all these years I might have been
paying more than I needed to on the meat portion of our grocery bills,
simply because I was married to this guy.
I’m loyal, but also frugal.
So I wanted proof.
I immediately discovered that the metric thing was going to be an issue.
I was brought up metric in school, but am still imperial in practice.
So is Schinkels’ Meat Market.
Price per pound is still our standard, thanks to customer preference.
Other stores have been a little hesitant to showcase a price per kilogram
( $4.99/lb is the same as $10.97/kg, but that’s a scarier number for the consumer to handle)
so they end up pricing per 100g,
which looks really affordable when compared to the price per pound
($1.09/ 100g looks better than $4.99/lb, but it’s the same price).
See how deceptive it can be?
So, I armed myself with a calculator and my basic math skills,
and set off across town, comparing prices at different stores.
To be fair, I looked at regular prices in the two other stores,
one on the outskirts of Windsor, and one here in Essex.
I was thinking that would be our customers’ options in the Essex area.
Not sale prices, not features, just the usual price.
We all know how to run all over looking for bargains during different seasons of life,
and bulk is always fun,
but for the general, when we are just trying to work out a menu kind of week,
regular prices are sometimes what we need to deal with.
And, when it was an option, I compared the prices of the products that were
similar to Schinkels’ products in quality (no additives, colours, etc.)
First up: Ground Beef.
Seriously, the staple of our home.
Use it at least a couple times a week for everything from meatloaf to meatballs to chili.
Schinkels’ current price: $5.19/lb for our lean ground.
Store #1 – $14.41/kg – works out to $6.54/lb
Store #2 – $ 12.14/kg – works out to $5.52/lb
Crazy, huh? For some reason, I knew that was coming. 🙂
After all these years of cooking spaghetti and casseroles,
no way did I pay more for our family’s ground beef.
To be absolutely fair, one store did have these funny tube-shaped things
that looked like squeezable cheese
(anyone else remembers squeezable cheese?),
and they claimed to be ground beef inside,
but I couldn’t see through the plastic, so I really wasn’t sure about that.
Next most popular food at dinner here for my growing boy children.
Schinkels’ has a bunch of different varieties,
so I decided to just compare our three most popular,
Breakfast, Honey Garlic and Mild Italian.
Other stores had a couple of brands,
so I actually made my decision as to which price to use based on
which brand I felt best about feeding to my family.
Not necessarily the cheapest, wasn’t the most expensive, either,
but the one that advertised better quality in production and ingredients.
I may be frugal, but I also demand quality.
Schinkels’ current price: $4.29/lb
(all three types happen to have the same price, so that was easy)
Store #1 – they sold most of their varieties at the same price and
marketed that they were “Butcher Quality” – they were $6.28 for a 500g package,
so their Honey Garlic & Mild Italian worked out to $5.70/lb.
However, their breakfast sausage was
$6.28 for a 375g package, so that worked out to $7.60/lb.
Store #2 – Same thing, but they were a little less than store #1,
$5.27 for a 500g package, which equals $4.78/lb.
And their breakfast sausage was packaged at the same price,
but in a smaller package as well –
$5.27/ 375g, which was equalled $6.38/lb
(Not really sure why the breakfast sausages were substantially more
at both stores as compared to other sausage types)
Still looking pretty good here at Schinkels’, isn’t it?
Ok, so then I thought I’d look at some roasts.
You know, nice Sunday afternoon roasts that feed the whole family.
Don’t want to stretch my budget for such a staple…
Schinkels’ current price for an inside round roast : $7.49/lb
Now I ran into a bit more trouble even finding roasts at the other stores.
I ended up needing to talk to a meat cutter at the one store to get a price.
They had a sirloin tip in the counter (just one) at $16.99/lb (Schinkels’ is $ 9.99),
but could get me an outside round at $14.71/lb. No inside round. Hmmm…
Ok, next store – the same problem.
Only two kinds of roasts even available in the counter.
One was a tenderloin roast at $21.77/lb (that one was actually less expensive than Schinkels’ price of $22.99/lb),
and the other was a Centre cut Pork Loin Roast for $6.49/lb (Schinkels’ price $5.99/lb).
And they did not have any personnel who could get me anything else.
Only two roasts to choose from.
That’s a little sad, when I think about all my options when I look at our counters.
Even when something isn’t in the counter,
we have our Luc, Greg and Bob around most of the day to cut just about anything our customer desires.
Hmmm… Ok, so how about that deli?
We sell more Black Forest Ham, Roast Beef, Oven Roasted Turkey, and bologna
then just about anything else in the deli, so I thought I would compare those.
Black Forest Ham
Schinkels’ current price: $6.99/lb
Store #1 – the name brand they had prepackaged was $12.31/lb
Store #2 – their store brand was $5 for 250g = $9.10/lb
(which, by the way, is made in our store with our own fresh cut roasts,
and seasoned without salt, and it’s gluten, dairy, nitrate, by-product and all that other bad for you stuff free)
Schinkels’ current price: $11.99
Store #1 – the name brand they had prepackaged was $12.31/lb
Store #2 – the store brand was $5 for 250g = $9.10/lb
Oven Roasted Turkey Breast
Schinkels’ current price: $11.99/lb
Store #1 – $3.08/100g = $14.01/lb
Store #2 – couldn’t find any
So, generally, the deli prices were fairly comparable.
The “no name” or store brands tended to be less expensive,
but brand name options tended to be more than Schinkels’ prices.
The trick was in the packaging.
Without a deli where you could specify exactly how much you wanted,
customers needed to choose pre-packaged size amounts
that may or may not suit their family’s needs.
(ok, so I’m not sure I need to mention it,
but just have to note as well that we slice everything as you ask for it,
so if you ask for thick or thin, it’s all the same price.
And, if you only want 1/4 lb, that’s what you get.)
And, also, the entire line of Schinkels’ Legacy products that
Greg’s cousin, Tim, makes out of his company in Chatham.
All MSG, gluten, dairy, and by-product free.
Not hard to prefer Schinkels’ Legacy.
I’m not even going to continue.
The other cuts I compared (Chicken, steak, chops) were all very competitive.
Some were more, some were less at Schinkels’, but all fairly close.
Can’t compare the quality.
What wasn’t close was the comparison in quality.
In my opinion, at least.
I think that personally knowing that Bob or Luc or Greg cut the meat off a
side of beef earlier that same day I bought it might have
something to do with the assumption of freshness I’ve come to take for granted.
And, now that I’ve been working, I know the process.
I have seen the poultry delivered on Monday morning and
then personally made any number of chicken cordon bleu,
and trimmed bags of boneless skinless breasts,
and sliced buckets of chicken strips that are all bought the same day.
Tuesday, we get more chicken delivered.
I know and am assured that we have the absolute best and freshest
chicken cordon bleu (or chicken in general) our customers could possibly buy.
As a matter of fact, I feel that same way about all our fresh meats.
And deli products.
And store-made, ready to serve meals.
After doing the research, I feel much better.
I wouldn’t be a responsible citizen and friend if I wasn’t willing to
share my findings with the general public.
Not everyone has the time and ability to go do all that research themselves.
And, yes, I’m possibly a little over-the-top in my enthusiasm.
I’m getting to be a little passionate about Schinkels’, in fact.
Might even be classified as biased, soon.
But, hey, when you have good thing going,
you want to share it, don’t you?