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Effect of the recession on your eating habits.

How has the current recession caused you to alter your food budget and/or eating habits?

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    1. I would like to think I am relatively a smart shopper. I love great food and trying lots of new things. Can I afford 15.00 coffee or Starbucks every morning when my good beans from whereever is 5.99 or 6 bucks tastes great (this is not aimed at anyone, there were many posts. I am just being generic). I try to buy good seafood, but can't afford Whole Foods and when my fish monger is 12 a lb vs 6 a lb. I don't mind either. My veggies are from the farmers market which I love, my wine is under 10 and do use short cuts now and then.

      I really try to watch spending but when I entertain, that is completely different I don't go overboard but I do what I know my friends would appreciate. They aren't going to like a 40 dollar wine no more than a good 20+ bottle. But everyone has different friends and they know their tastes.

      Personally, more seafood, light pastas, salads and soups which I love to cook. Some stews and meats that will last a few days. Smoked chicken and pork that I can cook ahead and bag up and freeze.

      I have gone more green with green cleaning supplies and trying hard to cut back on paper towels and napkins. I am not a cloth napkin girl so I do use those all the time.

      So yep, I don't go out much, just now and then, and try to cook mostly at home. Have more dinner get togethers at home even if it is just pizza, chinese or anything. We get chinese once every couple of weeks but so much cheaper than going out. We all split so not as many leftovers and we get a variety, no tip in the restaurant, our own beer so why not.

      Yes, I have cut way back but still eat healthy and good. I am a firm believer you can eat good with friends or not but it doesn't have to be fancy. Simple food with friends can be just as fun.

      15 Replies
      1. re: kchurchill5

        You find using *green* cleaning products to be more economical? Unfortunately I find them much more expensive. It's actually easy to use cloth napkins so it's cheaper and greeener. And salads? Wow, that is one of my splurges. Good produce isn't cheap. I can buy meat for less.

        1. re: c oliver

          I wonder if kchurchill means she's cleaning with baking soda, vinegar, salt, that sort of thing.

          Hmmm, I USED to be a cloth napkin user. Where did I lose that along the way? Probably time to see what I have left and use them again. One summer I bought stacks of dark colored bandanas that we used as cook-out napkins. They were great for messy foods like barbecued chicken, buttery corn etc.

          Ok, kchurchill, please let us know what inexpensive green products are working for you, and c oliver, thanks for the boot. I've gotten lazy and I don't like it.

          1. re: fern

            Here's a rather long and at time contentious thread about cloth napkins. As you can read, it switched me over :)

            1. re: c oliver

              Just a nudge about the missing link.

              1. re: Paulustrious



                I wish I had a nickel for every time I'v e done that :) Thanks.

            2. re: fern

              I do mean that too. I buy some green, I do use homemade items as well. Many of my things I use on my veggies are natural I put together. I also use some simple things around the house and fertilizers, all natural when possible.

              I use baking soda in laundry, vinegar for many thngs, baking soda for scouring sinks and bathups, the normal window washing mix, I do use clorox don't get me wrong, I use dish soap from Target or my local store which has a green label, it may not be the best but they or the store does give back. Toothpaste is a great scouring and much cheaper when you get the cheap kind. Coffee gorund and vinegar for plants, natural cayenne and garlic in the ground to ward off buts, soap, baking soda and a minimal use of a biodegradable pesticide or one that basically breaks down. I probably described that incorrectly. Environmentally friendly. Corn starch is great, Borax, a few other ingredients, salt mixed is the right combos can be a great rubbing scouring mix. A citrus oil for wood furniture. and as I said, I buy a few to keep on hand.

              I do use paper towels, sorry guity as charged. No cloth here only for entertaining for napkin use, but have cut way back on paper products. I do use paper bags but I recycle them for my garden. Hate plastic other than kitty litter, I throw away all my cans but I literally have NO where to put them, but I try to do the best I can.

