I've adopted these same shopping and cooking habits. Of course it took months to break the routine of a big, weekly grocery shopping and stocking the pantry full. Now, a trip to the market means buying fresh bread, meat for that evening's meal, and several fresh carrots instead of a two pound bag. Even if I market several times a week instead of daily, I only purchase ingredients for two or three meals, not a week's worth. I've made it work for me, and I believe I have the French to thank for it.
A cookbook that has helped is Alice Waters' The Art of Simple Food. An advocate of buying fresh and local long before it was fashionable, Waters changed many people's minds about the way they shop for ingredients and cook. And while not a French cookbook, the approach in The Art of Simple Food is très French: the freshest ingredients, simply prepared. A recipe for a pâte sucrée can be prepared in fifteen minutes, and a recipe for braised chicken legs is as delicious as you would find in any Parisan bistro. I also love the book itself: the sunny yellow cover, the red cloth spine, the pressed lettering, and its size and weight make this book a pleasure to hold. The price of $23 was worth it since I use it several times a week.
Today was cold and rainy in the DC area, a perfect day for a meal from this favorite cookbook: braised short ribs cooked with vegetables and potatoes. This humble cut of meat is so inexpensive but so delicious when prepared à la Waters, and the aroma filled the house all day.
The cost of the meal, including wine and bread: less than $18. How very French, non?