A good friend sent me Daniel Gross’ post on Slate.com, “The Agony of the Food Snob.” The article is a bit self-deprecating, a bit of humor, and a bit of a poke to food snobs’ plight as food prices rise for all of us. At times the article points out the more stupid purchases that defy reason, and at others, it shows that none of us — save the very wealthy — is immune to the price increase.
The last line of the piece is truly a challenge to all food snobs, “We’re spending obscene amounts on food we don’t need at a time when so many others are genuinely struggling to pay for enough basic sustenance to get them through the day.”
I am not a food snob. I am also on a budget these days. Even so, I certainly enjoy the best foods of every season, and the relative abundance and the fact that I can afford to eat when so many can’t has been weighing on me. I needed to do something to help.
So, here’s how I answered the challenge.
At my area Whole Foods, the store offers these “Feed Bags” for $29.95. Each bag is a reusable grocery bag, but best of all, 100 percent of the purchase price will be used to provide 100 meals for school children in the poorest countries through the World Food Program.
For a food snob, this donation may only require one less item purchased. For the rest of us, it seems like a lot, but it can only take a few simple cut corners to make it a reality.
For example, asparagus costs $5.99 per pound at Whole Foods. Because it is in season right now and at its best, I am able to buy better, fresher asparagus locally. I definitely lowered the carbon footprint, and I also saved $3.00 on two bunches. Spinach is also in season. I paid $2.00 for two pounds at the farmers market, and saved another $3.00 on the grocery bill. By shopping my own pantry first, I found I could make my own salad dressing with items I have on hand, and save another $2.99 plus packaging and processing.
I bought bulk, dried beans for 69 cents per pound in the bulk aisle, saving $1.00 over the canned organic variety. A few modest changes in cheese selections saved another $3.00. I did not buy any meat at the store. Instead, I purchased chicken direct from the farmer. I saved about $6.00 over the premium for all-natural chicken. We’ll save even more by making that one roast chicken last for several meals.
I made some simple choices, and the end of the week’s shopping at the farmers market and grocery store, I found I was able to easily save the $29.95 — feeding us well and 100 or so kids, too. I never knew that much could fit in a single grocery cart.
Here’s a summary of how I saved enough to donate this week:
- I bought less meat and prepared recipes with grain, pasta, vegetables or beans to “stretch” the meal.
- I learned what is in season, and bought from the farmers market first.
- Sought out local and sustainable sources for expensive staples like meats. These I buy in bulk to save costs, and will even split this kind of purchase with another family to make the up front costs affordable.
- Shopped my pantry and freezer before I shopped the store. By using what I have on hand, I find I can save substantially each week.
- Shop the bulk bins for basics like cereals, pasta, dried beans and other ingredients.