Eating Through Inflation -So how do you decide among your values, your budget, and your tastebuds?
Updated: Feb 26
In the world to come, a person will be asked to give an account for that which, being excellent to eat, she gazed at and did not eat. (Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin)
In Janurary USDA economists reported that the 9.9% food inflation rate of 2022 will be followed by a 7.1% rate this year, the highest rates in three decades. Food inflation has greatly affected our eating habits and communities are feeling the pressure as food prices continue to rise. Foods most affected by inflation are some of the most nourishing while processed food prices remain fairly stable. When purchasing becomes restricted food security becomes an issue. More and more we are opting for lesser quality foods like rectified oils and slick, quickly dried pasta that although appear to be more budget friendly are nutritionally disconnected. For example, in the process of making pasta, dough used to make lesser quality pasta is dried as quickly as possible at high temperatures and undergoes a thermal shock during this process. The gluten compresses and tightens under the pressure and makes the pasta much more difficult to digest and requires much more energy to break down in the body, meaning if you have a problem with pasta it may be that you're buying the wrong pasta. This also means that choosing foods of lesser quality may not be in your best interest.
Food is a celebration and a pleasure. We need to eat what is pleasing to us with excellent flavor and nutrition. We need to make the everyday act of eating more than a blip on the radar of life. Whatever we eat or drink should bring health to the body and joy to our day. After eating, shopping, cooking and traveling in Italy with our Italian family and friends I’ve learned that every plate of food and every bottle of wine brings life to the Italian table. Meals are an essential part of Italian life and generational family recipes bring meaning to what is eaten. Shoppers rely on authentic ingredients providing both taste and nutrition and bright lively flavors. That is what people remember most when they eat authentic food. No matter what background or ethic culture.
Eating through inflation is a challenge. In the best of times the mediocrity of eating is a well traveled road we take everyday. Higher inflation continues to lower our food priorities and less inspiring ingredients and options often cause us to settle for less. The uncertainty of the economy and our busy lives filled with a new normal none of us were expecting can make us feel uncomfortable to do anything else but simply eat and accept what is put before us. But we don't have to settle for less. It’s been said that we are what we eat and if we value our health and well-being we need to approach our meals mindfully eating with attention to the ingredients, methods and preparation of the food to ensure we are spending our money wisely. Spending time sourcing your ingredients impacts food choices far beyond a single table. It sends a message to suppliers that you value what they do and encourages them, many of whom our small producers and generational families, to continue bringing their products to the market.
The important thing to do is not to let inflation drive your food choices in the wrong direction. So how do you decide among your values, your budget, and your palate? How can you keep quality at an affordable rate?
Know your distributor to make sure you are getting added value to what you buy. They can authenticate where your food was gown, how the food was produced and bridge the gap between food and table.
Eat less meat but better meat. Small changes in meat consumption, such as eating plant-based meals one night a week, can make a big impact. You don’t have to go fully vegetarian or vegan to make a difference. Plant-based proteins are usually more affordable (legumes, grains, wild rice, protein-rich fruits and vegetables) can help minimize costs.
Add creative condiments for flavor and spice. Condiments can improve flavor, quality and interest with very little effort. A small amount can make a big difference. A good quality vinegar can last a long time and a dash or drop of lemon juice can “brighten” other flavors.