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2008-08-15 - 8:01 a.m. price gouging...

My stepfather always says that a normal screw that you buy in a hardware store costs you 6 cents. That exact same screw, sold in a marine (sailboat) supply store, will cost you $3.69. The word 'marine' is worth about a 6000% markup. Interesting.

The 'baby' has a similar value in terms of markup. A plastic tub from a hardware store costs about $2. Call it a "baby bathtub" and it's suddenly worth $13.99. Amazing.

I'm not even going to BEGIN on the topic of baby gadget marketing. OK, yes I am. The number of products that parents are told that we HAVE to have is incredible. And baby trends remind me of high school fashion. As a 14-yr-old I was convinced that I absolutely had to have a purple Ralph Lauren polo shirt or I would die. It's the same now with parents and strollers, slings, baby shoes, teething toys, high chairs...edutainment DVDs. New parents are as healthy a market as a clique-conscious teenagers, it seems. I am not immune. I myself have found myself craving that cute little Sophie Giraffe toy...and stroller models - make and year - on the street turn my head more than automobiles ever did. It's ridiculous.

But we all have our limits, I think. I'm old enough now to hold off on a 20-dollar rubber giraffe that squeaks. And I've also drawn the line with baby food.

I went to the store to buy some "rice pablum" a few weeks ago. If you are like me, you are thinking, pa-what? I'd never heard the word before. Well, an 8-oz box of brown rice cereal cost us $4.50. A 4-oz jar of sweet potato was $1.50.


Eegads. Give me a break, people. Admittedly, I shopping upscale at an organic food store, and organic food ALWAYS has a markup. So I started doing the comparisons.

8 ounces of whole brown rice (at the same foofy organic store) cost us $.80. We got three yams (equivalent to about 8-10 jars) for $2.00.

So we bought normal brown rice, brought it home, and stuck it into a clean coffee grinder. Took us about 1 minute to produce our own baby food. I followed in Blighty's footsteps and steamed and pureed some veggies, froze them into little cubes in ice-cube trays (which are $0.99 for two at Safeway, $5.99 for one if you buy them at a baby store), and stuck them in ziploc bags in the freezer.

It is worth noting that I once made tremendous fun of Blighty for her freezer full of cubed up baby food. I believe my exact words were, "you have got to be kidding." I want you all to - ESPECIALLY BLIGHTY - there is also an ice-cube tray full of my words in my freezer. I will be thawing and eating them today. Ahem.

I am willing to pay a premium for childcare because I can afford it (thank goodness). I am even willing to be exploited over car repairs. But I have a hard time paying a 500% markup for baby food. We all have our limits.

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