There is a short but interesting article on Gourmet's website about how one writer has done a 180 in how he shops for food. No more expensive ingredients and lofty recipe goals; now he shops without a list, buying what's on sale. We know the economy has changed the way many of us shop, but this story made us think: Are you shopping without a specific recipe in mind? Are you cooking by feel more often these days?
The author, W. Hodding Carter, is trying to feed his family of six for less than $400 a month. He writes about honing in on specials at the grocery store (asparagus are discounted to $1.50 a pound; Maine shrimp are 75 cents a pound) and coming up with a plan based on what he finds. For example, he was planning a pasta with a meat sauce, but that turned in to creamy shrimp and asparagus over rice.
We don't advocate buying cheap food just for cheap's sake. There are other factors to consider, like where it came from and if it's in season (because if it doesn't taste any good, who cares how cheap it was). But we do think it's easy to spend more money than necessary when you have a specific, complicated recipe in mind and end up buying expensive ingredients rather than engaging in a little flexibility.
We'd encourage you to shop this way most of the time. What looks good at the market? How can you maximize flavor with small amounts of meat? What ingredients give you the most bang for your buck? But when you see a big display of produce that's on sale, it's helpful to have the confidence to throw out Plan A and figure out a way you can use it.
• Read the original article: Extreme Frugality: Supermarket Strategy, from Gourmet
What's on sale at your market right now? Are you changing your cooking habits to accommodate new, cheaper ingredients?
Related: On Recession Eating & Cooking (It's Not Depressing)
(Image: W. Hodding Carter for Gourmet)