            3. re: c oliver

              I do buy green cleaning products, more economical, came out about even when I did my simple home test. I try to recycle but I admit I am not the best. And salads, I mentioned salads, I am eating more and more, but growing more and more too. My farmers market I can buy way more produce much cheaper than most meats. 20 bucks and I leave with veggies for over a week easily. I eat more chicken or try to and fish that I catch myself. That reduces meat. I could eat seafood 3+ times per week pasta 2 and then meat or chicken. I do cook meat though don't get me wrong. I go in spurts what I feel like. Cloth. I don't have time to do my own laundry and my sons and in an apt you can't do laundry after 11. Many days I don't get home until after 8 or 9, 4 loads and one no room with towels for the pool, suits, and clothes for on the boat when I work so there are lots of work clothes. Room, where am I gonna store them. My napkins I buy them and then go on a small metal napkin holder, cloth doesn't fit in there. Cloth is just not me and never will be. It may be smarter but not for every day meals. I'm usually working on my cookbook on my desk at 9 at night eating or the kids in their room eating on the computer. Cloth is just not workable.

            4. re: kchurchill5

              Re cloth napkins:
              When I was in college I went on a study abroad trip and we stayed four nights in Rome. The hotel dining room gave us these plastic pouches with our names on them and after dinner each night we would put our cloth napkins in the pouch and would use them again the next night. (They also did this thing where instead of changing the bed sheets they would just flip them around; we knew this because there was a laundry mark on one sheet that "moved" during our stay.)

              1. re: MysticYoYo

                That is interesting. I do enjoy using them. Just impractical for me. But always when entertaining I use them unless it is outdoor BBQ or big outside pool party. I'm not against them but just not for me on a daily basis. That is a neat idea to use them for each person. Many American has lost touch with the fine art of dining I think compared to those in other countries. I may be wrong

                1. re: kchurchill5

                  I think practicality has something to do with it, too. We in the US wash and dry everything after one use. Not the same everywhere. In fact, friends of ours in Belgium and France don't even have clothes dryers in their homes! They wear/use things until they're dirty, wash them and then hang dry. They probably think we're excessive in our fight against dirt and germs! And our use of resources.
                  kchurchill, if you ever find a deal on cotton bandanas or napkins, get a stack of darker colored ones for your BBQs, you'll love it! They hold up to the sticky sauces etc and then you toss the whole bunch of them in the washer. Sorry, no reusing here! Also, the bandana pattern hides any sauce stains that won't come out.
                  You will be baking a cake in my honor once you try it. :) :) :)

                  1. re: fern

                    IMO, once you've used a napkin, it's dirty.

                    1. re: pikawicca

                      For myself, I totally agree. Napkins are single use items. But I do think it is not the same everywhere. We've had exchange students that never did laundry in 2-3 weeks. They wore things again and again. Longer than I would have, for sure. Then when we visited a couple of them we found that they don't even have clothes dryers at home. They do far less laundry than we do.

                      1. re: fern

                        While travelling, or living abroad, it was understood that cleanliness was more what one had next to their skin. Skivvies and socks, change daily. Other things, wear until demonstrably dirty (or smelly). From my experience even with parents in the US, the same is done with children's clothes and those destined for the dry cleaners (a/k/a suits).

                        1. re: Caralien

                          I should mention that most of the kids who visited here were neater about their clothing than some of our kids. They hung things up so the clothes were aired overnight and not rumpled from being in a heap on a chair or the floor.
                          I admit to being wasteful about laundry while growing up. I'm better now but still wash things more often than our visitors did. They never seemed grungy to me, but I am accustomed to more frequent washings. Can't seem to scale that back. As for napkins, I like them cleaned after each use.

                  2. re: kchurchill5

                    Using "cloth" napkins etc is deeply ingrained with me.Actually cheaper and less work after all these years.
                    95% of the time we use what can go into any wash load.Zero special care 100% cotton.The thrift stores have been a real boon in recent years.$10.00 for ? average, mundane synthetic junk vs $4.50 for a banquet size "madiera cloth" tablecloth ,real value ? $400.00 +.No one wants to "care for" or learn to maintain old fashioned quality,and so on.If not for this balancing out perhaps I would not be so wedded to cloth and its care or lack of.Add on knowing how to ID the fabrics that fit the bill.One of the places age,experience and European parents
                    pay off.

