The cover story of the November 22nd, 2010 edition of Newsweek is about the foodie trend, the contrast between “haves” and “have nots” and asks if the food we eat divides us as a nation. The article laments how the poor living in cities often don’t have access to fresh produce and are subjected to tiny, cramped markets where produced is over-priced, old and sometimes even moldy. Not good at all. I have no doubt these things are true in New York City where most of the people quoted in the article were from.
I’ve visited The Big Apple and ducked into a little market just to get an apple or banana – and exited with nothing. Couldn’t find a single piece of fruit to snack on – and that’s pretty sad. So, I would never venture a comment on places or situations I don’t know a lot about.
However, I can comment on what I’ve seen. I’ve smiled at the creativity and ingenious spirit of some people. I’ve shaken my head dismayed and discouraged by the “I can’t help it” attitude of others.
The article neglected to mention in changing cities like Detroit (where I’m originally from) and Atlanta and others there’s a whole movement of people growing their own fruits and veggies in downtown areas in small and even not so small home gardens. There are resources available to help people learn how to grow produce themselves. And, more Farmer’s markets are popping up in metro areas.
I don’t shop at the two Farmer’s markets here in Las Vegas because they’re pretty small – but I used to shop almost weekly at a couple of them in San Diego. Every week they were a great way to get better prices and fresher food than a regular supermarket.
I’ll share one more observation: I like shopping at Trader Joes, but honestly the Wal-Mart supermarket is closer to home and has more convenient hours. So, when I need to grab a couple items like a dozen eggs, a few bananas or a half gallon of milk – I head over there. I won’t dwell on the fact that these basics are usually more expensive at Wal-Mart than TJs. I guess if someone likes getting their groceries there and it’s convenient – that’s their choice.
My observation is different: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the shopping cart in front of me – or several of them – full of boxes and bags. Oh, and bottles of soda Those boxes, bags and bottles are covered with the logos of massive food companies.
They are breaded, fried, loaded with added sugar and processed to the point of having pretty much no nutrition left. The folks who buy these items must not understand the purpose of the company and their products isn’t to nourish people. The purpose is to increase quarterly shareholder profits. That’s the purpose of all publicly traded companies.
Call me crazy but I sense they haven’t put this equation together yet. People who think its impossible to whip up a decent, healthy, inexpensive meal quickly haven’t explored the possibilities
I understand splurging now and then. Food should be a source of pleasure. Hey, all the recipes on “The Adventurous Foodie” aren’t necessarily uber healthy. I love chocolate. I don’t use all organic ingredients. That’s unrealistic for me – and I assume it is for you as well. But when I can “stealth shop” and find organic for about the same price as conventionally-grown produce, I’m all about it. Life is about balance – not about extremes one way or t’other.
I’m seeing entire grocery carts full of nutritionally bereft food. I’m seeing two bags of Oreos at $3.99 each when several types of beautiful apples are readily available for 99 cents a pound and perfect, unblemished bananas are 59 cents a pound. Let’s see – that’s eight to ten pounds of fruit in exchange for those Oreos. Yesterday I bought Redskin potatoes for 99 cents a pound which is better nutritionally and less expensive than a box of mashed potato flakes. Maybe a little swap out here and there would be a good idea.
What you find in the middle of every supermarket is the most highly processed food. Let’s be honest, white carbs – all that breading, batter and sugar is very cheap food. The minute a big company processes that flour or sugar to turn it into something – a mix, a box or something else – the price goes way up because that’s their way of covering operating costs. Add in CEO salaries, advertising costs, quarterly stockholder dividends and everything else that goes into a big business and the result is some pretty crazy prices for “food” that lacks nutrition.
Do I want to run these companies out of business? Not necessarily. But I don’t have to buy into their ruse either. I can “vote” with my dollars. So can you. And that’s how a free market economy works.
By the way, if you think I never purchase something from Kraft or Archer Daniels you would be mistaken. But you won’t see a lot of these big company logos in my shopping cart or my cupboard. I figure I save money that way. And if I have the presence of mind in the morning to grab something like an apple and some nuts before I head out the door rather than stopping at a fast food joint I’m saving even more. Once again, there’s a lot of overhead in that cheap food.
Better to look for food that’s nutrient dense. And yes, fresh fruits and veggies are tops on the list. One of the most expensive things you can put in your shopping cart is meats. Do like the Asians and use meat as more of a flavoring thing and less as the primary food in a dish.
Tonight I’ll make a big pot of Ratatouille for dinner. All the veggies except the mushrooms I paid 99 cents a pound or less. To add protein I’ll add some Chicken Italian Sausage which is about the same price as hamburger meat. The entire stockpot will make six hearty servings. So that’s a pretty small amount of that Chicken Italian Sausage per serving.
The most expensive ingredient in my Ratatouille is a tablespoon of real grated Parmesan cheese on top. But I use so little, one container goes a long way. So, if you have access to decent grocery stores with fresh produce, it’s entirely possible to eat reasonably healthy and stay on a budget.
Like millions of Americans this last week I’m figuring out creative ways to be smart and use up the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers. They’re almost gone. Thanks goodness. I made a big pot of Turkey Soup a few days ago. Then Turkey Pot Pie. The Turkey Curry was the last straw.