by Don  

The verb pair покупать/купить means “to buy, purchase”. Notice that the imperfective has the prefix по- and the perfective does not.

to buy
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive покупать купить
Past покупал
Present покупаю
No such thing as perfective present in Russian.
Future буду покупать
будешь покупать
будет покупать
будем покупать
будете покупать
будут покупать
Imperative покупай(те) купи(те)

The thing purchased goes in the accusative case. In English the person for whom something is purchased can be either an indirect object or the object of the preposition “for”:

John bought Mary flowers.
John bought flowers for Mary.

Likewise in Russian the person for whom something is purchased can either an indirect object (dative case) or the object of the preposition для, which governs the genitive case:

Ваня купил Маше цветы.
Ваня купил цветы для Маши.

Some sample sentences:

Что это в сумке? Что ты купил? What's that in the bag? What did you buy?
Не забудь купить хлеб! Don't forget to buy bread!
Овощей не покупайте в магазине. Лучше на рынок ходить. Don't buy vegetables at the store. It's better to go the farmers market.
Ёлки-палки! Я только что купила картошку за восемнадцать рублей, и совсем рядом её продавали за двенадцать. Fudge! I just bought potatoes for eighteen rubles, and right next door they were selling them for twelve.*

You will recall that one of the differences between imperfective and perfective verbs is that perfective verbs are used when the result of the action is in focus, and you use the imperfective when the result is not in focus. Thus the following dialogs are both possible:

Imperfective Perfective
— Что ты вчера делал?
— Я джинсы покупал.
— Что ты вчера делал?
— Я джинсы купил.

«Я джинсы покупал» is best translated “I shopped for jeans” because the speaker is not specifying whether there was actually a result to his shopping, whereas «Я джинсы купил» means the speaker actually made the purchase, so “I bought jeans” is the best translation.

Food prices have actually risen quite a bit recently in Russia (source|mirror). The BBC has been tracking the crisis in world food prices since July of 2008, and Moscow is one of the cities they are tracking. You can follow their coverage here.

* In English we usually discuss potatoes in the plural. Russians usually use the singular word картошка which can mean either "a potato" or "potatoes" generically.

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