couponing in the holy land

Frugal food shopping for the Anglo Israeli

Archive for the tag “fruits”

Aliyah tip #8- Are you sure that food is organic?

Making the commitment to eat only organic food is not something easily done when you have a tight budget.  Unfortunately, healthier food seems to always be more expensive than processed junk food, and organic produce is no exception.  Israel is a major exporter of organic produce to the EU- 13% of our exported produce is organic, which translated to 85,504 tons of vegetables, 2192 tons of fruits, and 2230 tons of citrus in 2013.   It might surprise you to learn that until 2008 there was no legislation governing organic produce- for example what conditions it can be grown under, what products can be used on organic fruits and vegetables and what symbols are acceptable to identify organic produce.  Since the new law was passed in 2005 (it did not come into effect until 2008) these issues have all been addressed as well as a penalty for falsely labeling a product as organic when it is not.  The law has been written in English and Hebrew so feel free to follow the link and read for yourself.

All produce that is certified organic in Israel must have the Ministry of Agriculture’s symbol, shown here:

In addition, each certified organic product must have the symbol of the certifying agency that inspected the operator.  There are three approved agencies and their symbols are shown below.

In order to ensure that these foods are truly produced without unapproved chemicals such as pesticides, the Ministry of Agriculture samples fresh fruits and vegetables as well as processed foods such as bread and rice cakes and submits them for laboratory analysis.  The results of those tests have recently been published and it is good news for organic consumers.  When products were first tested in 2009, 24% showed the presence of unapproved chemicals.  In 2010 the percentage dropped to 8.6%; 2011 went down further to 3.6%, 2012 went back up to 6.8% and 2013 again showed a downturn to 3.8%.

Since Israel exports organic produce to the EU, it is subject to periodic auditing from the Food and Veterinary Office of the European Commission.  In 2013 they performed an audit on the production of organic produce in Israel.  The full report can be found on their web site along with the Israeli government’s response.  Overall they were satisfied with the Israeli legislation (which is based on the European legislation) and its implementation.  They felt that Israel’s sampling technique and the amounts sampled should be improved as well as the quality of inspections performed at the producer level.  They did find the presence of certain illegal pesticides which the Israeli government agreed to enforce more strongly.  One comment I did find disturbing was that the Europeans were dissatisfied that “foreign” produce was intermingling with Israeli produce and being labeled as Israeli produce.  What is this “foreign” produce?  Produce that comes from the West Bank- Yehuda and Shomron.  What was Israel’s response?  That this matter is an issue for the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and the European Commission to decide.  Once it is agreed upon at that level, it will be implemented on the “ground level”.

For a list of products that can be used on organic produce, click on the Organic Pesticide Publication (Hebrew/English)

Sources: Ynetsimun_tozeret_organit

Shufersal Sheli is finally competitive!

Shufersal Sheli, the premium supermarket in the Shufersal line, comparable to Mega BaIr, finally has some prices worth advertising.

  • Juicing oranges, white potatoes, white and purple cabbage- 1.99/kg
  • Carrots, celery, onion, and anise- 2.99/kg
  • Garlic and champaign mushrooms- 2 for 10
  • Frozen sole fillet- 19.99/kg
  • Frozen salmon fillet- 49.99/kg
  • Argentinian aged shoulder beef (from frozen beef)- 39.99/kg

The fruits and vegetables are limited to 4kg or 4 units per person.

Expires 21 Dec 2011!!

The cheapest vegetables in the supermarket

One of the blogs I follow, Bishul B’Zol (Cooking Cheaply), has a very good post on how to choose fruits and vegetables.  Here is a loose translation.

In my previous post I discussed purchasing seasonal fruits and vegetables, which are lower in price than out-of-season fruits and vegetables.  But have you noticed that some vegetables are cheaper all the time, even than the “seasonal” vegetables?  What I want to emphasize is KNOWLEDGE- look around in the supermarket, learn the prices of what you purchase and you will discover what is really worthwhile.

