Making Our Food Dollars Go Further

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It costs nearly $40 to put just 10 gallons of gas in our cars. Holidays and heating bills are just around the corner. Economizing is taking on added importance.

One place to make dollars go further is in our food budgets.

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Gas in the Rim Country may have come down about 5 cents last week, but it still costs about $40 to put 10 gallons of fuel in your vehicle, so there is still a need for most of us to economize. Planned and careful shopping is one way to make a difference.

Do you order pizza once a week? What does it cost on average. For me it's about $15 a pop.

I suspected if I set that pizza money aside for just a month I could buy good, quality meat at Charlie's Old Fashioned Sausage & Fresh Meats or local grocery stores.

Every year around this time I do an anniversary story on the shop. Charlie Adcock will celebrate his 10th anniversary in business on Aug. 12.

When I did my first story with him a few years ago, I discovered he sells meat packages as well as individual cuts, his homemade sausages and other specialties. I always thought that would be a good way to buy meat and use it to build well-rounded, healthy and cost-effective meals for at least a couple of months.

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Make a list before going to the store and shop the ads to plan meals.

So, back to that weekly pizza. If I don't buy a pizza every week for a month and put that money in my grocery budget, I'll have $60. Add money saved by not buying a fancy coffee every morning for just one week and there's $80 for groceries -- or one of those meat packages.

At Charlie's, $80 will buy his "Number 6 Budget Bundle" and leave some change. The "Number 6" includes four pounds of ground beef, five pounds of wieners, five pounds of chuck roast, five pounds of whole fryers and five pounds of pork chops. For less than $50, you can get the "Number 1 Pork Package" with four pounds of pork butt roast, four pounds of pork steaks, four pounds of pork chops, four pounds of link and bulk sausage and two pounds of bacon. Other packages provide different combinations and range from $30 for a sausage sampler to $280 for 10 pounds of just about everything, from bacon and sausage to steaks.

Let's go back to that budget bundle. There are quite a few different dishes to be made with four pounds of ground beef, just separate it into one-pound packages and make spaghetti with meat sauce, stroganoff, goulash, etc.

A single, five-pound roast can be divided into several meals as well. Experts say a healthy serving of red meat is only two to three ounces -- or approximately the size of a deck of cards. With a five-pound roast, you can probably get 60 ounces of meat (estimating 20 ounces for fat, etc.) and with that much meat you will have 20, three-ounce servings. How far you can make that go depends on the size of your family and the size of their appetites.

If there are four of you, that might break down to roast for Sunday dinner (12 ounces); four, two-ounce sandwiches (eight ounces); shred another 12 ounces and make green chile burritos; a couple of cups of bits and pieces can be made into hash.

Before spending any money on groceries, experts say we first need to make a plan. That plan should probably start with knowing what we already have in our cabinets, refrigerator and freezer.

From that point, see how many meals can be built around what's on hand. Explore the indexes of your favorite cookbooks or, if you can, go online. The Internet offers an inexhaustible repository of recipes.

If your larder is depleted, check the grocery ads. While the grocery butcher counters don't sell bulk packages per se, they will sell you as much meat as you want. One of the local butchers said the sale prices customers get are often cheaper than what the store is paying.

So, what's your pleasure -- assorted pork cuts, steaks, ground beef, roasts, chicken, fish? We are blessed to have an abundance of choices in the Rim Country. With some planning and study, we can make our food dollars go further, spend locally and still eat good, healthy meals.

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