Tuesday, July 29, 2014

10 Suggestions For Less Expensive Seafood

But seafood is too expensive!

One of the most common reasons consumers give for not eating more seafood is that they feel it is too expensive. In some respects, they are correct, as there is a fair share of seafood which, by the pound, can be pricey. However, there are numerous ways that everyone, even those on a limited budget, can enjoy delicious, sustainable and healthy seafood.

High seafood prices are not alone. Food prices of numerous proteins have been significantly increasing during the last few years. For example, ground beef is at its highest price ever, 76% higher than what it was in 2009. Pork prices, such as for bacon, have been increasing too, up nearly 13% over last year. A significant factor in the rising costs are decreases in the number of available animals. The beef cattle population in the U.S.is the lowest it has been in over 50 years, while a deadly disease has recently killed millions of pigs. Even the cost of chicken breast has risen nearly 13% over the past year. As the cost of these proteins rise, then the average cost of seafood starts looking much more comparable.

However, seafood is not immune to such price increases, and some seafood types have been struck hard. For example, imported shrimp prices have reached a 14 year high, increasing 61% in the past year. And like the pork issues, the higher prices are due to a terrible disease which has been devastating the Asian shrimp industry.

I want to offer suggestions and advice on how to get better economic value when purchasing sustainable seafood. Some of my recommendations might entail a little more effort while shopping, but the end result will be very positive. As I mentioned last week, there are plenty of excellent reasons why everyone should be eating more seafood, at least 4 ounces, twice a week. It is one of the healthiest proteins you can eat, and it tastes damn good. As you should be eating more seafood, then you need to understand how to obtain the best value for your dollar.

1. Seek out local seafood as it can be less expensive than imported seafood. For example, considering the current high prices of imported shrimp, shrimp from Maine or Gulf shrimp can be a much better buy. And supporting local fishermen is an added benefit.

2. If possible, go to the fish markets in your local fishing communities. In Massachusetts, you can visit fish markets in places like Gloucester and New Bedford. Besides having an excellent supply, with lots of different seafood species, these markets often will have cheaper prices than you find in major supermarkets.

3. Try to buy seasonal seafood as it is usually less expensive because it is more abundant in season. If you buy fish out of season, the price may have a premium added to it. Salmon can be expensive, but it is less expensive when it is at the height of its season.

4. Purchase some of the less popular fish species, which often are cheaper because there is less demand for it. Try wild drum fish, snook, or cobia rather than tuna and cod. These offbeat fish are still quite tasty and it helps you expand the horizons of your palate as well.

5. A number of large discount chains, from Walmart to B.J.'s Wholesale Club, are now selling sustainable seafood, and their prices are lower than you will find at your local supermarket. They are trying to make seafood available to anyone, no matter what your budget. Even McDonald's is moving toward selling sustainable seafood, using Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified pollock in their fish sandwiches.

6. If available, sign up for a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program. You purchase a share and get seafood delivered to you, maybe weekly or every other week, at a price that is cheaper than if you bought it at a supermarket. You can get whole fish or just fillets. You will also get to experience some different fish, less popular species.

7. Eat smaller portions. Americans often eat larger portions of proteins than we really need to eat. The recommended seafood portion is 4 ounces, twice a week. So a pound of fish provides 4 portions, and when you look at it in this manner, the price seems more reasonable. A fish that sells for $20/pound means that each individual portion is only $5, and would feed a family of four.

8. Purchase a whole fish rather than fillets, as the cost per pound is usually lower, sometimes significantly so.  However, you really only gain savings if you know how to properly cut and slice up a whole fish. That takes some skill but you can find some good books to help you in that regard, or try taking a cooking class on fish preparation. You will need to use all of the whole fish, from head to bones, to extend the value of the fish. Take the time to learn these skills and your seafood will be much cheaper.

9. Stop looking at seafood as a luxury item and instead, consider it to be an essential item when you do your weekly shopping. The health benefits of seafood are scientifically supported, by thousands of studies, and everyone's health can be improved by greater seafood consumption. Reorganize your shopping budget, dropping a nonessential item, like some sugary and highly processed junk food, so you can buy some seafood.

10. When you dine out, choose a seafood entree instead of steak or pork. Many such seafood entrees are actually less expensive, or at least comparable, to non-seafood entrees. Try to patronize restaurants that serve sustainable seafood, and enjoy the creativity those chefs bring to seafood dishes.

What is your advice for getting a better economic value when purchasing sustainable seafood?

(For more Seafood info, please check out my Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association homepage).

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