These are the vegetables that I have found have the lowest and most stable prices:

  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplant
  • Potatoes
  • Cabbage
  • Onion
With this list, you can create a whole host of exciting foods- salads, stir fries, soups, etc.
Is this list restricting?  Yes, I think so.  I don’t think I could survive on these 7 vegetables alone.  Therefore I present a list of slightly higher-priced and slightly less-stable prices, but which are still a good deal:
  • Green Squash
  • Lettuce
  • Beets
  • Sweet Potato
  • Butternut Squash
  • Basic Herbs (parsley, nana, coriander, dill…)
  • Peppers (try not to get attached to one color)
  • Apples (not the specialized types such as Pink Lady- the basic types)
  • Oranges
I do not say that this these are the only vegetables you can buy if you are looking to save money.  Not by far.  However, I must remind you that our greatest expenses in the supermarket are not in the fruit and vegetable department, but in other sections such as snacks, meat, and frozen foods.  Ah, the frozen food section, where one package of Tivol costs the same as a weeks worth of fruits and vegetables…
I would like you to take two things with you from this post:
  1. You can eat from the first list and survive.
  2. You can use this information to make an educated decision when planning recipes.  Do you need to make a pashtida (quiche)?  An squash pashtida will cost less to make than a broccoli pashtida.  Cabbage salad will be less expensive than corn salad.
By the way, have you noticed that vegetables prices are cheaper than they have been several months ago?  To me, sweet potatoes, squashes, and peppers have all gone down in price.  Why?  Is it summer?  Are less people buying because they don’t have kitchens in their tents?  There was an article in Globes about prices recently, and what was sad to note was that although there were some small price decreases, most of the food they checked increased in price.  Cottage cheese, for example, did lower in price, but all the other dairy products actually increased!  It seems we still have a lot to learn about how to boycott effectively.
I hope you enjoyed a native Israeli’s view of supermarket shopping.

Can we PLEASE get strawberries???

How many times have I heard that from my kids in the supermarket?  My foreign-born kids just can’t wrap their head around the fact that fruits and vegetables come in seasons, and that it is expensive enough to purchase them in season, much less have them imported from far away and pay even more out of season.  They still count the days until the start of strawberry season and I purchase every week until the last morsel is gone from the store.

Of course, if you are a frugal shopper you don’t buy them the instant they appear in the supermarket- they are at their most expensive.  You wait until the season is more established- then the price drops.

To help you in your quest, I found some great charts from Agrexco that shows what product is in season each month.  They are too big to reprint here so go get yourself a copy from their web site.  They have five versions: FRUIT, CITRUS, VEGETABLES, FRESH HERBS, AND GENERAL.  Post them in your kitchen and then nobody can complain because you didn’t bring home mango in March or strawberries in September.

I really wanted to talk about the difference/similarity between the agricultural seasons in the Tanach and today but the only information I could find in English was from messianic Jewish sites.  I will keep a lookout on the Hebrew sites and add a post if I find something interesting.  In the meantime, I found a great chart for planting all types of seeds in Israel- what season, how deep, how far apart, and so on.  We haven’t got the garden we used to have in chutz l’aretz, but my husband is slowly expanding our agricultural repertoire.  Ours is strictly a leftover garden-we have pineapple from planting the tops, passiflora from leftover seeds, potatoes that sat too long and more.

One of my fellow bloggers, Bishul Bezol, wrote up a great post about eating in season.  You can read about it here in Hebrew if you like but she has graciously allowed me to translate it to English.  If your Hebrew is good, I highly recommend her blog.  She has great recipes for frugal shoppers with beautiful pictures.  If you go to her site, wish her a mazal tov on the birth of a new baby!

Here is a loose translation of her post- any mistakes are mine, any jokes are hers.

It is easy to say “buy fruits and vegetables in season”; it isn’t so easy to do.  Stores don’t come with a sign that says, “here are the cheap in-season produce”- just the opposite.  Plus, just because it is in season, doesn’t mean it is cheap.  Produce with a short season or is imported will be more expensive than the alternative.  For example fresh pineapple, even when in season, will still be more expensive.  When should you buy produce?  The same as if you buy clothing- the end of the season will be the cheapest, but you can also buy in the middle of the season.  Like clothing, if you see the sign that says “New Collection”- just translate it to “These are the products you pay more for.”

Where do you buy your produce? If for example you go to the local grocer with perfect looking pyramids of produce who peels your lichi fruit and seeds your pomegranate for you, you will pay more, no matter what the season.

So how do you shop?  Firstly, LOOK AT THE PRICES.  Try to figure out how much those three pitaya will actually cost.  Don’t pick recipes unless you know what the prices are in the market.  Be flexible.  If you have your heart set on a cherry pie and you find that they cost 35 shekels a kilo, change your fruit or change your recipe.  As previous stated, don’t buy the “first fruits”- they are the most expensive and since the producers are in competition to be the first in the stores, the taste is not always ideal.

 

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