The boy and I braved the hot, hot, hot weather and strolled through La Jolla’s farmer’s market this morning with a Pannikin blueberry-bran muffin (crumbly, moist, dense — these muffins are the best thing in the morning) and latte in hand. But even more shocking than the heat were the prices!
$2.50 for a head of organic lettuce!
$4.50 for a pound of regular, ol’ Early Girl tomatoes
With those kind of prices, we were conservative and didn’t buy much. We chatted about the food budget a bit later and wondered, how much does it cost to feed two people each month? Do you cut back on the goodies — the wine and cheese and fancy chocolate? Do you stick to canned goods and produce on sale? When you’re paying nearly $5 a gallon in gasoline to even get to the store, how much is there actually left for food?
While thinking about this topic, I stumbled upon a great article by an old colleague of mine at the Los Angeles Times, Jerry Hirsch, on how to keep eating well during this recession.
* Buy good stuff like meat and serve smaller portions (which is better for you anyway). The boy and I don’t tend to eat a lot of chicken — we’re trying to eat more vegetarian entrees these days — so when we get the bird, we splurge on the good stuff (even then, I’m not going to lie, I almost fainted when I saw the price per pound on the organic, free-range chicken we bought today).
* Negotiate if you can — particularly if the item has a sell-by date that is close to that day. Vendors would rather sell at a discount than throw food away.
* Buy in bulk. This one’s tricky. When you buy in bulk, you save more, but you also tend to eat more. Hirsch advises that you split the bounty with friends and family.
* Eat in season. This one used to serve me well, but I’m telling you, tomatoes — which should be in season around this time of the year — were $4.50 a pound at the farmer’s market!
* Avoid the take-out department and try to make stuff yourself. This one’s probably the hardest one to follow. Sure, the lentils in the wholesale department are less than a $1 a pound when they’re dry and uncooked but those ready-to-go lentils salads are SO much easier.
Alas, so it looks like it’s time to spend a little more time in the kitchen and to let go of convenience foods in these rougher economic times.
Good luck shopping. It’s a scary, scary world out there.