Walk into any modern day grocery store — it is upmarket, ritzy and swank. As you glide your huge baby stroller-sized carts down the aisle, the sheer assault of glossy groceries is staggering.
Want biscuits? You will be bombarded by biscuits made with every grain and flavour that exists on planet earth. If you’re a diabetic, there are biscuits that are low on the glycemic index. If you’re constipated, there are packets of whole-wheat assortments. From Pepperidge Farm cookies to chocolate Viennesse, you’re spoilt for choice.
For a foodie, it’s never been more bountiful. But it can be injurious to your budget! Most of the foreign food items are way more expensive here than they are abroad. For example, if you are a cheese glutton, you can now pick Danish feta, Italian fresh mozzarella or Parmesan, French mascarpone or Swiss Gruyere. But these cost at least Rs 300 a packet.
Clearly, these stores have high margins, and India’s young population doesn’t seem to mind paying that extra bit. But displaying over-enthusiasm at these fancy stores can lead you astray. You can end up picking things that you’d otherwise have considered a treat or done without.
Here are three bits of advice. One, steer clear of buying fresh vegetables and greens from these hallowed spaces. You don’t know how long the vegetables have been here before they were pruned and cellophane-packed. And you owe a moral responsibility to the local vendor who hand-picks the freshest of foods for you; how do you justify driving him out of business?
Second, for some items such as cheese, the really good news is that now you have Indian manufacturers who are competing neck-to-neck, and in the process, making very good stuff (for instance, Indian-made Flanders mozzarella or Buorni mascarpone). The price, you ask? About 30 per cent cheaper than the foreign items.
Finally, spare a moment to think about the price you pay for this convenience, not in money terms but in health terms. Each time you get seduced into picking up scores of packeted eats, chances are you are buying preservatives and colourings that you can do without.
While it’s great to go the convenient American way of life, ask yourself this simple question — will you really eat all that food, or is it going to eat you?
The author is Food Editor, NDTV Lifestyle.