Value Meals - Part II
Value Meals - Part II

So….. would the world come to an end if we had to start eating out at restaurants less and eating at home more, consuming less pre-packaged and processed food and more food we cook ourselves, buying less coffee at the local caffeine filling station and making our own coffee (or tea) at home, eating less drive through food that’s all the same and more of our own sandwich creations from our own cutting board.

In the end wouldn’t acts such as this help – our budgets, our waistlines and our families?  I can’t quit thinking about a world where we used our kitchens more for what they’re intended – cooking, sharing food, wiping up the counter tops and doing it all again at the next meal. Isn’t that value-added?…

Pinching Food Pennies

There’s no denying it – we’re all feeling the pinch at the supermarket, as well as at the gas pump. Our hard-earned dollars are buying less milk, less bread and much to my dismay, less ice cream. (I’m annoyed, by the way, about the reduction in size of many ice cream cartons from 1/2 gallon to 1 3/4 or 1 1/2 quarts. Very sneaky – keep the price the same but reduce the package size.)

This past May, The Food Marketing Institute at their annual meeting released a report about grocery shopping trends. This year, unlike past years, economic concerns are compelling more of us to cook at home. In general, the report shows that we’re eating out less in restaurants and eating more leftovers.

I have to admit, I’ve developed a pretty steady routine for my grocery shopping. So, in response to rising food prices, I’ll share a few tips on how I save money at the grocery.

1. At least one day before I shop I make time to create a very complete menu that includes all the food our family will eat during the upcoming week: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, bakes sales and if necessary, party food, special occasion meals, or food for a potluck at work. I glance through the weekly ad for my supermarket, and if pork tenderloin or chicken breasts are on sale I work those into my menu. I also take advantage of 10/$10 specials, but only buy 1 or 2 at $1.00/each.

2. Using my own preprinted shopping list, customized for my most frequently visited market, (a hold over from my personal chef days), I mark every food item I need to buy. If I’m preparing a new recipe, I include all ingredients for the recipe. I ask the family if there’s anything we need because invariably someone has emptied the peanut butter jar and I haven’t noticed. I make the menu as complete as possible because my success depends on its thoroughness. In my opinion saving money at the grocery is just like painting. It’s 3/5 preparation.

3. Next I survey the refrigerator (especially the produce bin), pantry and freezer to see what I might already have on hand. The freezer, pantry and produce drawer can become like a large black hole. Unless I’m vigilant, mine have a tendency to suck up ingredients that are bought, but never cooked. Food in the freezer dehydrates (or becomes freezer burnt) when stored for an excessive amount of time. Freezer burn does not jeopardize the safety of the food, but does negatively affect the quality. Food and ingredients in the pantry can go stale and may be prone to attract pests. Produce in the drawer, out of sight, wilts and spoils.

4. One of the most effect ways to save money (and control impulse shopping) is to limit my trips to the store. I pick a day and time and try to shop at that same day/time every week. Typically, I shop early on …

Value Meals

Food marketers are talking about value today in response to the falling stock market. Instead of attempts to get people to buy fleur de sel caramels, or high-end frozen desserts, we’re being lured to the simple and less expensive – Kraft American Singles and Campbell’s Tomato Soup anyone?

I suspect we’re going to be hearing a lot about value over the next several months. You know what I think is the best value? Eating at home. I’ve always felt that way and probably always will. When I eat out it’s not because there’s no food in the house. When I eat out it’s because I want to take a small break from my kitchen and relax while eating someone elses cooking for a change. Then I see the bill and pay the tip.

Cooking at home is a good value. Tonight for dinner I made a batch of white clam sauce and served it over whole-wheat spaghetti. Chopped steamed broccoli with lemon zest on the side. Glass of local Pinot Grigio. Quite a delicious, inexpensive meal. And before I get off my soapbox, make your coffee at home – it’s SOOO much less expensive.…