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How is the Recession affecting your relationship with food??

  • m

from not at all to your appetite and food interest?? how often you eat out?? what you eat?? what and how much you buy at the supermkt? your portion sizes at home??

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  1. My heightened awareness of the value of my dollar is forcing me to be more inventive and creative. It's (at least for me) easy to get comfortable in a rut of the usual things I cook and eat. I've already switched to buying whole carrots and peeling/slicing them myself and other similar practices. I'm choosing more from the bulk bins (gravity one only, of course) for things like cereal now. I have become more selective in what organic products I buy. I have also switched to entertaining at home instead of meeting at restaurants more often. Right now my brother and I are considering splitting the cost of a Costco Membership. Oh, and I have tried to cut back on my bread consumption, for dietary reasons as well. This. May. Be. The. Hardest...!

    1. As a freelance writer, I tend to act like there's a recession even when times are flush. So if anything, the only difference for me is that we're actually eating out *more* than we used to, to make sure that our neighborhood favorites are getting some business.

      1. Avoiding packaged snack foods (anything in individual portions, like those 100 calorie packs is an especially bad value). Not buying stuff until it's really needed (example - only one flavor of preserves in the fridge, no buying any more flavors until it's done). Especially with "non essentials" waiting until the item is on sale. Really focusing on not letting produce get bad so I toss it out, wastefully...making lots of soup. Trying to cut back on animal protein portions (stealth method to fool carnivore hubby is stir fry with half chicken and half tofu). Stocked freezer with chicken when it was 50% off.
        When my husband and I go out to eat it's more likely to be pizza, since that is good, abundant, and reasonable in my neighborhood. Trying to eat at family-owned places as much as possible when we do go out once a week. Noticed that I don't feel good about indulgent meals (business lunches) now that we are tightening down the finances on a personal level.

        1. No difference in my usual habits, but I am going on vacation next week and in my restaurant research the $150 tasting menus are a lot less attractive than they used to be. For example, my food budget for a week in NYC 2 years ago was $200 a day (which made for a lot of amazing food & tasting menus), my food budget for 12 days in Australia is going to be closer to half that; in truth I'll probably go over, but I'm thinking about only two or three high end dinners for the whole trip instead of almost every night. Even with a good exchange rate, restaurants with $50 mains and $20 desserts seem a little much. I'm pretty sure I'll have this job until my contract is finished this summer, but after that I may be scrounging for decent employment - I'm a pastry chef, and unfortunately we are sometimes seen as less essential to the operation.

          1. A lot of lentils, dried beans, and bulk bags of rice.

            1. What recession?
              My dear Daddy always said, "If you always live like it's hard times, you won't notice if hard times come." That was his attitude about wasting money. Not about life in general and we never wanted for things or lived like poor folks, but it was some of the best advice Daddy ever gave us.
              It was just habit in our family. Think twice before pissing money away on stuff you didn't need or could do without.
              Mama always checked the weekly food ads and planned our menus from those, used coupons, and shopped carefully. Shop from a list and be careful of impulses.
              We were pretty much scratch cooks in my household and didn't depend on carry-out or prepared foods. Packaged processed foods are the devil's work.
              The food was always terrific but it probably helped that I was raised in New Orleans with a Cajun Daddy and Creole Mama who loved great food.
              We ate out faithfully once a week or more, had friends over or went to eat at friends' or relatives' homes once a week or more. All within the budget.

              It's a mindset. Buy carefully. Think. Plan. Use it up. Make it do. Do without, if you have to. Don't waste.

              4 Replies
              1. re: MakingSense

                Well said, Making Sense. I agree completely.

                We have not changed our habits in buying groceries in the least, since we've already made a commitment to live lower on the food chain (with occasional luxuries) years ago, BUT we have changed our eating out habits in that where we did not do it more than once a month previously, we have gone to twice a month. Same reasons stated upthread: we want the mom-and-pop independents to stay around. No extravagance, just the pleasure of have a meal prepared for you and not having to do the dishes!

                Other than that, business as usual in the victual procurement.

