My Life as a Foodie Carpetbagger

A girl’s gotta eat.

The economy has slowed, but not my appetite.
I’m not eating less, but I have made adjustments to what, where, and how I’m doing it.
I eat out less often and cook and entertain at home much more. I still want variety in my food and dining choices, but now my extravagances are more likely to be inventively prepared takeout and specialty grocery items.

Call me what you will: a carpetbagger, a profiteer, an opportunist. All I know is that with a little creativity, resourcefulness, and flexibility, the current economic climate can be a foodie’s salad days.

Dining out
The circumstances that conspired to create an unfortunate environment for restaurants is very attractive indeed for food lovers. The restaurateurs feel our pain and they’ve got plenty of their own. A shared interest in keeping us fed has resulted in a cornucopia of bargains.

Restaurant Week, the mainstay for urban adventurers, can be now found in every town or district with a cluster of two Thai restaurants and a bistro. Many restaurants are even offering their $20.10 menus year-round. Consult the Restaurant Week directory to find your city’s dates.

The current recession has given birth to an entire category of bargain-hunting-meets-social-media mashups. The success of Groupon encouraged a slew of imitators all following the same model: send out an offer, usually a dining discount of 50% or more; if the total number of would-be buyers reaches that day’s sales target, everyone who subscribed snags an exceptional bargain. See all the offers at Daily Deals for Dining.

At the market
While we are allowing ourselves some small indulgences, the recession has given new life to grocers’ most basic offerings; those unsexy canned, jarred, and packaged staples found in the middle aisles of the supermarket that form the basis of inexpensive family meals. Roll past the perimeter and explore the bulk foods aisle and private label store brands.

When you want a treat, think about taking the fancy out of fancy foods. Specialty foods used to be synonymous with gourmet. It meant exotic and pricey, preferably imported from France. The old thinking was escargots and Roquefort cheese, beef tenderloin and truffles. Instead of traditional luxury foods, treat yourself  to humble ingredients of the highest quality. Buy some organic plugras butter, a pastured chuck roast, and some 70% cocoa artisan chocolate and I guarantee you won’t feel deprived. If you’re going to pay through the nose, pay for the quality associated with the care and attention of small batch production.

Drinking up; drinking down
Trade up with modest indulgences like specialty sodas and teas, where the price at the upper end represents a fairly small jump from their conventional counterparts. Trade down in your wine selections with more domestic wines. Look beyond France and Italy for lower-priced imports from new world producers like Argentina, Chile, and New Zealand.

A few short years ago, value dining seemed like a foggy concept from a quaint and distant past. But now it’s time to shake off the memories of $27 hamburgers and foie gras-topped everything. Dark times perhaps, but with a silver lining for food lovers. Call me what you will.


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One Response to My Life as a Foodie Carpetbagger

  1. Monet says:

    Yes the economy has made some impacts on what and where we eat. But food is a priority, so we are still doing fairly well in that department. Thank you for sharing. I hope your weekend is full of love and fun.

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