Warning: This will be a short, rushed, and probably subpar post. I have so much work to do.
Many frugal types write about saving money on food. There are various strategies for this: stockpiling, couponing, eating lower-priced items, and more. I have written about this topic myself. Then along comes Duchesse, who wondered why all the press on saving money on food? She mentioned that her husband comes from a French tradition, with its deeply-rooted attitudes towards living and eating well. I wrote something along these lines a while ago too, when I remarked that Louisiana residents seem to spend on food in the European tradition. Of course, Louisiana comes from a deeply-rooted French tradition as well.
Speaking of rooting: I was rooting around my pantry, where I store the excess of my excess cookbooks. I was looking for some books for Frugal Son, especially Jacques Pepin's La Technique. Amazingly, I found it.
I also found a bedraggled copy of Diet for a Small Planet. A blast from the past! Is there anyone who didn't own a copy of this book and dream of saving the world from hunger by combining proteins?
I flipped through the book and only saw one recipe I remember making: Lentils Monastery. This is a regular old lentil soup with a little sherry in it. The sherry must be the monastery part.
Now, what has this to do with food prices? Well, in an appendix, there is a list of foods under the heading "Cost of One Day's Protein." Now I don't know if the prices are circa 1971 when the book was first published, or circa 1982, when the "revised and updated" version came out. But I now see why I've always suspected that I spend about the same on food as in years gone by.
Let's say the prices are circa 1982. In 1982, I was in graduate school, teaching 3 sections of freshman composition per year for the princely stipend of $300.00/month. One year, we got a $100.00 raise. We foolishly thought this meant $100.00 a month, because students at other schools got this much. But no, it was a $10.00 per month raise. I digress.
Here are some of the food prices Lappe lists, with recent prices in parentheses:
Eggs: 93 cents (99 cents to $1.99)
Milk: 42 cents/quart ($1.00)
Cheddar cheese: $2.90/lb ($5.00 for yummy Cabot)
Black beans: 69 cents/lb (99 cents)
Peanuts: $1.98/lb (the same!)
Chicken breast on the bone: $1.69/lb (I got some for under $1.00!)
Hmmmmm. Food for thought. Maybe farming methods are producing cheaper food, but of lower quality. Certainly, my current income is more than ten times my graduate student stipend (thank God!); my food costs are not that different.
So Dear Readers, I will not be back on track for a while. I am trying to persuade Frugal Son to write a post or two. I will return as possible.
And, of course, a question: what do you think of these numbers?