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'It's cheaper to eat grass...'

Photo by Patrick Tehan/San Jose Mercury News

That's what my dad used to say whenever he had to do the market shopping, and that was more than a decade ago; he died in 1991.

God love him, his eyes would be spinning in their sockets if he could see the price of food today. I think I've stopped being shocked by it and just spend most of my time looking for what I can afford without breaking the bank. That sounds awful. I am fortunate, indeed, not to have to feed a huge family on my budget. Some do, and to them, I tip my hat.

One such person, Wyneta Miller, will get to share her tips with all of us on Wednesday's Your Life page in the Sun Herald. Look for her story in the print edition and at the Sun Herald Web site.

Meanwhile, we've lifted a few shopping/cooking tips from McClatchy (our company)-Tribune Information Services. Use them with our blessings, or tuck them away until the pinch becomes too much to bear.

Oh, and for the lady behind whom I stood in line at Rouse's Sunday, betcha those individual microwave bowls of mac&cheese tasted like cardboard and you probably paid more for all of them (6, if memory serves) than you would have for the raw ingredients to make a huge casserole of really good mac&cheese. Quick is good but hardly ever cheaper or better tasting.

Stop by TSH to meet Wyneta Wednesday, and try these:


--Always ask for a doggie bag: A half chicken breast can be shredded and added to a can of refried beans and cheese to make enchiladas or quesadillas. Thinly sliced steak makes a quick dinner, with onions and frozen green pepper strips. A shredded pork chop makes a great fried-rice dish. And they all make great stir-fries with veggies.

--Learn to love rotisserie chicken: It's one of the quickest and most reasonable convenience buys. "We have the legs and wings for one meal and freeze the whole breast for another, saving a few pieces to put into the soup I make with the bones and some good chicken base or bouillon."

--Keep simple staples on hand: refried beans, frozen green pepper strips, tortillas, soy sauce, dried pasta, a jar of pasta sauce. Also: salad greens, tomatoes and cucumbers and frozen vegetables to round out meals.

--Freeze cooked rice: Triple the recipe, cool and freeze in large, heavy-duty freezer bags, flattened. When ready to use, break into pieces in the bag, remove as much as needed, then reseal the bag and pop it right back in the freezer. Sprinkle the frozen rice with water, cover tightly and microwave. Good for fried rice or any rice dish.

--Don't forget to stretch: A 2-pound meatloaf can make three meals. Freeze leftovers in two portions. Thaw one for a meal with gravy or for sandwiches. Crumble and saute the other with a jar of pasta sauce, seasoned to taste, and pour over pasta.