COST OF LIVING, EATING OUT OR BUYING HOME!

Everything is back on the shelves post Covid-19 but with new prices to shock the already shocked aam aadmi! Both shopping for everyday needs and eating out is more expensive post Covid-19 lockdowns…. Even a plain croissant costs Rs100 or gelato ices at Rs 250 per two scoops at Baba au Rum at Miramar, Panjim!

By Tara Narayan

SAY what you like. The cost of staying at home can be a luxury our times and few can afford that, so much has changed on the cost of life and living front. Most of us urban folk have got into the habit of eating out or buying home food when we get back after a hard day’s work; no longer are there grandmother, mother, aunt, sister happy to do nothing but sweep and swap, shop and cook and serve with a smile. All that is a passing phase of happy molly-coddled life!
Sooner or later we’re on our own coping with household chores as well as hang on to a nine to five job which may stretch into extra work loads. Even working from home is time-consuming, leaving one too exhausted to cook the kind of meals our mothers may have cooked for us once upon a time every day – at lunchtime there would be hot ghee-laced phulka, sabzi, dal, rice, fresh home-made dahi, a cut kachumber, etc. Every day’s lunch and dinner menu would be discussed between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law every morning…and if anyone extra would be turning up to partake of the meal. I’ve seen all that, the hospitality of extended family life.
Today most of us working folk may not be able to rise to the occasion daily for three meals a day be it breakfast, lunch and dinner! It’s hard on women who do most of the fixing and providing. Nowadays most working women in taxing jobs think it is fine if meals are half or quarter cooked at home, and something purchased from outside at restaurant or caterer of choice…rice is easily made at home or a papad roasted; Goan bread is great if one is happy eating it and it doesn’t affect one’s inflammatory factor vis-à-vis health. It’s okay to buy a decent fish or prawn or veggie sabzi say from Ruchik or any of the home-spun eateries in town (Panaji for me). All this one learns from instinct and experience over time, what is agreeable and what is not for the price paid.
MAKE no mistake that corona virus or no corona virus in town many people are looking for a safe kitchen to buy home honest food; not necessarily five-star hotel food (that would be an occasional luxury). Just because one is rusticating at home for a gamut of reasons good, bad or ugly, it doesn’t mean one is able to or can cook full- fledged meals at home even if it is more economical to do so. Time management goes for a toss frequently.
And witness how nowadays we’re witnessing an explosion of catering kitchen menus with pick-up or home delivery offers and this is not only because of the demands of Covid-19 – the dilemma is always from whom to order food! There’re any number of come lately kitchens hoping to earn a living, everyone thinks supplying food is a never fail business and some think that’s the ticket to make a fast buck – dishing up all kinds of shoddily unkempt food cooked in questionable kitchens. I’m sure the F & D folk don’t call at many of the kitchens from where Swiggy or Zomato delivery boys pick up pre-ordered cooked meals and snacks!
With my love for pulao I’ve been picking up a veg pulao from here and there. It’s amusing how even a simple pulao is hard to do and can get so compromised – recently I found myself savoring a pulao from an upmarket restaurant and I found basmati pulao which was a half mixed affair, half pulao, half Chinese fried rice (Rs350 plus, and no gravy to go with it)! Trust me the veg pulao of a Café Bhonsale or Café Tato or Café Real are far superior and at aam aadmi friendly rates (Rs100-Rs120) and yes, two may share. At one time I remember a kurma curry or a generous amount of raita would come along with a pulao, but not anymore. So I just buy pulao and make the raita at home – boondi or kakdi or onion relish, and sure it brings down my cost of eating factor somewhat.
BUYING home food can be more cost effective than cooking at home. Some of the better known caterers have become pricy and boring but recently I ordered home an interesting vegan tiffin meal , the most acceptable I’ve come across for Rs130 (Rs120 if you provide a pair of tiffin dibba) – the three chapatties were not exactly fine phulka but good enough, the dal was very good and so also the sabzi and rice portion. What I loved was the generous cut portion of beetroot, cucumber, tomato, carrot slices which came along too by way of salad! Trust me, this tiffin is good for two frugal meals. Can also store in fridge, warm up and eat the next day.
So tell me, eat out or buy home during these difficult times of making ends meet? Tiffin services can be value for money, absolutely. Not the high-end ones, but the low-end ones like this
Difficult times and many think food is the best business to do, quite right too. So competition is blooming and booming although not all of it is value for money, okay. Make your own errors of judgment but settle for simple and economical, it’s usually the best and long may it stay that way! I’m reminded of the times when humble folk got up early in the morning and cooked up fresh snacks like idli-chutney, dosa-sambar, upma, poha; in Goa it could be sannam-choon packed up in a banana leaf and retailed down the streets. It was brisk business at aam aadmi pricing and not khaas aadmi pricing! If the overheads are low why not the pricing? In a few early morning hours the satisfied street vendor had sold out and gone home for the day.
I’ve always been a great fan of street vendor foods as carts come around or a vendor with a basket on her head, either shouting out what’s for sale or blowing a bicycle or bike horn to alert homemakers. As a matter of fact I’m so cheesed off with the manner in which we’ve been chasing big is beautiful that these coronavirus times I’ve decided to return to small is beautiful – and buy from local street vendor shops as much as possible or the humble home food caterers who work hard doing tiffin food.
By all means it’s more economical to make your own homemade curd from milk instead of buying plastic packs full of fancy yogurts – make your own fancy yogurts by mixing fruit puree or honey or muesli mixes into curd. (Sigh) I used to do all that, lest frequently now for reasons best known to me. The times they are a changing and too many irritating answers are blowing in the wind needlessly!

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