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Andy Prest: We are very hungry for reasonably priced food

Is anyone offering food that will fill a belly without emptying a wallet these days? Let's investigate... 🍔
Meals that fill you up without emptying your wallet are getting harder and harder to come by, writes columnist Andy Prest.

Can we talk about how much things cost these days? I’d love to have your two cents on this, but regret to inform you your two cents will now cost you $75.

Pricing makes no sense these days, is what I’m saying. This truth really jumped out at me during a recent afternoon outing that included several stops for food and refreshment. This is something my family used to do a lot in the PP times (pre-pandemic), but not so much recently.

We were back on the hunt on our recent outing though, and my two boys are now remorseless eating machines whose faces need to be constantly filled. This can obviously prove costly, so we’re always looking for food that fills a stomach without emptying a bank account.

Thus, I was excited to make a return trip to a favourite old shop that always specialized in dishing out massive piles of delicious meat along with sides – and I’m talking good sides, like mashed potatoes, not bad ones, like coleslaw – for a good price. Five years ago I recall it costing something like $12 for a meal from this place, which was amazing because there was so much food included in that one huge meal that it could feed my whole family and we’d have leftovers to take home.

I was a little surprised when I went back to the same place last week and the same meal was now basically double the price. That wasn’t the craziest thing though. The wildest realization of the evening was that our meaty meal – even at double the price – was still the best value we would find all night.

In fact, the only reason we ended up rediscovering the meat mecca was because we tried to feed the family somewhere else, for more money, and it didn’t make a dent. At this other place we ordered some cheese fries – why yes, we are very health conscious, why do you ask? – and a pita and dip plate. Those two items came out to around $28 with tip and tax included, and the portions were not massive. As in, when I say pita and dip plate, it literally came with one pita. We had to go to a nearby bakery to buy bread to sop up the rest of the (admittedly very tasty) dips.

The effect that these items had on our kids, however, was not to satisfy their hunger but rather to make it more intense – I felt nervous for any passing squirrels or birds lest they come too close and end up in the jaws of a ravenous tween. The butcher saved the day, however, and we were able to carry on with our evening.

We released the kids and joined another couple to make one more stop, and this is where my mind lost all capability of rational food and drink price thought. We went to a lovely little purveyor of spirits to grab a drink. Prices started at nearly $20, and my poor little Prairie-bred heart skipped a beat when I noted that our little group would be dropping close to $100 to get one drink each.

They were very unique drinks no doubt, and I’m sure some of you are scoffing at my reaction, noting that one can easily drop several hundred dollars, or several thousand dollars, on a fancy bottle of wine or whisky. And if I don’t want to spend money I can just stay home and eat saltine crackers and drink water from the garden hose. Those are all valid arguments.

But doesn’t it seem, right now, that nearly everything you buy comes with a Monopoly man price tag?

“Thank you for ordering our burger and fries combo my good man. I’ll fetch the bill, and let you know we do offer an instalment payment plan.”

And obviously let’s not get started on how much it costs to buy groceries or pay for a cellphone or, God forbid, live around here. When the waiter adds up the final tally for all those bills, I may just need to jump in the ocean and start swimming.

But I do want to give proper appreciation for people like the old meat slinger, who may have raised the prices but still gives something that sticks to the ribs. I’m sure you all have a special spot or two that still leaves you feeling like you get bang for your buck. In fact, I’d love to hear about it if you do have a favourite place that packs a punch for a good price. Maybe I’ll share some names in a future article on sensible shops fighting against the tides of the inflationary sea. 

We can throw ourselves a reasonably priced party. I’ll bring the pita.

Andy Prest is the editor of the North Shore News. His lifestyle/humour column runs biweekly.