              2. I am less wasteful, more creative. I take a good look at what's here and find a way to use it up. The shameful truth is that I haven't always been so conscientious about it. I feel much better the whole thing.
                Also, we don't always have as many dishes at one meal as before. Main, starch, veg, and salad was always the program without even thinking about it. Now we sometimes have the main and maybe a cucumber salad or something.
                A year ago that would have seemed like an incomplete meal to me. Now it's plenty.

                One more thing, I come here very often for frugal ideas for cooking for friends and family. No more just choosing what I think sounds good and heading to the store. Now I take some pleasure in coming up with a delicious meal that is pretty frugal, too.
                Thank goodness for Chowhound, seriously.

                My cousin and & were discussing recipe modifications based on what's in the house and he said,
                "Using what you have. It's the new black." :)

                1 Reply
                1. re: fern

                  We've been doing the same thing - sometimes just a main and a side dish. We're eating less, which both my husband and I could use, and saving money.

                  I'm also shopping out of the freezer and pantry a lot more now. I'm trying very hard to use down what have before I go buy more. (And replace the stuff I used with stuff I bought on sale.)

                2. for the better,have always been frugal and HATE WASTE
                  Many things are the same price or cheaper.We don't do "prepared" foods or little packages etc.Have a vacuum sealer ,dehydrator that see a lot of use.Both keep $$ and
                  waste down.As do stock pots and freezers.Bones and vegetable scraps are the next stock base.Paper and plastic almost not used ,haven't purchased a trash bag in 20 years.
                  Took the time this winter/spring to really manage food stuff for a move.We are now on 42 acres with the start of a garden and 12 fruit trees under renovation/rehab pruning.

                  like Kchurchill we think that when we entertain there is a reason to consider the guest.
                  Some like pasta and others like steak and shrimp.Some everyday wine,others the splurge and older wines from our cellar of 40 years.
                  Wine(mid level),steak,lobster,artichokes $ down.Most fresh fruit and vegetable $ up.
                  Dairy and pantry staples are all over the page for price fluctuations.Still holding to the resolve of fair trade,local,concientious and rational choices are becoming easier but
                  not less expensive.

                  1. I used to make my grocery list based on what we wanted to make or eat for the week. Now, I only write the basics (olive oil, butter, eggs, etc.) on the list. Everything else we buy is based on what looks good and is also on sale or is not too much of an indulgence. This has forced me to be more creative in the kitchen and has also helped me grow as a cook because I need to look up recipes and cooking methods for things that I may not usually buy.

                    I can't say the recession has really affected me as I am currently just finishing up school but it has really made me stop and think about finances a little more.

                    Even prior to the recession, we tried to eat in more so that we could splurge once or twice a month at high end restaurants.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: pinkprimp

                      Oooh, that's great, pink. Buying what's on sale and figuring out what to do with it, after, is such a fun/economical thing to do! If I had to point to one thing that helped me grow as a maker-of-food, it'd be that. I can't tell you how many times I've bought funny looking vegetables that I couldn't even name (i.e. kohlrabi) at the market, because they were inexpensive and interesting-looking, and then worked it into a soup / stirfry / roast / pickle / pastry / you name it.

                    2. I've slowly convinced my husband that bagged lunches are better (he's at least at 50% during the week; the funny part is that he doesn't mind making my lunch at all even when he won't pack one for himself). As he works 7 minutes walking from home, if the weather is bad (thundering), he comes home to mind our dog while while reheating leftovers.

                      The farmer's markets near Princeton are closer than the ones in Manhattan and Brooklyn, so I've actually been buying more locally produced food for convenience; the added benefit to us is that they happen to be cheaper and fresher than what's found in the larger markets (plus I can feel better about supporting local industry).

                      Green cleaning: done a lot of research on this over the past year, and using baking soda, vinagre (not together, of course), and rubbing alcohol (ie w/lavender and peppermint as a bathroom spray/mirror & glass cleaner). Biodegradable detergents is cheaper (one of our local stores, Whole Earth, sells biodegradable liquid and powder detergents in bulk too!). And yes, even our cat uses renewable pine pellets which will be re-used in the non-edible flower beds.

