I am asking for your forgiveness for my thoughtless ways and in the same sentence, asking for your help.
Last week I received a kind and thoughtful letter about the topics and contents of my recent columns (and maybe some through the entire past of my writing). I have touched on this topic through the years, but we are now in a critical time with inflation, the pandemic and other reasons; perhaps personal ones with illnesses, job losses or other unforeseen difficulties. The problem I am referring to is the cost of food and the other necessities that go with daily living.
Though I do not cook as often or as much as in the past, I still go grocery shopping. I am one of a rare, weird breed who likes to go to the grocery store. I like to look around for new items and sale items, but I need to be careful about buying something just because it is “a good deal.”
I know last week I promised that this week the column would be nothing but recipes. But this has been on my mind and I have talked to various people of different ages and situations about how they save money on food. Most sources say the average cost of food has risen 9.4% since this time last year, but this, of course varies in different parts of the country. This may not be a problem for some, but when I see a large family grocery shopping (2+ children plus the parents), I shudder to think what it takes to keep a family fed with healthy food today. Here are some tips I have gleaned from sources (friends, random shoppers, and anyone who would talk to me).
This is a list of some smart ideas from along the way:
Plan meals and shop with a list, buying “specials” and marked down items. Two major grocery chains mark down produce in half two days before the end date.
Look for “loss leaders” — items that are usually advertised at a low price to get you to the store where you will usually buy other items.
I heard a news program about how and why Sam’s Warehouse keeps their rotisserie chickens at the same price ($4.99) they have been for years. They are cheaper than buying a whole raw chicken and can usually provide three to four meals if used in salads, soups and casseroles.
You know already not to shop when you are hungry. Also, if possible, shop without taking the children (self-explanatory). Buy in bulk only if all food will be used before spoiling; cutting down on waste is a major way to save money. Keep “snack items” at a minimum and desserts for special times.
This recipe is an old favorite that is nutritious, easy to make and relatively inexpensive.
Lottie’s Chicken and Vegetables (from the late Lottie McCleney’s cookbook)
6 small boneless chicken breasts or thighs
2 large potatoes, diced
1 can (15 ounces) green beans, drained
1 small package zesty Italian salad dressing, dry
1 stick butter
Place chicken pieces in center of a greased 9-by-13-inch pan and lay potatoes alongside chicken. Then place beans beside potatoes. Melt butter and add dressing mix to butter. Pour mixture over chicken and vegetables. Cover and bake at 275 degrees for 2 hours or at 350 degrees for 1 hour until vegetables and chicken are tender. Makes 4-6 servings. May also add carrots with potatoes.
If you have tips to save money on food, please send them to me to share.
— Barbara Richardson McClellan is a longtime food columnist. Write her at [email protected] or in care of the Longview News-Journal, P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.