Saturday, February 17, 2007

Costcolina Regained

Costco has Annie's! I am so happy. I had the misfortune of discovering how delicious Annie's actually is when we moved to Washington and discovered that the disgusting Kraft mac n cheese my dh subjected my happily obliging children to was no longer "inexpensive." I am deep-fried Southern, and macaroni and cheese is a melty, oozing casserole you slather on your teeming plates every Sunday. NOT the crap in the box. Kraft offended me on many levels. With Annie's, P-daddy had boxed convenience, the kids had "bunny butts" and I had fast food that didn't make me want to hurl. Win-win-win.

Anyway, back to Washington state, where the Costco in Federal Way was always so packed that I well, gave up on Costco altogether. For those who knew me in Charleston, it was a blow to hear me say "Costco sucks," because I clearly meant it. In Charleston, I was a personal chef with an executive membership, and I never paid for a membership renewal until 2006. When Costco launched Charleston, they gave everyone a free year's membership. I paid for the upgrade, but given the nature of my business, the Costco reward I received every year paid for the next year's membership. Sweet!

It was Christmastime and I was heavily pregnant, in a dark Washington winter for the first three weeks we lived in WA state. We needed food. We needed to restock everything we'd left behind to move across country. For me, that meant Costco. Every day, all day, the Federal Way Costco is a quagmire of rude, mentally stunted people who don't know how to park or yield. The parking lot itself was a steep hill, so the grade made it difficult-to-dangerous for a pregnant woman and two toddlers to navigate with an atomic-butt-ton of food and supplies for an empty house. It was like the Charleston Costco on Saturday noon, but here it was every hour of every day. On a steep grade.

After a few of these escapades, I forsook Costco. I found delicious specialty stores and a warehouse called Winco, which basically is run like a groceries-only Costco. Between the two of these, life regained some rhthym, just without including Costco.

Move forward again to moving into the house we purchased. Here, we get our milk, eggs, honey, vegetables and meat from farms and butchers, but I still need staples like coffee, pasta, rice, canned items and cleaning supplies. Now, I am 45 minutes away from the closest Winco, but only 25 minutes from the two closest Costcos, 30 from the Business Costco we discovered in Fife. I have had to retrain my eye to my Costco love, but at least these are normal stores. Still busy, but nothing cracked out like the Federal Way store. While I miss my specialty cheese, and Costco doesn't really give me that, it does afford me the luxury of avoiding grocery stores altogether, which is worthwhile.

Removed from Winco, one of the only things I have been crabbing about (and this is in my head mostly because it is embarassing) has been missing Annie's. I prefer my own casserole dish, but the kids liek the boxed stuff and I simply won't buy the Kraft. Can't do it. But now I pay something like 1.79 for a box, IF I find it on sale. At Winco, it's regularly .99 to 1.29 depending on the variety. I felt sort of bad buying the giant Costco box, because at .58 there would be NO competition for the specialty grocers who carry Annie's. I proactively regretted the lack of the delicious varieties the company offers, because surely no one would buy them now that this was available.

Holy Hell.

Annie's is good. Real good.

The "blue box," they're calling it, as a direct competitor to Kraft. It is organic, but it tastes just like Kraft. Oh spelunk-yuck. I mean, really. Foulness. The kids, of course, love it, but I of course, think it is foul.

So in a stroke of marketing genius, Annie's has reached for the palate of and successfully sold to the masses with their blue box: organic on the cheap. Meanwhile, they have protected their specialty market labels and ensured that people like me will continue to pay the 1.79 per box. Unless it's not on sale.

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