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Make food dollars go further

March 04, 2009

Here are some tips for stretching your food dollars and food from Lynn Little, family and consumer sciences educator with Maryland Cooperative Extension in Washington County, and Patricia Carey, dietitian for Summit Health Improvement Center and presenter of "Heart Healthy Eating on a Shoestring Budget."

o Generally, eating at home is cheaper than eating out.

o Generally, making dinners from scratch is cheaper than heating prepackaged meals.

o Usually the less processing involved with the food, the cheaper the ingredients are. For example, ounce for ounce, canned beans cost more than dried beans.

o Buy quantities of food that fit your needs so food doesn't go stale or moldy.

o It's cheaper to buy a whole chicken and cut it apart yourself than buy separate chicken parts. Plus the bone and fat on the chicken adds flavor and can be used to make chicken stock for soup.

o If you have room in your freezer, buy value packs of meat and freeze what you're not going to use immediately. Freeze the meat in the smallest quantity you are likely to use. That way you can thaw out what you need without wasting meat.

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o Try a vegetarian dinner; meals without meat tend to be cheaper than meals with meat.

o Casseroles, soups and stews are great ways to stretch your meat -- using less meat but still having a flavorful meal. Add extra vegetables.

o Reduce the amount of meat in a dish and stretch the meal out by adding pasta or potatoes. With chili, reduce the amount of meat and increase the amount of beans.

o Make pizza from scratch.

o Reallocate where you spend your food dollars. Instead of buying soda or sweets, use that money to improve your main dish or to buy healthier ingredients such as whole-grain noodles or pasta.

o Make your own cookies. This can be cheaper and it gives you control over what you want in them.

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