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Who isn’t looking to save money these days? You can feed your family without blowing your budget with these cost-conscious recipes from the editors of Good Housekeeping, Redbook, and Country Living that cost just $2.50 or less per person. Enjoy all your favorites—pasta,beef stew, meatloaf, roast chicken, even homemade versions of Chinese take-out and pizza! Plus you’ll find expert tips on dollar-smart supermarket shopping, department-by-department, strategies for getting the most out of coupons, and buying on sale and in bulk, and surprising ways to make your food go further than you ever thought possible! With these low-cost recipes and our excellent advice, you can enjoy healthy, delicious dinners—and major savings at the supermarket.

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get set to save: introduction

Who isn’t looking for ways to spend less at the supermarket these days? In the past couple of years, food prices have gone nowhere but up. From fall 2009 to fall 2011, the cost of groceries leaped by more than 7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it’s forecast to rise another 3 to 4 percent this year. Combine those expenses with the stresses that a difficult economy puts on the average household budget, and learning how to shop for the best deals on groceries and to prepare low-cost meals sounds very smart indeed.WE’RE HERE TO HELP. The recipes in this special collection all cost $2.50 or less per serving (and sometimes much less—see our Classic Cheese Omelet on page 83). Which means that a family of…

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dollar-smart shopping

Before you leave home….• Map out a weekly meal plan using what you have. Check your freezer, fridge, and pantry.• Next, plan additional meals based on what’s on sale. Read the supermarket circulars and focus on what’s featured in the mega-bargain ads on the front and back pages. These “loss leaders” are designed to get you into the grocery store, where you’ll be tempted to buy lots of non-sale items, but if you stick to the bargains, you can save a substantial amount on your bill.• Search out coupons. Besides looking for them in circulars, magazines, and newspapers, go to websites like EverydaySaver.com and SmartSource.com. Online coupon databases at DealSeekingMom.com and HotCouponWorld.com will tell you where to find printable coupons for specific items as well as those you can cut…

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skip the supermarket?

YOU CAN SCORE GREAT BUYS AT DRUGSTORES, WAREHOUSE CLUBS, AND DOLLAR STORES.“I’ve found fabulous deals on milk, granola bars, cereal, juice, and more using sales and rebates at drugstore chains,” says Faye Prosser, author of The Smart Spending Guide. At dollar stores, low operating costs and shelves filled with manufacturers’ overstock items help keep prices down. Chains like Dollar General (go to dollargeneral.com to find a store near you), Dollar Tree (dollartree.com), and Family Dollar (familydollar.com) are growing brands with thousands of stores across the country.INVESTIGATE AMAZON.COM.Though buying via online grocers does save you money on gas, delivery charges can be steep. But Amazon often has excellent deals on nonperishable items: Its Subscribe & Save program offers 15 percent discounts (plus free shipping) on products you automatically receive every one…

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what convenience costs

CHEAPCONVENIENTCabbage, head1 lb. at $.59/lb$.10 a servingCabbage, shredded$1.99/1-lb. bag coleslaw mix$.33 a servingGround beef (85% lean)$3.99/lb.$.99 per 4-oz. pattyBeef patties (85% lean), pre-made$4.89/lb.$1.22 per 4-oz. pattyRomaine, head$1.29/lb.$.32 per servingRomaine, cut$3.49/10-oz. bag$.97 per servingDried beans$1.49/16-oz.$.15 per servingCanned beans$.67/15.5 oz.$.22 per servingBroccoli, bunch$2.49 each$.62 per servingBroccoli, florets$2.99/12-oz. bag$.75 per servingCarrots, whole$.99/lb.$.25 per servingCarrots, shredded$1.99/10-oz. bag$.56 per servingSplit chicken breasts (bone-in)$2.99/lb.$.75 per servingChicken cutlets (boneless)$4.99/lb.$1.24 per servingMozzarella cheese, ball$5.29/16 oz. part-skim$.33 per servingMozzarella cheese, shredded$3.29/8 oz. part-skim$.41 per servingGreen beans, fresh$1.79/lb.$.44 per servingGreen beans, fresh, microwave/steam-in bag$3.99/12 oz.$1.33 per servingJell-O, powdered mix$.80/3-oz. box (1.5 hours to cook and chill)$.20 per servingJell-O, refrigerated$3.99/six 3.5-oz. cups (ready to eat)$.67 per serving…

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waste less, spend less

Make Over Your Food Storage1. Learn these cold truths.• Never keep dairy products or eggs on the refrigerator door, where temps are highest. Be sure to put leftovers near the front so you’ll remember to eat them within four days.• The only place food will stay safe long-term is in the freezer. Just pop in eats while still fresh. To pack: Fill containers nearly to the top; tightly wrap items in plastic or, for zip-seal bags, squeeze out the air.2. Clean up the cupboard.• Store open packs properly (see the options in “Keep It Fresh Longer,” below) and you can stop pitching stale cookies and crackers.• Don’t just roll and go. For staycrisp cereal and chips, try Copco Bag Caps ($6 and up, copco.com), which clip into bags for a…

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keep it fresh longer

PLASTIC CONTAINERS These lightweight, break-resistant, and usually microwave-safe vessels (from brands like Tupperware, Rubbermaid, and Glad) are best for foods you’ll transport. Beware of using takeout containers and margarine/dairy tubs as substitutes—they’re not dishwasher-safe and can degrade if hand-washed.GLASS CONTAINERS If the lids latch securely, these are the most airtight options. They reheat well in the microwave or oven (if so marked), and clean easily for refilling with sauces, salad dressings, soups, and more. However, they’re breakable and heavy to tote.ZIP-TIGHT PLASTIC BAGS Great for irregularly shaped items, such as cold cuts. Also, bagged foods take up less room—good for stashing leftovers when you’re short on shelf space. It’s best, though, not to rinse and reuse these bags; they’re hard to clean and can harbor bacteria.DRY-GOODS CANISTERS With their gasket-sealed…