Hawaii's food crisis prompts 19th century home economics

When I first moved to the Bronx, I was amazed at the food prices. While I could often find exotic foods like plantains or cassavas for a fraction of the prices that I had grown to expect in Virginia, relatively mundane foods cost a fortune. Peanut butter was easily twice as expensive as it had been, and string cheese cost me about $6 a bag. Part of this was the fact that many of my mainstream foods were not very popular in my Dominican neighborhood. Of course, the other half is the so-called "ghetto markup," by which many stores raise prices because there isn't a lot of competition.

At any rate, I quickly learned to think like a 19th century homemaker. I stopped buying food that wasn't in season, and started to adjust my diet to the circumstances of my community. I began to eat the cuisine that was locally popular, forgot about most of the foods that I was used to, and found sources for the ones that were irreplaceable.

Nowadays, except for my weekly jaunt to Trader Joe's in Union Square and my occasional cheese-and-produce run to Bronx's Little Italy, I buy most of my family's food in my neighborhood grocery stores. While I'm still paying a lot more than last year, when Wal-Mart was my local grocery store, I've found ways to feed my family on a budget.