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Prairie Fare: Save Money on Groceries with These Tactics

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
Unfortunately, “drive-aways” from gas stations and thefts from grocery stores have been on the rise.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

My ears perked up the other day when I overheard my husband talking on his cell phone using a rather “official-sounding” voice. He and our son had just returned from an errand.

I heard something about stolen gas. I quickly finished my phone conversation and went to investigate. Had someone siphoned our gas?

“Someone stole the license plate off your car,” he told me. “I just called the police.”

“Why would someone do that?” I asked rather naively.

“I guess people put stolen license plates on their own cars, steal gas and drive away from gas stations,” he replied.

I could see the fingerprints on the bumper where they popped out the screws.

I was not happy about this situation, to say the least. The thief was probably in another state by now and stealing gas in a vehicle with a license plate registered to me.

“The police have the information in their nationwide system. We need to get new plates,” he said.

I thought about the situation. I tried to be generous. Maybe this poor person needed my license plate more than I did.

No, that wasn’t working for me. Someone had been right in front of my house stealing my property with a probable intention of stealing other things.

To put a positive spin on the situation, I could let other people know about this strange tactic. I write a food and nutrition column, not the legal proceedings section of the paper, but money, gas and food are all related.

Many people are experiencing great financial difficulty with high gas and food prices. Unfortunately, “drive-aways” from gas stations and thefts from grocery stores have been on the rise. Many gas stations require prepayment for this reason.

I guess I have a message for the thief: Throw away the license plate. You will be in serious trouble if you use it.

Consider these tips to cut down spending on gas and groceries:

  • Save gas by planning your trips and consider shopping in one store.
  • Plan menus and make a list so you are less likely to need to run to the store.
  • Try to avoid grocery shopping when you are tired. When you are tired, you may be more likely to purchase convenience items and make poor food choices.
  • Shop alone when possible and/or go shopping only once a week. If you are not able to shop alone, have your family members help you. Assign them different tasks, such as price checking or getting hard-to-reach items on the bottom shelves. This may distract them from checking out the tempting candy, cookie and toy aisles and they can learn to become smart shoppers, too.
  • Have a snack before going grocery shopping to prevent impulse buys.
  • Compare the unit prices for the same product from different brands to determine the best size and brand for the money. (Unit prices are the small labels on the bottom of the shelf in the grocery store.)
  • Avoid buying nonfood items at the grocery store. Unless they’re on sale, the prices of soaps, shampoos and paper products can be inflated.
  • Stay alert for checkout counter mistakes. Look carefully at your receipt to make sure you get the sale price on sale items. Check your change, too.

Here’s a recipe courtesy of Northarvest Bean Growers. For more information, visit its Web site at

“Lite” Italian Pasta Bean Salad

1 c. dry spiral macaroni

1 small head fresh broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 tomato, diced

1 can (15 to 16 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 c. reduced-calorie “lite” Italian dressing

1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the macaroni in a large saucepan of water until just tender. Drain and rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, mix broccoli, carrots and tomato. Add the rest of the ingredients to the vegetables and stir gently. Cover and chill. Before serving, stir the salad and add additional dressing if necessary.

Makes eight servings. Each serving has 135 calories, 3 grams (g) of fat, 21 g of carbohydrate, 6 g of fiber and 142 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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