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Around the Home: Save money eating out or at home
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Have you been preparing a plan for nutritious meals for each week and following the tips given last month about how to get the best value for your food dollar? Good!

If you haven’t started yet, go to and type in "Around the Home: Shop smart to eat smart" to review the article.

Now it’s time to work the plan and turn foods you have bought into family pleasing meals.

Many of you may be groaning at this point. I hear all of the "buts" out there: "I’m too tired to cook," or "I only have 10 minutes before the kids start raiding the pantry."

There’s no need to give up on healthful eating when time is short. Use these shortcuts to save time and energy when preparing food at home. Then check out the money-saving tips that follow for eating out.

Plan for quick preparation.Choose simple-to-prepare recipes. Because you have a planned menu and are an organized shopper with a list, you will have all the necessary ingredients for meal preparation.

Plan for pre-preparation. Brown and freeze ground beef; cook, chop and freeze chicken for later use; make and freeze soup stock in ice cube trays; dice and sauté onions and peppers, and freeze in freezer bags or freezer containers.

Plan ahead. Thaw frozen meat in the refrigerator a day or two before it is needed.

Plan for double portions. Prepare one to cook and serve and the other to freeze for using later.

Plan for leftovers. Prepare enough for more than one meal. Cover, label and refrigerate leftovers. Use refrigerated leftovers within seven days, or freeze them for serving later if that’s not possible.

Buy prepared food that will help you save time: grated cheese, bagged salads, roasted chicken, shredded cabbage and such. These foods are more expensive, so you must balance out the savings of time versus the extra cost.

Use quick cooking methods for food preparation. Broiling, grilling, stir-frying and microwaving save time. Don’t waste time and energy overcooking foods.

Use your slow cooker. Prepare food in the crock-pot in the morning, cook it while you’re at work or busy and it’s ready when you are. Follow your crock-pot’s directions for use.

Limit choices. For example, avoid cooking two different meats for supper when one protein source is all that is needed.

Stock up on foods that are quick to prepare and have many uses, such as spaghetti sauce, rice, salsa, cheese, canned fruits and vegetables, tortillas.

Tips for Eating Out

Share entrées or ask the server to box half your entrée when your food is served to take home for a meal the next day (portion control for today and a meal for tomorrow).

Order a side dish as an entrée. At many restaurants, you can order sides of pasta or potatoes. But, check for "split plate" fees.

Order an appetizer or soup as your entrée along with a vegetable or side salad.

Choose water instead of a soft drink, tea, coffee, etc. Water is healthier than most beverages on the menu.

If you have a toddler that uses a sippy cup, fill the cup before going to the restaurant.

Resist the temptation to order alcoholic beverages. On special occasions, search for a restaurant where you can bring your own wine, with no corking fee (the charge for opening and serving the wine).

Skip the appetizer and dessert: Do you really need all that food?

See if you can choose from the children’s menu. The portions and price are smaller, and you can leave the restaurant feeling proud of yourself for sticking to your diet and your budget.

These tips are a part of Families Food and Fitness, developed by Iowa State University Extension Food Specialists.

National Radon Awareness Month is right around the corner, so watch this spot for timely radon information. EPA has a new public service announcement featuring NFL player Chester Pitts, offensive lineman for the Seattle Seahawks, discussing the dangers of radon. (

Ginger Bennett is the UGA Cooperative Extension Radon Educator for Hall and surrounding counties. Contact her at 770-535-8290,

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