Friends, today I ask for your advice on an important decision I’m currently pondering. A decision involving…apples.
By the way, this post is part of my “Great Calculations” series—other posts in the series include The Great Laundry Calculation (which contains an important equation that you definitely need to know), The Great Yoga Calculation (yep, I shell out for classes on a regular basis), and The Great Phone Bill Calculation (more updates on this one very soon, I hope).
So about the apples. I don’t know how tuned in you are to the yearly apple cycle in the region where you live, but I’ve been closely monitoring the cycle here in New England for years, and I can tell you that we’re rapidly approaching a pivotal juncture. That’s right: it’s the time of year when the last local (and local-ish) Macintosh and Macoun apples have all but disappeared and the fancy-pants apples shipped in from Chile—I’m talking about those huge, shiny Pink Ladys, Fujis, Braeburns, and Honeycrisps—are multiplying like crazy.
How many apples do you eat per week, on average? One? Two? Three? Five? I’d estimate that I typically consume between ten and fifteen apples every week, year-round, and I feel confident in saying that if apples were free, I’d have one with every single meal. And what all this means is that I spend a good deal of time in the fruit section of the supermarket, engaged in apple examination and apple math.
Apple-purchasing is a complicated business. Apple prices fluctuate notoriously frequently, but in the stores in my neighborhood they can generally range from $0.99/pound (and sometimes as low as $0.69/pound) to $3.49/pound (and occasionally more), depending on when, where, and what kind you’re buying. So if I buy 10 apples per week for a year, this could cost me anywhere from about $350 to nearly $2000, depending on the weight of a single apple, which can also vary widely.
A money-savvy person who does not care about apples might say, well, Sarah, either don’t buy apples at all, or buy the cheap ones and put the difference towards your student loan payments. But it’s not that simple. If you have ever selected apples for purchase before, you know that there are a plethora of issues standing between $0.99/pound and $3.49/pound. I have been pondering these issues for a while now and have changed my mind so many times that I now feel utterly confused. All I know is that I need to make a decision soon about which apples, if any, I’m going to be buying between now and the beginning of local apple season in September.
And so that’s why I’ve decided to crowdsource this question. Any advice is greatly appreciated. First, let’s just take a moment to review the factors impacting apple choice:
- Clearly, time of year and location are both factors. Winter in Boston is what I’m working with right now.
- Then there’s the organic vs. non-organic question. God help us. This post is really not meant to be a discussion of organic vs. non-organic produce, but it’s impossible to talk about apple prices without at least mentioning this issue. Rumor has it that the pesticide content of non-organic apples is astronomically high, which is bad for me and bad for the planet. Unfortunately, organic-ness, in addition to driving up price, also negatively impacts taste, at least in my opinion (see factor #3).
- Perhaps the biggest factor for me is apple taste, by which I mostly mean whether an apple is crisp (yum!) or mealy (blech). This varies WIDELY. I regret to report that my mealiness detection abilities are preternaturally acute, kind of like those people who can detect that milk is on the verge of going bad before anyone else can. I also regret to report that most organic apples taste somewhat mealy to me, which basically means that I will never, ever buy them.
- And, yep, there’s also the local question. Local is always preferable, at least in my book, but for many months of the year local is simply not available. So when it’s not, what’s an apple addict to do? (Side note: local apples are occasionally “unsprayed”, but virtually never organic, at least not around here.)
So, given these factors, how do I proceed?
Again, my sources suggest that the local, $0.99/pound apples will soon vanish from the produce section entirely, leaving me to choose between a) the $3.49/pound organic beauty pageant apples that taste mealy, b) the $2.49/pound non-organic beauty pageant apples that taste great but *might* be slowly poisoning me, especially if I’m eating ten of them per week, or c) no apples.
I guess no apples is the logical choice, probably from an environmental perspective and definitely from a financial perspective. I am not kidding when I say that I could pay off my student loans faster if I didn’t buy so many apples because, as we know, small consistent choices add up. The problem is, I just don’t know if I can do it.
(Then again, I used to think I couldn’t get through the day without a Kind bar, and it turned out I was totally wrong about that. Last month I was like, dude, I’m not buying these delicious but expensive bars anymore—and I haven’t had one since.)
And finally, the one other possibility I will mention is that I recently discovered organic pears—good-tasting ones!—for $1.49/pound at Market Basket. I don’t like pears as much as I like apples, but it’s possible that with discipline I could make the switch.
Do you have an apple habit? Or a banana habit, or a fro-yo habit, or a gum habit, or a latte habit? How have you dealt with it? Any advice about any of this? I’m all ears!