Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Forget Gold. Invest in Zucchini!

Just a little look at how crazy food prices can be in Moscow. Maybe my perspective is off because I've been an expat for so long. It is possible that I have 1999 American prices locked in my head and everyone else has moved along except me. If so, please tell me.

But here are some things I bought yesterday at my grocery store. This is not, by any means, the most expensive grocery chain in Moscow. It is what I would call mid-range. I am in the center of town, and things always cost more here. But still. There are much more expensive places to buy food.

Below is the price label on chicken breasts. You can see that they cost 266.90 rubles per kilo, the package weighed slightly more than a kilo (1 kilo = 2.2 pounds), and the price for this package was 270.37. As I type, the exchange rate, which has been very much in flux as of late, is 32.9 rubles = $1US. Let's use 33 rubles to the dollar to make the math easier.

I paid about $8 for a little over two pounds of boneless, skinless, chicken breasts. Not cheap, but within the realm of reasonable, right?


Moving on. Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are, as I recall, always more expensive than green ones. Below you see that a kilo of "premium" peppers (this one was orange) costs 275.90 rubles/kilo or about $4/pound. I bought one pepper, and it cost $1.54 (51.04 rubles), which seemed okay to me by Moscow standards.


I had seen James Martin's show about Brittany on TV this past weekend. He and a chef friend made a sort of cauliflower and cheddar cheese mash that looked really good. Certainly the classic low-carb answer to mashed potatoes. I thought it would go well with the Parmesan chicken I was planning to make.

I looked at the small heads of cauliflower, but rejected them because they were well over 200 rubles apiece. Like in the 230 ruble range. A head of cauliflower, CAULIFLOWER! costs something like $7. Forget it.

I decided to get zucchini instead. I selected two average-size zucchini. I took them to the woman who works the scale to get them weighed and priced.

Two zucchini . . . a little over a pound of zucchini (700 grams) . . . cost me $8.50. More than the freakin' chicken breasts!


Now, I get 15% off my total bill through a combination of specials the grocery store has been running this month. But still. Four-Dollar Zucchini? What's up with that?

13 comments:

Tina in CT said...

The chicken price is OK but the zucchini and cauliflower are out of whack. Zucchini is relatively cheap here (Southern New England) and cauliflower can be high but not as high as you posted. I generally only buy it when it's on sale.

Our chain grocery stores in town (3 of them) generally have around the same prices except for items on weekly special. I'd go nuts with all the different types of grocery stores you have. I do one store shopping and even procrastinate about that.

Frédérique said...

Writing from NZ, out-of-season zuchhini will easily be in the $16-$18/kg range, and bell peppers (or capsicum, as they're called here) spend most of the year well over $10-12/kg. Now, these are NZD prices, and we're floating around $0.56 USD = $1 NZD at the moment, so all in all it's quite similar to what you're paying in Moscow. Part of it is that we're small and far from pretty much everything, so what doesn't grow here costs a fortune to ship over.

I find that over the past 2 years I've unconsciously adopted a 'local-vore', seasonal diet, just based on my limited student budget - which means tons of peaches and apricots this time of year, and an insane amount of apples, cauliflower, potatoes, beets and brussel sprouts in winter (ok, so we get a really mild winter and things still grow).

The Expatresse said...

Since living in Slovakia, I have become much more of a "seasonal eater," too. Asparagus/strawberry season is my favorite.

Definitely see seasonal price changes here. And some things will always be prohibitively expensive in Moscow (like raspberries, alas).

valentina said...

WEll back here in Ohio chicken is about the same. More of course if it is organic. There were 2 chuck roasts, buy one get one free, for about $14 for a couple of pounds each which was a pretty good deal. I think they aren't selling as much red meat as usual because it is always on sale it seems...

A tasty rotisserie chicken cooked at Krogers costs about $8. ( They are half as much at Walmart but I decided not to go there for political reasons. I would rather forfeit the $8 a week more on groceries and know that the workers get decent pay and benefits.)

