Thursday, January 24, 2013
My Ever-Changing Food Landscape
As my reputation for being "that frugal food lady" has grown, so have the number of questions I get about where we buy our food, what products we buy, and how much we are paying for specific items. So many of the details of our food purchasing have changed in the last year since my book came out, it's a bit mind-boggling! I'm also getting questions about whether I can still get the same prices as the ones shown in the "Sample Monthly Food Purchases" section of my book, since they are from purchases made in 2010.
In response to that last question about what I'm currently paying, the short answer is that for most foods I'm still able to get the prices I've quoted in my book. For a few foods, I'm actually getting better prices now than I was in 2010. For example, I'm now paying around $1.60 a pound for grass fed ground beef from a family farm when I buy it on sale in a 30 pound box; I was paying $1.99 a pound for sale-priced grocery store ground beef. I've also started buying real "farm fresh" eggs (free range and organic fed) for $2.50 per dozen, just slightly more than the cost of sale-priced grocery store eggs (more details on that here). There are definitely some food items for which the price has increased significantly: I was able to get milk as low as $2.99 for 4 litres back in 2010, now the best price is usually $4.29. The "rock bottom" price for peanut butter was $1.99 per kilogram, now it's around $3.88 (I don't follow this price too closely any more as I've started buying locally produced organic peanut butter). Orange juice was 89 to 99 cents for a 355 mL can of frozen concentrate, now the best price is $1.50 for a 295 mL can - they increased the price *and* decreased the can size. Also, the cans of frozen concentrate used to always be a better deal than cartons of fresh juice. That has changed and now over 50% of the time we're getting a better deal on juice in the carton.
One thing is very clear - there are no cut-and-dried, static, "forever" solutions to buying good food at great prices. That is why I try to focus on teaching people the basic principles of how to approach buying food on a small budget, because the specific details of what that looks like will probably change over time. Also, because food costs vary so much from one region to another across North America, what's inexpensive for me might be outrageously priced for you! I've had some people tell me that they can't find deals anywhere close to what I have shown in my book, and others who can get much better prices on certain items. In general, food is significantly more expensive here in Canada than it is in the U.S., so my American readers can probably find better prices for many foods than I can.
Since the local food movement has gained so much steam in the past few years, in most towns and cities there will be new options emerging on a regular basis. That's why I recommend getting tuned in to the food scene in your area, whether that's through a food co-op or a "local food" or other similar group, so you can get the latest news on potential food sources.
As my own "food landscape" expands and changes, our family's food acquisition strategies look quite different than they did even a year ago. While I do post updates here on the blog about new ways we are buying food, I know it's nice to have information all in one place rather than trying to wade through a whole series of blog posts to find what you're looking for. To make it easier to find current information on what foods we're buying and where we're buying them, I'm developing a couple of resources that I hope will be helpful to you all:
A "What's In My Pantry" board on Pinterest. I will keep this board updated with current information on what products we use, where we're buying them, and how much we're paying. To check it out, go HERE.
A supplemental e-book that will discuss in detail all the changes we've made in our approach to buying food over the past year since Cheap Appétit was published. This will be available for free to everyone who's purchased my book, and I'm aiming to have it ready to share by the anniversary of my book launch at the end of February. Don't worry, there will be a big announcement when it's available :)
Has the way you buy food changed a lot (or a little) in the past year?
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