                I wonder, though, if a lot of people who have suddenly gone from steaks and oysters to lentils and rice are reflecting a actual change in their income, or are finally living within means (i.e., not charging a lot of high dollar foods to pay for later versus enjoying soups, breads and salads). Not that any of us are innocent of splurging once in a while, but it seems the splurge became the norm, and now the ticket has come due.

                Your Daddy had it right.


                1. re: cayjohan

                  You have a good attitude, Cayjohan. You likely never had a sense of entitlement so the decision to live below your means didn't damage your ego.
                  Now you can see that a decision to eat out helps the larger society instead of being a selfish one. You can afford it and it helps others while giving you pleasure too.

                  Daddy was remarkable as were so many of what Tom Brokaw called The Greatest Generation.
                  I have come to believe that their greatest gift was their sense of gratitude after having survived the Great Depression, WWII, and Korea.
                  More than 20 years of difficult times after which they breathed a collective sigh of relief, rejoiced, and tried to give their children what they had missed. And they did it without complaining, often reveling in the pleasures that the Post-War revival made available to them. I remember their stories of the Depression and wartime as tales of victories, never whining about missing years, lost opportunities, what could have been.
                  So many of them never lost that gift of knowing what was important. Family, friends, and living for the things that count in life that can't be bought with money.

                  The median age of the American electorate is 43 - that means that they were born in 1965 or later. Many of them barely knew member of this Greatest Generation. In our transient society, large numbers don't even grow up near their own grandparents. How many want to listen to "old people"?
                  Heck, I'm part of the post-war baby boom and many think that I'm too old to be relevant. It surprises some of them that I can use a computer and a Blackberry.

                  Maybe this is the reason it's so hard for many to give up the easy life that they've been so used to their entire lives.
                  We have had so much so easily for so many decades in America that we've forgotten how to be grateful.

                  1. re: MakingSense


                    I learned how to *cook* in the late 60s/early 70s. Then I learned how to *eat* in the early 80s. THEN I learned how to *plan* in the late 80s with the arrival of a child. Each of these learnings - cooking, eating, planning - has been informed by my parents' being born into and growing up in difficult financial times. I remembered their stories, and internalized them.

                    We eat better because of those stories.

                    Your screen name does you credit with your discourse on entitlement and food. I'm wagering you are eating well and not bemoaning loss-via-recession, foodwise, anyway ;-).



                2. re: MakingSense

                  MS-You know, every comment you make is spot on. I always agree with you. This is rare for me.

                  For years I have told people to save their money now, so that when they retire, they can eat real tuna instead of cat food tuna.

                  Although you say things more eloquently than I can..

                3. i'm a grad student. i don't think my life has changed too much... i'm really good at saving money now.

                  i very rarely eat out--if i do, it's gotta be worth it (as in delicious!)
                  most of the time, i make my own meals and bring them to studio, but also because i much more enjoy my own cooking.

                  lots of fruits and veg, beans, rice, lentils, and tofu. lots of spices. good quality oils.
                  whole foods only! they are less pricey, and offer more satisfaction.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: dumpycactus

                    This exactly. As a grad student, I've been good these last few years buying good cheap food, and making it delicious myself.

                    I'm excited though that now my co-workers and fellow students and I sit around and talk about what we're cooking and making, because everyone's doing it. I used to be the girl who brought mysterious tupperware containers to work for lunch while everyone else paid $8 for a salad.

                    Now we swap recipes and talk about food. I've sort of rediscovered some cool things about them all as we talk and eat. So, it's a silver lining to being grad-level poor.

                  2. Ever since I got laid off I've had way more time to cook. It's kind of nice actually, cooking more fresh meals instead of making a big batch of something a few times a week and then eating leftovers (full-time job + usually also working on a play meant 12+ hours of work most days). Other than that I'm maybe making fewer Whole Foods impulse purchases but not much else has changed.

                    1. I've been in my own personal recession for almost two years now, so my cooking and dining habits haven't changed. What has changed is that my friends have stopped inviting me to restaurants I can't afford and have started asking for my low-budget home-cooking secrets.

