Stretch Your Meals and Your Money!

January 29, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ga-(WTVM)-With five children, 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild, it's no surprise that Carolyn Dermitt knows how to make the most of her meals.

She says she recently paid about $4 for fresh turkey wings and made huge pot of turkey and dumplings, instead of using a more expensive hen.

"It was cost effective and delicious," says Dermitt.

So how can you stretch your money and your meals?

We take a walk through a grocery store with Dena Barnes.  She's with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service.  The group just updated its 101 Ways to Save Food Dollars.

To get the biggest bang for your buck, Barnes says plans your meals and particularly your meats around what's on sale.

"You may want to buy ground beef and use it in casseroles with vegetables and other products in there that your family enjoys, or you may want to make something like spaghetti," suggests Barnes.

Meals like chili are cheap and last for a few days. Barnes also says avoid pre-cut meats.

She shows us an example of a whole chicken that's $1.49 per pound versus a whole chicken, cut up that's $1.69 per pound.

Barnes also advises cooking the chicken whole and then using the leftovers for soups and salads.

Next, she says pay close attention to unit prices.

"It's a good way to make a quick decision if you're comparing prices," says Barnes.

But, it's not just about dollars and cents, says Barnes. Unit prices can help consumers get the most for their money.

Barnes compares a tube of oatmeal for example to boxed cereal.  The oatmeal is cheaper per ounce, but more importantly has 30 servings, compared to the cereal which has on 17 servings.

Pastas and rice are meal stretchers too.  And Barnes says frozen foods, mainly vegetables are a good buy.

She says stay away from items in the freezer case that are just quick and convenient though, because that can be costly.

"In fact, sometimes the convenience foods cost twice as much as if you prepared them yourself in your own home."

That's what Dermitt does, in fact on this day, she's preparing to make a pasta bake.

She says these lean times can help consumers learn a lot.

"Those are things that teach us you know to be frugal to be good stewards of our money."