Recession Hits Food Magazines

Further signs that the recession is hitting our dinner tables (and not just the Dow average): the New York Times reports that upscale food magazines are running cheap-eats features. Gourmet put a ham sandwich on its March cover. Food & Wine printed a column on choosing the least-expensive wine at restaurants. And Bon Appétit’s April cover blurbs a “low-cost, big-flavor” pizza party.

As the Times says, “As the high-end magazines try to survive a shaky 2009, it is out with the truffles, in with the button mushrooms. ‘There are ways in which we feel it should change,’ said Dana Cowin, the editor in chief of Food & Wine, published by American Express Publishing. ‘We don’t, for example, do recipes that involve loads of foie gras and shavings of truffles.’”

The magazines themselves are experiencing hard times—though circulation is largely steady, ad pages have declined anywhere from 18 to 42 percent when you compare the first three months of 2009 with the same time period in 2008. The declines are even worse than they look: 2008 was itself a hard year where ad pages fell relative to 2007.

Interestingly, as the Times notes, though these hoity-toity food magazines have decent readership, the “two most popular magazines in the category are solidly at the low end. Taste of Home, a collection of reader-submitted recipes published by the Reader’s Digest Association, has a circulation of 3.2 million. And Food and Family has a circulation of 7 million. Who figured out the formula for such a popular magazine? Though a division of the media company Meredith produces the magazine, it is Kraft Foods, the maker of Cheez Whiz and Oscar Mayer that created and pays for it.”

Meanwhile, Chowhounds have advice if you need pointers on cooking cheaply at home, and Chow has a big list of budget recipes. My own personal “I’m broke but still like to eat” special? The tortilla española.

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