Meet the Underground Network of Butter Bargain Hunters | Kanebridge News
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Meet the Underground Network of Butter Bargain Hunters

High prices have bakers scouting stores and spreading news about deals; ‘People are passionate about butter’

Wed, Nov 23, 2022 8:56amGrey Clock 4 min

Word oozed out earlier this month. The news quickly spread. Worries softened. Aldi supermarket had lowered the price of butter.

“Everyone was abuzz,” says Laura Magone, who moderates the Wedding Cookie Table Community Facebook page, where the butter deal was the big talk among bakers who share recipes and cooking tips.

Some of her 111,000 members posted images of the Aldi weekly circulars showing butter selling for $2.49 a pound in their area followed by “Woohoo!” Lines were reported in Boardman, Ohio. “There was no butter in Painesville, Ohio, this morning,” one baker declared. In Daytona Beach, the sale price was $2.99, noted another. Several offered ways to get around the six-pounds-of butter-per-person limits. “Took three buddies and got 24 pounds.”

The coming holidays and near record high butter prices have churned up an underground butter brigade. People who love to bake are scouting national, regional and local stores across the country and sharing butter deals with fellow spritz and snickerdoodle makers on social media. They post photos of store shelves with prices listed and kitchen counters piled with their latest hauls. One made a butter Jenga.

“People are passionate about butter,” says Ms. Magone, of Pittsburgh. The wedding cookie table members are generous, she says, offering advice on baking, freezing butter, making butter and ways to stretch every bit of butter. One tip: freeze butter wrappers and use them to grease cookie sheet pans.

Ms. Magone posted a recipe for a raisin bar cookie, called poor man’s cookie, on the page. It doesn’t call for butter.

Many tips center on butter, but members also post egg and nut deals. One found walnuts at a small store in northwest Pennsylvania for $2.43 a pound, adding “They are really fresh, too!”

Aldi rolled back prices to 2019 levels on dozens of products, including baking ingredients such as pecans and marshmallows, as part of its Thanksgiving Price Rewind program. Butter wasn’t included.

“While butter is not part of our rewind program, we know it is a key baking ingredient, which is why we have increased our supply to meet the holiday demand,” says Scott Patton, vice president of national buying at Aldi U.S. Butter prices vary by location, he said.

Bob Cropp, who writes a column for the Cheese Reporter, says prices vary based on competition and regional costs. “I can sometimes buy butter for $1 less at my 7-Eleven than the grocery store,” says Dr. Cropp, professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He says butter prices reached record highs in September but are expected to come down by the end of the year. He attributes higher prices to more demand—butter consumption rose to 6.5 pounds per person in 2021, from 5.6 pounds in 2015, he says—and lower supply. Butter inventories in September were down 18% from a year ago, he says, due in part to higher exports and labor shortages as well as our growing appetite for cheese, which uses a lot of milk fat that would otherwise make butter.

Dee Stroup, who won a Pittsburgh Nut Roll Competition in 2019, needs 20 pounds of butter to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas and will only bake with Land O’ Lakes. She checks with her local market and talks often with a wholesaler who supplies restaurants. She stocks up when she gets a deal and posts on the Wedding Cookie Table Community Facebook page. She found butter for $3.88 a pound and issued a dispatch: “LAND O’ LAKES BUTTER ALERT.”

“I try to get the word out to our community,” she says. One woman responded that she went out and bought 13 pounds.

Ms. Stroup also decided to make butter and posted the recipe, a photo of her 3-ounce block and some advice. Her arms grew tired after 10 minutes of shaking heavy cream in a canning jar, so she put it in her mixer, which had a whisk attachment. Seven minutes later, she had butter, which she will use on bread, but not for baking.

Often mentions of deals are coupled with discussion of name brands versus store brands and whether salted or unsalted works best.

“Some people swear by Land O’ Lakes or Kerrygold. I use what I can afford,” says Robin Knox Schreiter, of Lititz, Pa. Ms. Schreiter goes through about 10 pounds to make cookies and another 3 to 4 pounds to make German sweet bread called stollen when her family gets together the first weekend of December. She recently bought her allotted six pounds of Countryside Creamery butter at one Aldi and sent her husband to another to get six more.

Shariann Hall, of Canfield, Ohio, posted about a $2.49 butter sale on the Youngstown Cookie Table Facebook page: “For your holiday baking butter stash!” That prompted responses including one saying the price in Florida is $3.99, followed by an angry-face emoji. Ms. Hall says she started stocking up on butter in September and had about 20 pounds in the fridge.

“My nephew calls my house the house of 2,000 cookies,” she says. “He’s pretty close.”

Beverly Snyder Kundla, of Homer City, Pa., reached out for advice after using lower-priced margarine in a batch of caramel-stuffed snickerdoodles, which came out looking too flat.

“With as many cookies as I’ll make over the next three months, I can’t afford butter on a school secretary’s salary,” says Ms. Kundla. One fellow baker suggested another brand of margarine. A few recommended using half butter, half margarine. Another said she could try making butter. Ms. Kundla responded saying she had looked into that possibility but a quart of cream costs as much as a pound of butter.

Her mother, Anna Mary Snyder, made butter, but had a cow she milked twice a day. Ms. Kundla posted a photo of Anna Mary’s recipe for sugar cookies on the Wedding Cookie Table Community Facebook page. It uses lard, rather than butter.

“I would like to find more recipes with lard,” she says.


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At the World Plogging Championship, contestants have lugged in tires, TVs and at least one Neapolitan coffee maker

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GENOA, Italy—Renato Zanelli crossed the finish line with a rusty iron hanging from his neck while pulling 140 pounds of trash on an improvised sled fashioned from a slab of plastic waste.

