Jamie Oliver Made Me Cry at Walmart Last Night

I followed a link on Facebook the other day to this lovely photo right here.

I read every comment. I learned the term "mechanically separated." I watched this video:

I went to Walmart with a $20 budget tonight. I picked up a package of something I've bought a bajillion times: hot dogs. Now. I've been told for YEARS what hot dogs are made out of, but I've managed to keep my rational thinking out of it. Because $0.88 will provide lunch for the whole family. I'll take two.

Tonight I bothered to read the package and saw the "mechanically separated" term in the ingredients list. I picked up another package that was labeled all beef and noticed the "mechanically separated" term was not in that list. Again, I'm not sure I really want to know how those "non mechanically separated" hot dogs are still made. But I'm guessing they are a little better than the $0.88 variety. And they cost $6.88 for the package.

And I started crying. Not sob-heaving, mind you, but hot tears that came down and prevented me from actually explaining to Craig, who was with me, why his wife was breaking down in the hot dog section of Walmart on a Tuesday night.

Jamie Oliver made me do it.

I'm telling you, I pull my hair out trying to just get food on the table. Something that my family will eat, that doesn't take the better part of my day, and doesn't bat our grocery budget so far out the ballpark we'll never see that ball again.

I don't know how to do it.

I'm waving the white flag. I'm sorry I've brainwashed my kids and myself for the sake of convenience and the lower price. But…it isn't exactly like I have the option to increase the grocery budget either.

What to do, what to do?

Jamie Oliver? Will you take a trip to St. Louis, Missouri and bring your food revolution to my house? Help me Obi-Wan. You are my only hope.

Somebody pass the tissue.

50 thoughts on “Jamie Oliver Made Me Cry at Walmart Last Night

  1. Joy says:

    It is very hard and a lot more expensive in my opinion to try and cook healthier. However, a lot of people do it by using coupons and like us, I do my best by trying to read the packages. We used to buy the cheap hotdogs also until we watched a show on tv about how they are made. IF, I say IF we buy hotdogs now, it is the all beef ones from Nathans or Hebrew National. And I honestly don’t want to know how they make them or I will never eat another one also.
    When I cook, I do try to make extra of what I am cooking for the following days lunch.
    But it is hard. I am like you. Some days I want to through in the flag and just give up.


  2. Megan says:

    I think I have enough cookbooks. I just don’t have the will to sit down and leaf through them, make the list, shop the list, cook the list.
    In a word, I stink.


  3. Richard Trippeer says:

    That video is manipulative. What is wrong with the meat that is harder to get to except that it “looks gross?” Nutritionally, it still works, and it no longer looks gross once they package it up for you.
    Think of it this way – you are less wasteful than Jamie Oliver.
    In my opinion, the way something looks midway through the process shouldn’t really be a criteria for whether or not the final product is good.


  4. marybeth @ babygoodbuys.com says:

    Hi! I hear you. I’ve recently become more aware of what I’m putting on our table and into my family’s mouths and it’s not making me happy!
    I know you just said you have enough cookbooks and Mary Ostyn already commented here, but her cookbook Family Feasts for $75 a Week is really great. So is the $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook. Both contain a bunch of simple, easy, pleasing recipes that just don’t break the bank.
    $5 dinners is also a blog: http://www.5dollardinners.com. Really, there’s some great information in all of those resources.


  5. Megan says:

    Well, it wasn’t exactly that he was pulverizing extra meat – it was that it included bones and everything. He was clear that chicken nuggets aren’t made this way in America anymore, but when I did a little research on the “mechanically separated” products I became ill. I will definitely be checking packages for MSP in the future…


  6. Megan says:

    Thanks, MaryBeth! I’ve been wanting to get Mary’s cookbook for a long time. I have Erin’s, but for whatever reason the recipes didn’t do it for me. I may need to check it out again. With Mary’s large family I have a feeling her cookbook may scratch a little more where I itch…


  7. Blommi says:

    I completely skeve, hot dogs, sausages and ground meats, and my husband will only eat all beef hot dogs anyway, so I guess we are in the clear on this one.
    Beans & chicken are my favorite budget proteins.


