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Recession foods

(article, Kim Carlson)

Culinate guest blogger Alex Davis, who with two friends wrote a recent book, Dinner at Your Door, on dinner co-ops, is entering 2009 with both an unsettled feeling about the economy and a sense of defiance when it comes to her food budget. 

I can relate. I don't want to stop eating mostly organic meats and vegetables, even if they do cost more than conventional versions. I'm hoping I can continue to buy eggs from free-ranging, grub-eating chickens, and avoid industrial butter, even if money is tight.

For one thing, I like the flavors of these foods, not to mention the nutritional boost I believe they provide. But I also like supporting the men and women who make and grow real food — the farmers, ranchers, and purveyors who take pride in their work and in the products they're sending to market. And I like knowing that the animals who give of themselves for our benefit are humanely treated. 
[%image reference-image float=left width=400 caption="Cheaper than store-bought?" credit="Photo © Culinate"]

So while I can cut back on convenience foods — prepackaged salads or boneless, skinless chicken breasts, for instance — I won't skip the farmers' market. Still, when I go, I may walk on by the premade garlic-chive pesto (which I love) and the dark-chocolate-covered cherries (better to buy the dried cherries and concoct my own chocolate bark). 

And on those days when I can't make it to the market, I will continue to support local purveyors by shopping at our neighborhood co-op. 

Recently, the New York Times' Well blog highlighted a particularly helpful post from the website Divine Caroline. Writer Brie Cadman not only has a great name, but she also has a great list of 20 healthful whole foods that cost about a dollar: oats, eggs, kale, potatoes, apples, nuts, bananas, garbanzo beans, broccoli, watermelon, wild rice, beets, butternut squash, whole-grain pasta, sardines, spinach, tofu, milk, pumpkin seeds, and — yum — coffee. (Click over to the Times or Divine Caroline for the details of each item.)

You can quibble with the details — why not simple brown rice instead of wild? — but the message is clear: Food that's not overly processed generally isn't overly expensive. And it's good for you, too. 

So these days, which foods are you eating in part because they're a good bargain — or not eating because they're not such a good value? 

I buy a lot of Ak-Mak crackers; I like their flavor and crunch, and compared to other crackers, they're a good deal. Ditto Bob's Red Mill products. I stopped buying prepared hummus and make my own instead. My husband has been baking bread, and I've been [/user/Kim/blog/granola2 "making granola"]. (I'm not sure how much I'm saving over buying our favorite brand, but homemade tastes great.)

Culinate's recipe editor, Carrie Floyd, saves money by making kiddie cocktails — juice, a little simple syrup, and mineral water — instead of buying sodas. She's also plotting to put a third of a grass-fed cow in her new freezer.

Like my husband, Culinate managing editor Caroline Cummins is baking a lot of bread, and like Carrie, she's planning to buy meat in bulk to stash in her new chest freezer. And her husband makes his own ice cream and roasts his own coffee (although knowing the good ingredients he uses, I'm not sure they save much money by doing either). 

We're all taking advantage of the bulk section of the grocery.
Meanwhile, [/mix/dinner_guest?author=4683 Harriet's] doing all that and much more.

So let me ask you again: As we ride out this economic storm, which bargain-priced foods are you eating, and which pricey treats are you avoiding?

reference-image, l