Zanelli, a retired IT specialist, flashed a tired smile, but he suspected his garbage haul wouldn’t be enough to defend his title as world champion of plogging—a sport that combines running with trash collecting.

A rival had just finished the race with a chair around his neck and dragging three tires, a television and four sacks of trash. Another crossed the line with muscles bulging, towing a large refrigerator. But the strongest challenger was Manuel Jesus Ortega Garcia, a Spanish plumber who arrived at the finish pulling a fridge, a dishwasher, a propane gas tank, a fire extinguisher and a host of other odds and ends.

“The competition is intense this year,” said Zanelli. Now 71, he used his fitness and knack for finding trash to compete against athletes half his age. “I’m here to help the environment, but I also want to win.”

Italy, a land of beauty, is also a land of uncollected trash. The country struggles with chronic littering, inefficient garbage collection in many cities, and illegal dumping in the countryside of everything from washing machines to construction waste. Rome has become an emblem of Italy’s inability to fix its trash problem.

So it was fitting that at the recent World Plogging Championship more than 70 athletes from 16 countries tested their talents in this northern Italian city. During the six hours of the race, contestants collect points by racking up miles and vertical distance, and by carrying as much trash across the finish line as they can. Trash gets scored based on its weight and environmental impact. Batteries and electronic equipment earn the most points.

A mobile app ensures runners stay within the race’s permitted area, approximately 12 square miles. Athletes have to pass through checkpoints in the rugged, hilly park. They are issued gloves and four plastic bags to fill with garbage, and are also allowed to carry up to three bulky finds, such as tires or TVs.

Genoa, a gritty industrial port city in the country’s mountainous northwest, has a trash problem that gets worse the further one gets away from its relatively clean historic core. The park that hosted the plogging championship has long been plagued by garbage big and small.

“It’s ironic to have the World Plogging Championship in a country that’s not always as clean as it could be. But maybe it will help bring awareness and things will improve,” said Francesco Carcioffo, chief executive of Acea Pinerolese Industriale, an energy and recycling company that’s been involved in sponsoring and organizing the race since its first edition in 2021. All three world championships so far have been held in Italy.

Events that combine running and trash-collecting go back to at least 2010. The sport gained traction about seven years ago when a Swede, Erik Ahlström, coined the name plogging, a mashup of plocka upp, Swedish for “pick up,” and jogging.

“If you don’t have a catchy name you might as well not exist,” said Roberto Cavallo, an Italian environmental consultant and longtime plogger, who is on the world championship organizing committee together with Ahlström.

Saturday’s event brought together a mix of wiry trail runners and environmental activists, some of whom looked less like elite athletes.

“We like plogging because it makes us feel a little less guilty about the way things are going with the environment,” said Elena Canuto, 29, as she warmed up before the start. She came in first in the women’s ranking two years ago. “This year I’m taking it a bit easier because I’m three months pregnant.”

Around two-thirds of the contestants were Italians. The rest came from other European countries, as well as Japan, Argentina, Uruguay, Mexico, Algeria, Ghana and Senegal.

“I hope to win so people in Senegal get enthusiastic about plogging,” said Issa Ba, a 30-year-old Senegalese-born factory worker who has lived in Italy for eight years.

“Three, two, one, go,” Cavallo shouted over a loudspeaker, and the athletes sprinted off in different directions. Some stopped 20 yards from the starting line to collect their first trash. Others took off to be the first to exploit richer pickings on wooded hilltops, where batteries and home appliances lay waiting.

As the hours went by, the athletes crisscrossed trails and roads, their bags became heavier. They tagged their bulky items and left them at roadsides for later collection. Contestants gathered at refreshment points, discussing what they had found as they fueled up on cookies and juice. Some contestants had brought their own reusable cups.

With 30 minutes left in the race, athletes were gathering so much trash that the organisers decided to tweak the rules: in addition to their four plastic bags, contestants could carry six bulky objects over the finish line rather than three.

“I know it’s like changing the rules halfway through a game of Monopoly, but I know I can rely on your comprehension,” Cavallo announced over the PA as the athletes braced for their final push to the finish line.

The rule change meant some contestants could almost double the weight of their trash, but others smelled a rat.

“That’s fantastic that people found so much stuff, but it’s not really fair to change the rules at the last minute,” said Paul Waye, a Dutch plogging evangelist who had passed up on some bulky trash because of the three-item rule.

Senegal will have to wait at least a year to have a plogging champion. Two hours after the end of Saturday’s race, Ba still hadn’t arrived at the finish line.

“My phone ran out of battery and I got lost,” Ba said later at the awards ceremony. “I’ll be back next year, but with a better phone.”

The race went better for Canuto. She used an abandoned shopping cart to wheel in her loot. It included a baby stroller, which the mother-to-be took as a good omen. Her total haul weighed a relatively modest 100 pounds, but was heavy on electronic equipment, which was enough for her to score her second triumph.

“I don’t know if I’ll be back next year to defend my title. The baby will be six or seven months old,” she said.

In the men’s ranking, Ortega, the Spanish plumber, brought in 310 pounds of waste, racked up more than 16 miles and climbed 7,300 feet to run away with the title.

Zanelli, the defending champion, didn’t make it onto the podium. He said he would take solace from the nearly new Neapolitan coffee maker he found during the first championship two years ago. “I’ll always have my victory and the coffee maker, which I polished and now display in my home,” he said.

Contestants collected more than 6,600 pounds of trash. The haul included fridges, bikes, dozens of tires, baby seats, mattresses, lead pipes, stoves, chairs, TVs, 1980s-era boomboxes with cassettes still inside, motorcycle helmets, electric fans, traffic cones, air rifles, a toilet and a soccer goal.

“This park hasn’t been this clean since the 15 century,” said Genoa’s ambassador for sport, Roberto Giordano.


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