  8. coralie says:

    That much publicized picture of pink sludge doesn’t come from a reliable source, and is not mechanically separated chicken.
    Snopes (a reliable source in all manner of internet fear mongering) has the true procedure from food and FDA sources and a picture of the actual mechanically separated poultry which looks like raw ground meat.


  9. Suzanne says:

    Sounds like a rough shopping trip 😦 I really, really recommend investing in a nice pressure cooker (I can link you to mine which is under $100 and is PERFECT. I love it!) and cooking with dried beans and grains. A pound of beans is $0.88 too and will feed your family.
    I love my pressure cooker because it will still cook the beans nicely even if I forget to presoak them. Order the book “Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure” by Lorna Sass from the library and check out her recipes. They are very easy and quick and taste super yummy. They are extremely cheap because all the ingredients are dried beans, grains, and veggies. Mucho Healthy!! Trust me, this cookbook is GOLD! You will be able to get a from scratch, cheap, healthy meal on the table from start to finish in less than 30 minutes. I can make her broccoli and white bean risotto in about 20- including chopping veggies. Black-eyed pea chili takes me about 15 minutes from start to table.


  10. martha brady says:

    don’t you love the logic of kids? when he asks if they would eat that stuff, they all raised their hands! when he asked why? they said, “because we’re hungry.” perfect logic:)
    so basically, they will eat what is in front of them if they are hungry enough? hmmm. interesting concept.


  11. Megan says:

    I did see all the Snopes references in the comments on the post with the pic and I know that wasn’t chicken – just the knowledge of the whole mechanically separated processing of any kind of meat made me ill. I didn’t know that was done, period.


  12. Megan says:

    We definitely need to get better in the bean department, but my family doesn’t care for them too much by themselves. Chicken is a big staple around here for sure!


  13. Kaira says:

    I bought our Cuisinart pressure cooker @ Costco for $70ish – it is computerized and very easy to use. I love it. So, did you buy the hot dogs for almost $7? I can’t bring myself to spend that kind of money so instead I opt just not to eat them other than in the summer when we are camping. And then I have terrible guilt about it.
    Have you seen Food, Inc? It is worse than Jamie Oliver but I do think everyone should see that movie.


  14. Kate Q. says:

    Megan, I am feeling your pain. I just watched Food, Inc. and now I’m not even sure I want to be buying any kind of packaged meat at the supermarket anymore! But we can’t afford to substitute grass-fed beef and free-range chicken, and I’m running out of vegetarian recipe ideas. And like everyone else, I don’t have four hours a day to spend making dinner. It’s a dilemma, all right…


  15. Michelle says:

    Megan, There is a $5 dinner blog too that is FREE!! It’s linked on my blog http://www.turnerm.blogspot.com if you want to check it out. I am the coupon queen and stock up when things like pork chops and chicken breasts are CHEAP. Love being able to pull from the deep freeze and not buy a thing! Let me know if you need any other suggestions…our budget is and always has been tight. Another thing we LOVE is breakfast for dinner, always a budget meal and Eli’s favorite =)


  16. Megan says:

    Nope. Didn’t buy them. In all fairness, the package WAS a lot bigger, so I understood why they cost so much more. I couldn’t find the all beef ones in a lower quantify packet in the 2 minutes I had to look.
    I’m avoiding Food, Inc. but I know I should probably read it…


  17. Kimberly says:

    I think the only way to live ethically is to buy local. We have lots of salad, rice, potatoes etc. Coming from a child who got a dollar every time I saw the golden arches first, I’ve come along way.. good luck.


  18. Need A Nap2 says:

    I didn’t realize how much I shopped at Meijer until we moved away. It’s hard to buy and feed our kids just the base level of healthy on a small budget. I try to get in one (good sized serving) fruit and one (ditto) vegetable at dinner.
    Don’t be too hard on yourself, you could always mail your hot dogs to the starving kids in China. πŸ™‚ Just do the best you can, and if you’re like me try to save your breakdown moments for when you’re in the minivan instead of right there in the store! (I didn’t watch the video but I love how unlimited budget food shows tell you what you should be buying. What do they do with all of that uneaten food???)


