Beef … it’s what’s for dinner

Hy-Vee sushi

What are you having tonight for dinner?

It’s early Monday morning as I write this and Italian beef sandwiches are on the menu at our house. I know this because the roast has already been in the crock pot for more than 12 hours. Janet is much better than I am at planning ahead for meals — a skill strengthened in her 17 years as a mom.

But there are days when neither of us have planned so well. We have plenty of company, according to a story broadcast earlier this month by National Public Radio.

“Seventy to 80 percent of us don’t know what we’re going to have for dinner at 4 p.m.,” Justin Massa — founder of a company called Food Genius, which analyzes data for the food industry — told NPR earlier this month.

Since hearing that statistic, it has stuck in my mind and I found it in an April 4 post called, Why Wal-Mart is Betting Big On Being Your Local Urban Grocer, on The Salt, an NPR blog about food, eating and health.

To be honest about the Italian beef on our menu for tonight, when we bought some groceries Sunday, I think the plan was to have it for dinner that evening. But then plans changed and it made more sense to keep those sandwiches for tonight so that we wouldn’t have to plan dinner at the last minute.

So what did we eat for dinner Sunday night? The sushi and Tai peanut salad we stopped to buy at our favorite local supermarket after going to a movie. I’ve written before about my fondness for the Tai peanut salad. It was exactly the type of meal written about in the blog post about Wal-Mart’s efforts to take business away from restaurants in metropolitan areas: Tasty, convenient, almost as good as homemade and maybe more affordable than what a similar meal would have cost in a restaurant.

This topic has stuck with me because I:

  1. Like to eat.
  2. Wrote about this at least 20 years ago as a young business reporter at the Bismark Tribune in North Dakota’s Capital City.

That story was written far enough in the past that no record of it can be found by Google. But I remember interviewing Terry Rockstad, the chief executive of Dan’s, which today has six supermarkets in North Dakota and about 600 employees. He and his company appear to have been ahead of Wal-Mart in the race to prepare and sell ready-to-eat meals, which was a big feature of the store Dan’s opened in Bismarck on Washington Street in the mid 1990s, according to my memory of the story I wrote for the Tribune.

Ready-to-eat meals are still a big part of the company’s business, based on my quick survey of its website.

But other things at Dan’s are changing with the times. The store I wrote about was BIG. In doing some research for this blog post, I see that Dan’s is still at least keeping up with industry trends, opening a smaller store in February in Bismarck.

Its location is probably its biggest asset, Ralph Dockter, a Ralph’s vice president, told the Tribune. “So much of supermarket shopping now is a convenient location,” Dockter said. “People stop on their way home from work or picking the kids up from school.”

The more things change, I guess.

***

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