                      1. Even before this stuff happened I had decided not to waste anything. I find it makes me more creative. I try not to waste any part of the food. I cook at home more and eat out less. I am becoming very picky where I eat out. If the value is not there, I don't bother.

                        1. Our habits have not changed for the most part. Still going out for dinner 3-4 times a week and lunches about 4x week and usually a brunch thrown in on the weekend. Our supermarket buying hasn't changed either, nor have our portion sizes.

                          1. What recession? I'm still living as if it were the depression. We grew up relatively poor in money in the 50s - 60s but as rich as one could be in terms of family, food, cooking, friends, and education. My parents certainly taught us the value of money - which I started earning on my own early. When I was in high school I saved for college. When I was in college I saved for grad school. When I started working I saved to build a nest. With kids I save for their educations.

                            If I spend on anything, it is on food. But I still don't spend all that much. I buy the same groceries. Have never eaten a lot of meat, so I can still buy whatever I want. Lots of good fresh fruits and vegetables here. I've never bought processed foods, so no problem there. I prefer making high end meals at home: I'd rather make and invite you for a five course French or a full Japanese meal than to go out for one. When I go out I want highway, street, or market food.

                            The wine bill is high, but wine is more like air than food - something that you just have to have.

                            1. A combination of the economy and retiring have lead to my being a more frugal shopper, (living in Southern California doesn't help).

                              Use to go to the market and get what I wanted choice meat, fresh bread, fresh fish etc, little thought of price. These days it's about the value for the dollar.

                              Use to shop Whole Foods and Gelson's, anymore it's the local ethnic markets. Still go to Costco every other month and buy whole beef and pork sub-primals to break down and freeze.

                              Use to dine out or order in 3 to 6 time a month, now it's less than 3 times in two months.

                              We eat more pasta, rice, soup and vegetable dishes with less meat these days than we use to, which probably isn't a bad thing health-wise.

                              More potroast, less steak, and where buying ground beef was the norm, today with chuck close to a dollar a pound cheaper, it only make sense to grind it myself.

                              1. Me and the SO used to be a little more frivolous with our food spending, but three or so months ago we made the big move to live together and along with the economy and more bills and stuff to take care of we've been more frugal.

                                We use to go out to eat about 6-7 times a month, now it's been 1-2 times a month, and for the first two months of cohabitation we didn't go out at all (exception being the 1-2 times we got take out). For valentine's day we're going to a restaurant that we've been meaning to check out for quite some time, and it's pretty exciting for us! ha. We've avoided going to chain restaurants too- if I want to spend money on dinner/lunch out, it's going to be somewhere good and usually local and independently owned.

                                We also try to take an inventory of what we have to the tee before going out to food shopping, doing a lot of math in the aisles, buying a lot of cheaper store brands, cutting down on the amount of organic foods we buy (we really only buy now organic milk and eggs). Also, our freezer is stocked with meat bought in bulk from costco or the local chicken farm (when we are allowed to). Me and my mom usually go together to costco and buy stuff, and split the bill in half for meat, dry foods, etc which saves both of us money.

                                The majority of our meals are cooked at home, trying to have little reliance on a lot of processed foods. Things like hummus, mayo, salad dressings, and also things like pita chips and potato chips we make in larger quantities by scratch/hand. One thing this recession has done is increased my baking! Why buy a small bag of cookies or a slice of cake/sweets from somewhere for like 4.00, when you could easily make a whole bunch for maybe twice. I've been baking at least once a week in order to keep up with SO's sweet tooth. When it gets a bit warmer, I'll be making batches of ice cream.

                                Also- whenever my side of the family has a gathering, taking home lots of leftovers, which is easy cos my family always makes WAAAAYYYYYY too much food for their own good. I had a birthday party to go to- lunch for two days for the both of us!

                                1. Interesting question. A recession does not affect all, only those who lose their jobs or have their income reduced. I fall into the lost my job category, directly as a result of reduced economic activity, so yes, recession-related. It has not affected my relationship with food. Still love food, try to eat it every day. Stopped going out to restaurants, and purchasing less out of season produce when it the price is high, but food and I have been seeing each other for years and will continue to do so.