                      I would guess that we do eat out less, deciding to plan where to eat in lieu of settling for a place with sub-par food or service (the fastest method to souring my mood); this includes making at least a small snack in the morning before heading out for weekend errands. Fast food may be the most noticable cut from our eating--I can't recall the last time I had any, including Wendy's nuggets (bad, I know, but I like them), and haven't noticed any new used bags in the car from DH. Most of the restaurants are BYO for when we do head out to eat, but having a porch and a hibachi make dining even at home a lot better!

                      1. I was brought up very frugally and have never really lost the "nothing goes to waste" habit at home (buy things on sale, plan weekly menus so that they use interlocking portions of things, plan leftovers that can be incorporated into subsequent meals, etc.) However, with a hyperbusy schedule and long hours in the office, I had indeed been getting increasingly lax about buying coffees, and even lunches or dinners from local spots around the office. After doing the math and realizing that on top of the grocery bill, I was spending $40-$60 on coffees a month and probably about the same on the occasional lunches and dinners, I've been reflexively more diligent about bringing my coffee in the morning, making tea in the office, and making sure I bring both lunch and dinner to the office with me in the morning. The savings is perhaps not huge, but by some reckonings it's not inconsequential. Plus, I'm eating better and healthier food, since I'm thinking about it the night before and making myself something fresh and homey, rather than heading out and scrounging at 8pm when I'm hungry at the office and have few nearby options...

                        Fortunately, though, so far this has been just a matter of lifestyle and not strict necessity for us, so we've also been able to use some of the savings to eat out more regularly at local neighborhood joints where business has been slow... I guess the general philosophy has been to make wiser spending choices, saving the money for tastier stuff at places we want to support, rather than indulgently buying chain coffee as a matter of convenience.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: another_adam

                          I have a friend I worked with and he hated bringing food in. He can't make toast believe me. Well one night I went up to his place and cooked dinner and I made him a little spread sheet. He is in to data entry so he could really relate to that. He found out that is was spending 40+ on lunch, 25 + on coffee and breakfast, 20+ on chips and snacks in the car (he has a 1 hr commute to work). At home, frozen this and then which I said he could do now and then but taught him to make soup which he likes, chili, casseroles, some fresh grilled chicken, potatoes, etc. After 6 cooking sessions. He had saved enough (he put everything he didn't spend on food in a coin jar) to pay for a one trip ticket back home for a week. And this was just a few months worth. It really does work for any level of chef or home cook or any cook. Just common sense.

                        2. Generally I cut corners where I can, and I try to make expensive ingredients go further or use cheaper substitutes... less beef and more chicken and so on.

                          One big change - I make my own pizza once a week instead of buying takeout! It's a lot cheaper to make it at home, even with a store-bought crust, than it is to buy one, and it satisfies the 'fast food 'cravings.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Kajikit

                            And - for us - it tastes better. Just finished leftover, homemade pizza. Yum.

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I buy the premade at time when I get home late and my pizza place is closed. But I get great crusts from a local pizza joint. Cheap too. Pizza is like cleaning out the fridge, pestos, white sauce, bbq is great, tomato and any veggies and meat or seafood. Love pizza nights

                          2. I check the weekly grocery ads, clip coupons if it's an item I need , and we aren't eating out as often.

                            1. Before:
                              Spontaneously dine out midweek if I don't "feel" like cooking
                              Go out for lunch while at work
                              Grocery shop without thinking so end up buying too much veg and fruit that get thrown away

                              Do not dine out spontaneously anymore
                              Brown bag almost always
                              Go to same grocery store but more careful about how much veggies and fruit I buy

                              1. We've been entertaining at home far more often than at restaurants, so we can treat friends who have been hit harder than others, and not have them be self conscious if we try and pick up the tab at a restaurant. As a result, I now have far more hostess napkins than I know what to do with. Guess I'll just have to keep experimenting on my captive human guinea pigs -- er, I mean, entertaining guests with new recipes. ;)

                                Since we're entertaining more frequently, though, I've been buying less expensive cuts of meat (i.e. London broil, country-style ribs, etc...) and having friends over for very casual weekday meals of whatever I feel like making from whatever I scrounge in the fridge. It's actually been wonderful in many ways. It ups the QT I spend with friends, it's teaching me to cook inexpensively in bulk, and it's teaching me how to feel more casual about entertaining, instead of treating every dinner with guests as a Big Event to freak out about. That lets me focus on the company. I don't actually think our food budget has gone up much, if at all, as a result of feeding a crew.

