Monday, March 02, 2009

Supply and Demand

Last Monday night, Phil and I were sitting on the steps of Farmer Joe, and Phil turned to me and said, “Money just melts out of your hand in Apia, huh?” I knew what the kid was talking about. If I let my guard down in the grocery store for just one or two items, it seems like the total cost of my groceries skyrockets. As it turns out, Phil and I have completely different strategies for making sure that we budget well given the shocking variance in grocery prices.

Phil tends to consume all of the food in his house until the cupboards are bare. Apparently once the ceramic plates start to look appetizing, he knows it’s time to shop. And when he shops, he’s bound to spend quite a bit to stock up to last him until it’s time for another shopping trip.

Me, I like to withdraw a small amount of cash from the bank, and limit myself to spending that small amount during my shopping trip. This can mean frequent trips to the ATM and daily hikes to one of the many markets in town, but I find that these inconvenient trips act as a deterrent to spending. It also keeps an ample supply of most things on hand. If I run out of jelly, I use my small amount of cash to buy jelly.

Although sometimes, like today, the perfect storm aligns, and I run out of peanut butter, jelly, bread, and Sprim at the same time. Not only does this present a budgetary challenge, it also begs the question of where to buy what. Farmer Joe sells freshly baked whole grain bread, and I feel compelled to buy that. But Citimart tends to be more competitive when it comes to peanut butter and jelly. And Chan Mow seems to have the widest selection of Sprim and the cheapest price. I also made a quick trip to the open-air market to pick up green onions.

I was able to stretch $20 WST to cover all that with the exception of the jelly. Part of the difficulty of living on an island is that the marketplace has a very finite supply of goods and when one place runs out of something, it’s likely that everyone else who sells that thing will also run out pretty soon.

And it’s fun to announce this at parties sometimes. Sara seemed downright proud to let everybody know in mid-January that “There are no canned black beans in the country right now.” I think it feels good to tell everyone else because to say such things with confidence usually means you’ve been to 6 or 7 places and have been disappointed each time; so disappointed that the reality of the situation becomes funny.

That’s how I feel with my search for jelly today. I can safely and confidently say that there is no reasonably priced jelly of any not-half-bad flavor available in Samoa right now. If you want to settle for black currant jelly (and pay the mysterious extra $1) or you are okay with apricot jelly, you are in luck and can find your desired flavor at many stores in town. If you want grape or boysenberry or raspberry and you are not willing to pay through the nose, you are SOL.

Perhaps the worst part of searching for a particular item is that in going to so many markets, one inevitably acquires many goods that must be checked at all subsequent stores. I bought the peanut butter first, and had to check it at Farmer Joe. Then I had to check the peanut butter, the bread, and the onions at Lucky Foodtown. Same at Chan Mow.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to not notice when every store is out of the same particular product. And it sucks. ‘Cause I love peanut butter and jelly. Oh well.

I hope the things you love are readily available for purchase. Picture below.

Bok choy on sale at the open-air market.

Answer to Saturday's question: what's wrong with the ice tea above? The answer is refills were not free! Boo to paying for ice tea by the glass.


Anonymous said...

Apricot jelly is one of my favorites. You should try it!

Amanda said...

what about snozberry??

Chris said...

The pineapple taste like pineapple. The snozberry taste like snozberry.