There was a recent interesting thread on SlowTalk discussing the book Hungry Planet, What the World Eats. It's a collection of photo essays documenting families from around the world gathered around their weekly groceries. There were some obvious connections made between industrialised societies with their huge amounts of processed and packaged foods, and less affluent communities with much simpler, more basic foods.
Today when we returned from the weekly shopping, I amused my husband by laying everything out and snapping a photo. Here's what we bought, although not everything fit in the picture:
sliced roast beef
frozen chopped broccoli
The total bill was $149.45. I had always thought our grocery bill was high, but it's actually quite low in comparison to some of the families. This is enough for breakfasts, snacks, sandwiches for lunches, and three dinners-- pasta with sausage and vegetables, cheese quesadillas, and baked apricot chicken, with sides of salads, broccoli, and roasted vegetables. Produce is really expensive here, making healthy eating problematic for families feeling the pinch. I had some convenience foods, like the prewashed lettuce mixes, shredded carrots, and peeled squash; two frozen vegetables; and two canned or bottled items. This isn't everything we'll eat all week, as I buy some things in bulk and store them in the pantry (cereals, pasta, rice, grains, etc.) or freezer (meats). After looking at the photos of other families, I notice that we don't buy drinks except for milk (and wine, which I didn't include) and very little in canned or frozen prepared meals. If this pile of groceries had included my monthly trip to Trader Joe's there certainly would have been more frozen foods--chinese chicken dumplings, waffles, enchiladas, and ravioli are our staples from there. And the bill would be much higher, as you certainly pay for convenience.
But no, frozen fish sticks have never graced my freezer. This is Boston, and fresh fish, while getting increasingly pricey, is easily available.
Odds are I'll be in the grocery store again by Thursday. Two teen boys can easily go through this in four days.