Stretching that budget for food

October 31, 2001|By Heather McPherson | Heather McPherson,ORLANDO SENTINEL

Feeling the pinch of the economy in your grocery budget? Well, get over it.

Most of us have lived so close to the edge we don't have a clue about how to trim and save in the grocery department.

I don't care how much education you have accumulated. I don't care how many techno gadgets you have running your life and home. And I certainly don't care how many coupons you have neatly clipped and stashed in your wallet.

The truth is most folks in their 20s, 30s and 40s don't know squat when it comes to grocery-aisle smarts. Think "street smarts" with supper.

What folks learned about stretching a dollar in the Depression was passed down.

My mother and my Aunt Judy are prime examples. These two women, who will not let me reveal their current ages under penalty of coal in my Christmas stocking, could serve you inexpensive ground beef 365 days a year, and you'd never know it was kin to yesterday's dinner.

Shoot, if there were enough beans or tomatoes canned, they could feed five people easily on 1/4 cup of cooked meat.

I'd wager my mother could feed a family of five for a year on what I spend on groceries in a month. I'm not kidding. It's not that the food has become so terribly expensive. It's simply that cooks have become terribly wasteful.

While we're standing tall for patriotism, perhaps we should learn to take down the grocery budget a couple of notches. Here are some tips to get you started:

Frozen concentrated juices usually cost about 10 to 20 cents less than reconstituted juices in bottles.

Buy cheese in blocks and slice or shred it yourself. You pay a premium for the convenience of having the manufacturer do the work.

Buy store brands rather than name brands.

Load up on dry beans, peas and grains. These inexpensive, nutrient-rich foods are great recipe stretchers.

Cook with dry or canned milk when possible. For example, you can use dry milk to make liquefied skim milk to dilute soups.

Put the freezer to work. Package and date leftovers or cut up vegetables so that they are easy to retrieve for another meal.

Hungry for more ideas? Your county extension agent has lots of information and tips on stretching your grocery dollar as well.

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