The Kroger cauliflowers here are about $2.59 and sometimes you can get a 2 for 1 sale. Same with broccoli. But red peppers, or even bell peppers or "mangos" as they're called here in SE Ohio, are about $2 each and the same for avocados. This week Krogers had a special of 10 avocados, for $10 but they were all squishy already and unless you were going to make guacamole for the PLO they were no bargain...

It does sound like your veggie prices are way out of line though and you said this summer that you paid a lot for fruit as well. Lately raspberries have been $4 a pint for that little box, maybe it's a half pint, it's enough for both of your kids to devour in a heartbeat. My friend Johnny and I used to treat ourselves a box of them and eat them with half and half back in the old days when I still had half and half in my fridge, before it was edged out by fat free milk...sigh...(Weight Watchers...)

Of course you pay a LOT less for vodka it seems!!!

Cat litter is $12+ for 22.5 pounds of the good scoopable kind. I know this because whenever I carry 2 huge boxes into my laundry room I remind myself that I used to carry this much around in extra weight and feel fortified by the knowledge. Cat food is $.49 a can for Little Friskies. A big bag of average cat chow is about $3.89+. Mine eat some Fancy Feast cat chow which costs $2.69 for half the size of the bigger bag of Meow Mix but I am convinced it is slightly healthier...They detest the expensive kind from the vet...

You can buy a bottle of Friexinet champagne here for about $10+.

Coffee varies and Paul Newman's is about $7 a pack and so is Starbuck's on sale but it's not a whole pound, I think it's a half...

I buy all of my groceries at Krogers or the farmer's market in the summer. I try to buy local if I can, and buy local milk, and coffee now from WVA that is fair trade.

AT Krogers you can buy 3 stems of lovely stargazer lilies for $6.49 or a doz. roses for the same if they are marked down to half after Tuesday... I always come away with a bunch or more of flowers. I prefer flowers to food, nearly, but sadly the cats don't...xov

The Expatresse said...

I whole roast chicken here is about $10. Too much.

valentina said...

So how much does it cost to buy a whole chicken to roast yourself?xov

valentina said...

What do you do for flowers???? xov

The Expatresse said...

I often buy whole chickens to roast myself. They are usually quite small (never 2 kg/4 lbs) and about 150 rubles or about $4-$5.

I don't buy flowers. They are soooooo expensive. And the cat destroyed the one bouquet someone gave me recently. Knocked it over and spilled the water. He was after it wherever I moved the vase.

kate said...

No joke. And have you tried to buy asparagus??? Always a shocker.

valentina said...

Too bad about the flowers and Cat-O's aversion to them. That seems pretty reasonable for a chicken, even if you have to cook it yourself. They must have a big chicken raising biz going on in Russia? A chicken roasting always makes the house smell so good and nothing tastes better I don't think, especially considering how easy it is to do...I would have a hard time living without flowers. Even one stem of something in a bottle. But I guess transporting them in the cold is difficult too.
I have a bunch of orange roses, full bloom on my desk right now. They are lovely even if they are on their way out... Maybe I'll get 2 more days from them if I'm lucky!
xov

Anonymous said...

Moscow prices for chicken aren't far off of Seattle either, except for veggies - even organic are less here. And the produce at Whole Foods is much better quality and costs less than QFC (our local Kroger equivalent) I have organic fruits & veggies delivered to my home every other week - they come in a huge rubbermaid bin & cost $35/delivery. Always locally or California grown. We've tried so many new things that I would have been afraid to buy in a store! ....Jennie

RealEstateFeast--South Florida real estate blog said...

Re chicken breasts. One of the most valuable things a cook can learn is how to break down a whole chicken. You save so much money and you end up with several meals. I use the breasts in one meal, the thighs and legs in another and then save the bones and bits for soup stock. Easiest way to learn is to have someone show you, or there are many instructional videos on the net. I'm just catching up with your blog having had my life consumed by the final throes of kitchen redoing. But it was done yesterday!

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