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Tips to help trim family, holiday food costs

And now, sticker shock at the grocery store?

Shoppers who note rising prices at the grocery store are not alone. The U. S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, over the last two years, food prices have risen faster than at any time since 1990. In 2007, prices for all food purchased in the U.S. increased 4.0 percent--up from a 2.4 percent increase in 2006, a Kansas State University specialist said.

While the Bureau reports that Americans typically spend about 10 percent of their after-tax income on food, low-income families are not faring as well, said Mary Meck Higgins, a registered dietitian and Kansas State University Research and Extension nutrition specialist.

A 2005 Consumer Expenditure Survey indicated that households earning from $10,000 to $14,999 (before taxes) spent an average of 25 percent on food; households earning $15,000 to $19,999 (before taxes) spent 19 percent on food, Higgins said.

With food such an integral part of upcoming holiday celebrations, stretching food dollars can be a challenge, said Higgins, who offered food shopping tips:

--Food prepared at home is typically less expensive than similar foods prepared in a restaurant. To save, eat more meals at home.

--If short on time, buy food prepared at a grocery store or supermarket, which will generally be more expensive than food prepared at home, but less expensive than a similar meal at a restaurant.

--Consider a less expensive meal--a brunch, sandwich night or soup supper--to trim costs for holiday gatherings, or plan a potluck to share the expense of feeding a crowd. Also, a post-holiday gathering may allow additional savings on traditional holiday foods and offer an opportunity for a more relaxed get together.

--Eliminate holiday-themed one-time-use only paper items or other disposables.

--Do it yourself. Buying a prepared fruit basket or vegetable tray will usually be more expensive than buying fruits and vegetables and preparing and arranging them yourself.

--Plan meals in advance to take advantage of advertised specials. Supermarket fliers (in newspapers and on display stands near shopping carts) highlight bargains of the week.

--Keep a running grocery list, and take it shopping with you.

--While shopping, look at cost-per-unit signs, such as cost-per-ounce, per-pound or per-item, posted on the front of the store shelf below the product to determine the least expensive brand and least expensive package size before buying.

--Skip specials at the end of the aisles. Such specials can be perceived as sale items, but aren't always at sale prices.

--Plan to shop once a week. Additional trips to a store take time and add to fuel costs, but shoppers rarely pick up just one or two items.

--Buy in quantities that fit your needs to reduce waste.

--Buy less expensive seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables that are available locally. Use perishable produce first, and then canned, dried or frozen fruits and vegetables to complete meals.

--Store leftovers promptly to preserve food quality, and use leftovers within two to three days or wrap and freeze for future meals to further trim food costs. Suggestions include using leftover turkey in sandwiches, wraps or pita pockets, in a casserole, pasta sauce or soup, which also may incorporate leftover broth and vegetables.

More tips about food, nutrition, health, cooking and recipes are available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and on Extension websites: www.oznet.ksu.edu, www.rrc.ksu.edu, www.oznet.ksu.edu/humannutrition and www.oznet.ksu.edu/foodsafety/.

For recipes that include a calculated price-per-serving, Google "Recipe Finder Snap" or type in Http://Recipefindernal.usda.gov.

A "Month of Menus," which offers food and food safety tips, recipes, and shopping lists, also is available on the K-State Research and Extension Shawnee County office website: http://www.shawnee.ksu.edu. Once at the site, search for "Month of Menus."

12/15/08
6 Star Midwest Ag\13-B

Date: 12/30/08



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