NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Ready to Cook

Ready to Cook

          Food costs are the second highest monthly expense for most families, right behind rent or mortgage.   Planning menus, clipping coupons and buying generic vs. top label brands are common tips for stretching food budgets.  At this time of year, though, another money stretching opportunity is available to an alert shopper.

          Grocery store flyers are filled with holiday sales on regularly consumed food items.  Everything from peanut butter to flour to cake mixes is being touted as a requirement for your holiday table.  Taking advantage of holiday sales can help to restock the pantry or freezer and stretch those food dollars for weeks to come.

          If freezer space is available, taking advantage of sale prices on meats and poultry should help to hold down food costs for future meals.  Buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables, chicken or beef broth, canned soups or soup mixes on sale to stock the pantry also can be helpful in getting a meal together quickly when time is short.

     And, if you regularly bake for your family and/or friends, those sales on flour, sugar, spices and flavorings can be the answer to a baker’s prayers.  Stock up on classic, go-with-everythings like basil, pepper varieties, seeds, thyme, salt, oregano and cinnamon. Bay leaves are wonderful addition to soups, broths and most liquid-based cooking methods. Other herbs and spices to build up on are cumin, fennel, ginger, nutmeg, peppercorns and chili powder.

           Stock up on dry goods. These are the staple of the soon-ready-to-eat kitchen. Flour and baking powder are essential basics.  Beans of all varieties are great non-perishables--black, navy, limas, pintos, lentils.  Rice and couscous are cheap by the pound, expand when cooking so you get more bang for your buck and they both last incredibly long.  Chicken and beef broth have an incredibly long shelf life and are a great flavorful substitute in most cases where water is called for.  Remember to store spices in areas with moderate temperatures – extremely cold locations or warm, humid locations next to the oven or range top can affect the flavor of spices.  

          Always check the use-by dates before buying food products.  Occasionally clearance sale products may be nearing the end of their use-by time span.

          Other basics to keep in your cupboard include pancake syrup and pancake mix for weekend breakfasts.  Refrigerate a variety of cheeses. They're great for snacking, toppings, salads and perking up a casserole.

          Think about your favorite meals before you head to the market. Pick up supplies as you remember them. Your reserve pantry may create itself.


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