  19. Megan says:

    Totally. I do like that he’s actually going into schools and helping them make smarter choices, though. I think he has a better understanding of the average Joe than, say, Whole Foods does…


  20. Nora@ The Dollar Hollering Homemaker says:

    We live in the St. Louis area as well and are on a tight budget.
    Have you tried Trader Joe’s and Aldi’s? You can find a lot of good stuff at good prices. Sams club has some organic meats and produce. Whole Food’s does have some sales. Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and Sams are all close together in Brentwood which cut’s down on time.
    In St. Louis there are tons of farmers markets and community share programs for produce where you can often find items cheaper than in the stores. If you can split costs with a friend that might be helpful.


  21. Kaira says:

    Food Inc is actually a movie, very eye-opening. Check it out when you are ready for it. We don’t buy all organic but I won’t buy anything from Purdue or Tyson again – unless I have no other option. I do my best to buy local – we eat a lot less meat and a lot more beans. We just do our best but we can’t buy everything local and organic – but we can avoid supporting the worst of the worse. I also won’t buy Butterball turkeys if I can avoid it.


  22. FishMama says:

    While I won’t watch the videos (I want some denial left), I am working toward making most of our food. Freezer cooking is helping me with this immensely. Have you tried mini sessions of bulk cooking? That might be a way to have homemade convenience?


  23. Jennifer says:

    Baby steps and you will find a way to get it into the budget. It will probably mean that you don’t serve hotdogs a couple of times a week, but once a month. We are making the switch to more wholesome, natural, not processed foods and yes it is more expensive, but it is a sacrifice we are willing to make. And we have added things to our budget (like maple syrup one year, local ground beef the next, 1/2 an organic pig the next, etc) so that we were not hit too hard all at once. Good luck on finding your “happy medium” because really we all have to decided where our compromise line is and what we hold fast to.


  24. A says:

    I think the argument is that anything left near the bone…nerves, spinal tissue, etc., goes into your meat. I’m no purist…so don’t think I’m trying to be argumentative…but the idea of them “blasting” a skeleton for the last remaining bit of anything, then rolling it into my hot dog, does make me squeamish.
    I’m thinking the vegetarian life is more and more appealing.


  25. nia says:

    Erin’s book didn’t do it for my family either. My husband wouldn’t even consider half the recipes in her book, sad to say. $5 to feed our family sure was making me happy, in thought at least.


  26. Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

    Megan, I love your honesty. It IS hard and expensive to cook and eat healthy! But…it’s so important. (I’m telling MYSELF, not you, here!) Thanks for this post. I didn’t know about mechanically separated. And now that I know…well, I’m not sure. But I’m thinking about it…


  27. Megan says:

    Oh, man, thanks for all the new comments! I wish I had time to respond to all of them, but just know that I *am* thinking a lot more about this, even a week later, and plan to incorporate one or two small changes this week when I plan/shop. Baby steps, right?
    First thing on the list: Nothing with mechanically separated ANYTHING. πŸ™‚


  28. Jo says:

    You CAN do it. Your family will not like all of these new foods right away. You may not like all of these new foods right away. Mine didn’t. I didn’t…

    Bit by bit, as the “crap” went out and was replaced by real food, we liked it. We craved it, in fact. But it takes time, it takes effort, it takes research and trial and failure. Sometimes quite a bit of failure (trust me LOL). And then one day you find yourself doing it naturally, knowing instinctively what will taste good with what, what is good and what is not, and you will be cooking without breaking a sweat. Most days anyway. Everyone in our home FEELS so much better since our eating habits have shifted. It is doable, but much like how a body can reject a transplanted organ regardless of the fact that it will die without it, our families can reject our efforts. So do it a little at a time.

    You have taken the first step with ditching hot dogs. That is a major step. Find something out there that your family will love, that can be the official hot dog replacement meal. Even if it is something simple (I feel better giving my kids multigrain bread with all natural PB & bananas than a lot of the other stuff found out there).

    You can do it. Keep your chin up. πŸ™‚


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