Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may think that economically, India has turned the corner, but his Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is disappointed with kharif procurement. Recently he declared: "Only a bumper rabi crop can rein in spiraling food costs". He says that the next three months are going to be tough.
The elite will continue slurping their favorite decoctions in five-star coffee shops no matter what the price, but for the common man (who could buy a week's ration for the price of just one little cinnamon mocha latte) stretching the budget to keep the kitchen running is a challenge. Here are some helpful tips to save on the food budget:
Waste naught want naught: You can grow many nutritious vegetables yourself. A gumla with a tomato-plant on your verandah is an obvious answer to high vegetable prices but you can go further. A small patch of lawn in front of your house is a real blessing. Grass can be harvested every three weeks and is an excellent source of vitamin B12. The higher grass will look slightly shaggy but this is inconsequential when you think of the lovely saag.
Back to the Future: Here's another way to reap dividends from your lawn. In most urban areas, keeping a cow or buffalo at home is no longer an option. If municipal bylaws don't get in the way, space constraints do. The answer is G-O-A-T. This small milk-producer can fit in any small corner during the day and be tethered outside at night to graze unseen and fertilise the lawn. Gandhiji preferred goat milk and you will soon come to like it too. A nicely fattened goat also delights non-vegetarians, although they will have to be more patient than their vegetarian friends.
Stop eating. Not only will you soon be fashionably slim, you will refine your soul, as per our time-honoured tradition. Baba Ramdev strongly approves of fasting and assures that anyone can easily do without food on alternate days. Western literature agrees. In Alice In Wonderland, the Red Queen promises Alice "jam every other day". After several days pass without jam, Alice confronts the Queen with her promise only to learn that the rule is "jam yesterday and jam tomorrow, but never jam today". Apply this rule to your meal schedule and see how much further your ration goes.
Go where the getting is good: The coming lean months also happen to be the wedding season. You don't have to know the happy couple personally in order to bless them. Dress nicely, saunter in and enjoy. Show real daring by carrying a large tiffin box and telling the mother of the bride that "Uncle is laid up with a fracture but really wanted to come. Do you mind if I take a little for him?"
Assign your family members to different weddings in order to maximise the tiffin-box haul.
When it comes to buffets, conferences are just as good as weddings. Pawar issued his warning while addressing the Economic Editors' Conference in Delhi. That shows that Pawar Sahib knows how to stretch his food budget — not that a minister ever has to worry about such things. Consult the engagements column every day and eat well all the way until April. Bon appétit!