                                Oh, I should note that I've been making vegetarian meals at least a few times a week, too, partly for health reasons, partly for moral reasons, partly for economic reasons, and partly because we entertain a number of vegetarians, regularly. It's a really good exercise in thinking through what makes a balanced meal.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: cimui

                                  It is funny what you said about the steak and veggie. I already mentioned I do veggie meals. But I think 2 months ago I had a going away party for some friends, 1 being vegetarian, the rest not. Farmers market, great portabellos, peppers, onons, broccoli, carots and cauli. So dinner was set. I had fresh tomatoes and herbs always.

                                  So I picked up 3 skirts, there were 12 of us, marinated in just fresh herbs, garlic, red wine and olive oil, portabellos stuffed with cheese and veggies, and nice big cauli broccoli, red peppers and red onion salad with with a light vinaigrette, bread stuffed and grilled with fresh tomatoes, basil and mozarella and angel food sort of trifel with fresh berries and cream. Cheap for 12 people. For 12 people ... Less than 5 dollars including Sangria, and then my friends also brought some beer and sodas. Yes, cheaper cuts can be great, veggies to the dish can go a long way, breads and pastas in moderation and for a good sangria, I used a more inexpensive wine but still good with fresh fruits to make a light fruity sangria which went a long way.

                                  I so agree with you.

                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                    $5 for 12 people, including sangria? *wowie* that's amazing! where in the world do you live where this is possible?

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Right, that makes much more sense. I'm going to feel so deeply inadequate about my ability to budget, if not!!

                                        1. re: cimui

                                          It took a lot of planning but it really turned out great. I think the angel food trifel was from CHOW and the portabello recipe too. And have to thank the Farmers market for very inexpensive fresh veggies.

                                        2. re: c oliver

                                          Yep, It sounded ok to me but 5/person I guess sounds better.

                                  2. Not too different. We don't go out to eat much now and before. I live close to my office so have come home for lunch for a long time. I've been trying to go to the grocery store less. Using more from my freezer. Buying large quantities of things that are very good buys. I've started cutting coupons for the things we usually buy.

                                    1. I have made no change. I guess we actually spend more now since we have a baby and we make our own baby food. My nine month old will love this board when he gets older...he loves salmon, stuffed mushrooms, dark chocolate. He's spoiled :)

                                      1. I used to impulsively buy choice steaks or seafood for a weekday barbecue. Now those cookouts are more planned around occasions. I don't eat lunch at new places every chance I get anymore. I go to restaurants where I know they serve something I've already tried and liked... and I know what I will be charged. I noticed we don't have wine as often. Dessert has also been relegated to special meals. I noticed we don't have two or three different ice creams in the freezer, there isn't any as I write this "sad" admission to frugality. I also noticed we don't throw away as much leftover or old food and drink. I savor my fresh ground coffee more. Maybe I'll start appreciating what we've got, and wish less for what I want.

                                        1. No change because I've always been a careful shopper and eat little red meat (lots of fish and chicken), don't eat processed or junk food, eat out very rarely when at home in Colombia; and eat lots of fruit and vegetables which are reasonable here.

                                          1. It hasn't really hit me that much. I've always been on a tight budget being a student and have always been a smart shopper.

                                            I've never been big on eating out.

                                            I think I've actually benefited from some of the better shopping deals and more agressive sales.

                                            1. I've been using my pressure cookers allot more often, the tough cuts become tender far easier with these I find.

                                              While I have always been a gardener this year I broke my rule of "no food plants in the front yard" and planted a fairly large kitchen garden in what is the sunniest part of the property. I moved the ornamentals out back where there is more shade and put up a short fence to keep the neighborhood dogs from peeing on my squash.

                                              Come fall, what we can't eat I will pickle and can.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: chilihead

                                                And just when you thought you were going to save money, tought cuts of meat got trendy and popular and have gone up in price. Publix sells brisket at $4.79/lb. What's up with that?

                                                1. re: scubadoo97

                                                  No kidding, popular TV shows, food network and others have basically promoted skirt and flanks and other inexpensive cuts. The price has definitely gone up.