Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Shopping Strategy to Help Combat Rising Food Prices

Take it from someone who shops for food almost every day and knows the prices of fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat, bread, fish and grains like the back of his hand: The cost of food is rising.

Two main culprits are severe weather incidents worldwide (floods, droughts, etc.), which have reduced crop yields, and political instability in the Middle East, which has caused a spike in oil costs. (Oil is essential to the modern food system.)

Cooking from scratch is a lot cheaper than eating out or buying prepared or packaged foods. Yet, even if one cooks, shopping efficiently is essential.

During a recent cooking lesson, my students were surprised at how little food I brought, which happens often. One of the dishes we made, a Thai curry, required a zucchini. I bought the smallest one I could find, but even that was too much.

One student said she easily would have bought two zucchini—and bigger ones!—if she had done the shopping. Over purchasing is a surefire way to needlessly add to an already inflated food bill.

So, what to do?

When shopping, think about how many people you are cooking for and physically portion out amounts for that number. Making roasted potatoes? Visualize how many potatoes each person will eat, taking into account how the potatoes will be cut and served, their role in the meal and what other foods will be on the plate.

While doing these calculations, actually pick up the number of potatoes (or string beans, mushrooms, etc.) you think will suffice for each person. Cooking for five? Take five of those portions. You’ll be surprised; you may find yourself buying half of what you normally purchase.


Sure, this precludes leftovers, but an inordinate amount of leftovers end up in the garbage, a total waste of money.


Heather said...

Great advice!

I have noticed, though, that as I've made my daily diet more healthy, I eat almost all of my leftovers. I no longer can grab some crackers and cheese and call it lunch; so I'm always in the fridge looking for something quick, easy, and healthy to make for a snack or lunch!

Anonymous said...

Is it really true, as I've read, that 40 percent of food purchased is not eaten, but thrown out for one reason or another? With all we are beginning to know about the environment, and the food issues related to it, this is not approaching scary, scary has arrived! I am taking a class in "mindful eating" so that I can be more aware of what I am consuming and hopefully eat more sensibly and responsibly (I don't so too badly now, but there is always room to improve). This was intended for my health, but I see it relates to the food supply and all the attendant issues as well.

Chef Rob said...


That's exactly what happens: as we start to eat healthier, we feel a million times better and can't go back to the old stuff that made us feel sluggish and sick.


Yes, 40 percent is the accepted number for the amount of our food that is wasted. More on this next week. Your "mindful eating" class sounds great. Wish I was still in school. :-)