March 17, 2006


There are a number of things we can all do to reduce food spending while maintaining or even improving meal quality. As one of my major contributions to this site will be about budget dining I thought I should start with my philosophy (it keeps my feet on the ground).

Eat less, buy less. Most people (who can) in our super-sized society eat more than they need. We the young can’t afford that luxury. Hunger, in part, is relative to a person’s normal food intake; your body will get used to lower amounts of food if you do it slowly and safely. Lower quantity means that you can get better quality food for the same price. Buying less and eating what you buy will cut down waste.

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell? Try to eat at set times and your body will adjust accordingly. It might suck for a week or so, though.

Know prices. I’ll have to preface this with telling a mostly-embarrassing story about myself. When I was looking for a job this past September, I had a lot of free time on my hands. After a few weeks of hearing “Oh I don’t go to [insert name of supermarket], it’s so expensive” or “oh, I go 50 blocks out of my way to go to Fairway because its prices are so much better” I started keeping a database of all the food I bought, where it came from, and how much it cost. Fanatical. Yes. Obsessive. Certainly. It’s easy to maintain, so I have kept it going. My findings, though I haven’t really scrutinized them, are that Fairway is always a strong contender but is not, as the people at InStyle would say, a category killer. There are cheaper places like the Associated (which often has high quality stuff), but some stores are only good for one thing (Zabar’s has amazing cheese deals every weekend). Back to the point: you should be able to look at a price and know whether it’s above or below the average. I also find it helpful to see things not in pounds or ounces but in servings. (3 pounds of chicken breast, means 6 servings or more to me)

Be your grandmother. Read those awful circulars for sales. Many grocery stores have them online.

Plan your meals and stick to it. Impulse buys kill.

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