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Prairie Fare: Try Holiday Strategies to Save Money

Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
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We can use some strategies to keep our budgets balanced and avoid big credit card balances when January arrives.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“What does this advertisement mean, anyway? It says ‘the more you buy, the more you save,’” my college roommate remarked. She liked to read the Sunday newspaper ads to me. She was from South America and spoke Portugese and Spanish as her main languages. She often was intrigued by the use of the English language in advertisements.

“That’s silly. If you are buying more, you are spending more money and saving less,” she added with a laugh.

“You’re right. That is a marketing strategy to get you to buy more stuff,” I replied.

Many years later, the same marketing strategies continue to be used as we head into the holiday season. Whether we are buying food or holiday socks, we can use some strategies of our own to keep our own budgets balanced and avoid big credit card balances when January arrives.

If you are buying holiday gifts or planning holiday meals, consider these tips to stretch your budget.

  • Create a budget so you decide ahead of time how much you can afford to spend for special menus, holiday cards and postage, gifts and travel. You might need to make some choices.
  • Beware of credit cards when shopping for gifts or food. Try to limit your spending so that you can pay most or all of the balance every month.
  • If you have a large family, consider drawing names if you do a gift exchange. Set a price limit on the gifts.
  • Write the name of each family member on a separate envelope. Place the amount of cash you intend to spend on that person in the envelope. Use the cash to buy the person’s gifts and put the receipts in the envelope. When the money is gone, you are done shopping for that person.
  • Consider giving gifts of your time or talents. Create “coupons” for baby-sitting, painting, cleaning or cooking a meal. Create a recipe booklet of favorite family recipes for your family. Check out the publication “Mix It Up” at for soup and cookie mixes that can be put in a jar and given as gifts.
  • Compare prices and watch the advertisements. Check online prices, too, and take advantage of free shipping when available. If your local grocery store offers free or low-cost delivery, consider avoiding the temptations at the store by shopping from home.
  • Instead of doing all the work for a family gathering, spread the cooking duties by having a potluck. Be sure to have a setup and cleanup crew to help. Cooking for crowds involves some special food safety considerations, so check out the information available in “Cooking for Groups” at
  • Have a snack at home before you venture to the grocery store or shopping mall. Shopping when you are hungry can prompt purchases that go beyond your budget. Mall foods often are quite expensive and high in calories.
  • Prepare a double batch of soup or favorite casserole and freeze half for a quick meal later. Make wise use of your leftovers to save money or time.

For more information about nutrition and fitness, visit the Prairie Fare blog at

Try this easy, calcium-rich recipe that makes use of leftover chicken or turkey.

Chicken (or Turkey) Quesadillas

1 c. chopped, cooked chicken or turkey

2 Tbsp. chunky salsa

1/4 c. chopped white onion

cooking spray

1/4 c. canned chopped green chili peppers (optional)

1/2 c. Monterey Jack or Colby cheese, shredded (other cheeses are acceptable)

4 (10-inch) flour tortillas

Preheat electric skillet to 350 F or prepare in a nonstick frying pan on the stove over medium heat. Mix chicken, salsa, onions and green chili peppers (optional). Place one-fourth of the chicken mixture on half of a tortilla. Top with one-fourth of the cheese; fold over mixture and seal edges. Place in skillet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Brown on one side at medium heat for three to four minutes. Turn tortilla over and brown on other side. Cut each folded tortilla into three wedges.

Makes four servings. Each serving has 340 calories, 11 grams (g) of fat, 39 g of carbohydrate, 3 g of fiber, 690 milligrams of sodium and 20 percent of the daily recommendation for calcium.

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

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Nov. 21, 2012

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