Eating Well - Without Breaking The Bank

by

Published For The Corridor

Food And Water, Long Island Obsessions

Everyone is trying to economize. However, the need to reduce expenses does not mean that one must reduce one’s diet to a boring, bland survival menu. It is difficult to economize when flying fresh raspberries from the far side of the globe for the pleasure of a fresh raspberry tart for New Year’s Day. However, there are many alternatives far short of spending the summer home canning and freezing. It is a simple matter of adopting the tactical approach from an earlier time, when perishable food products were not transported across great distances.

Local, seasonal foods are generally least expensive. Getting the most “bang for the buck” requires a slightly different approach than writing a shopping list from a desired menu. It requires either research in advance, or a very flexible meal plan. It requires almost going back to the days when the visit to the market was done without a pre-planned menu. Technology can be more than a friend in this pursuit.

Checking the sale flyers is a classic tactic. Today, even if the flyer did not arrive, it is a simple matter to check out the local supermarket specials and find out what is on special using the store’s web site. A supermarket with an extensive cheese department may have interesting specials that allow you to extend your budget to include items that are normally luxury goods. While a soft cheese, such as brie, may not have a long shelf life; hard cheeses such as Parmigianno Reggiano can be kept for months.

While doing non-food related errands, keep a watch on the windows of local merchants, even the ones that you do not normally patronize. The other day, I spotted sales of both lamb and beef at prices of approximately $ 4.00/lb. Granted, these were sales of whole legs of lamb, and beef cuts such as Eye Round, but most butchers will slice the leg into chops on request, and it is straightforward to cut up a piece of Eye Round if a whole roast is not desired.

With the coming of spring, there will be seasonal seafood available. The prices will often be far less than the prices for items that are sourced from distant countries. Being a locavore is economical on the pocketbook and contributes to conservation. Again, all it takes is a few minutes of research to find recipes and background information about previously un-sampled seafood.

Similarly, keeping an open mind on food items can be tremendously enabling. Several years ago, a cousin of mine and his wife joined a pool for purchasing produce. Each week, they received a medium sized box of vegetables. It was a weekly holiday present. Each week, they would discover what vegetables were featured that week. Often, dash for the bookshelf was the step AFTER opening the weekly box. They were part of this program before the proliferation of food- related web sites. Today, even more information is at your fingertips.

For produce, there are more sources than large supermarkets. While there are fewer farms in the vicinity of the Rt. 110 corridor than in the past, there are still some small farms, which will have farm stands for fresh produce now that the growing season is starting. There are also smaller specialty markets that limit their breadth, but often have high quality produce.

Lastly, do not forget the number of ethnic small markets that are located on Jericho Turnpike and other major shopping streets. If your palate is adventurous, products are often available that are not easily, or inexpensively available in mainline supermarkets. Different national cuisines feature different items, but often the focused ethnic markets have better selections of these specialties at better prices than conventional supermarkets. These items include cheeses, special produce, baking supplies, meats, and pasta. Rice pasta is sometimes available in a supermarket, often in limited choices. A niche asian grocery or supermarket (H&Y, Plainview and South Oyster Bay Roads) will have a wide selection of different pastas, rices, and other supplies used in different asian cuisines. It may not be worth a separate trip, but if you pass one of these markets with a little spare time, take 10-15 minutes and stroll the aisles.

The fact that an overwhelming volume of recipes and other information is available on the web should not prevent you from sitting down with a cookbook. For simple browsing, the local public library often has a wide sampling of cookbooks, as do various booksellers, be they Book Revue (in Downtown Huntington), Barnes & Noble (on Rt. 110 in the xxx(?) shopping center, B Daltons and William Sonoma (in Walt Whitman Mall), or Borders (in Farmingdale on Rt. 110).

Often, while a cookbook or online recipe may not be quite the right taste, there will be useful information about the featured ingredient. Don’t let that stop you. Knowledge is power, and a little thinking can go a long way toward avoiding mealtime boredom while economizing.

Mr. Gezelter’s email is Bob@TheCorridorLI.com, visit his website at http://www.rlgsc.com.

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