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Around the Home: Shop smart to eat smart
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Becoming a savvy food shopper is a worthy goal for anyone who shops for nutritious food these days. Finding the best, most nutritious foods while faced with rising prices is a challenge for all of us.

If you’re like me, you have scaled back on eating out and picking up ready-to-go meals on the run. I’ve even started baking bread again; I’m a little rusty, but the end product is improving.

What would you do with an extra $75 a month? If you spend $500 a month on groceries, the tips and ideas discussed here can help you save $75 a month or 15 percent.

It will, however, take a little effort on your part, and some practice. Before long, though, your efforts will start to pay off and you’ll hear a little more coin jingling in your pockets. Think extra money for Christmas gifts.

Iowa State University Extension has an excellent online educational program titled “Spend Smart — Eat Smart.” I am sharing some of their great tips to get you started on the road to smarter food shopping. You may access the program here.

The essence of “Spend Smart — Eat Smart” encompasses three steps: Step 1. Plan. Reduce your food expenses by planning before you shop. Step 2. Shop. Learn how to find nutritious items and save at the grocery store. Step 3. Eat. Learn how to save time and money when eating out or at home.

To make a great plan, follow these four rules of food shopping:

1. Study grocery store ads for special buys, especially for foods your family likes to eat. Use local store ads to see if there are weekly sales. As you get to know the costs of items you purchase frequently, you will be able to quickly identify true deals.

2. Make a menu plan. Whatever your method for planning meals, here are the basics:

• Check what you have. Look in your refrigerator, freezer and cupboards, note items that need to be used up, then fill in your menu plan using these items first. This is your “go-to” list.

• Serve what they like. When you serve food your family likes, you avoid waste. Make a collection of economical, nutritious recipes that your family likes and serve them often.

• Consider your schedule. When planning your menus and shopping list, think about how much time you will have for preparing food in the coming week.

If it’s a laid-back week, use the extra time to make meals ahead and freeze them. If it’s a “chicken-with-its-head-cut-off week,” use some of the meals you stockpiled earlier or just keep it simple. Make sure everyone pitches in, especially if you’re having a crazy week.

3. Make a list and stick to it. It will control spending and prevent impulse buying. Whether your list is a printed, organized masterpiece, or on the back of an envelope, the time spent making a list will save you from making repeat trips to the store. Fewer trips to the store means less money spent. Here are some list basics:

• Organize your list according to the store layout and reduce the temptation to buy foods not on your list.

• Look over the recipes you plan to use to be sure you have the necessary ingredients.

• Check the cupboards, refrigerator and freezer for foods on hand. Are there staple items — flour, sugar, coffee, salt, rice — which should be added to the list?

• Develop a form you can photocopy or print for weekly use. Make the foods and other items that you must have every week a permanent part of your master list. For example, if you usually buy carrots, write carrots under your vegetable category heading. Then, if you need carrots that week, circle that item.

• Post an ongoing list and jot down items as your supply gets low.

4. Compare unit prices for best buys. The “unit price” tells you the cost per pound, quart, or other unit of weight or volume of a food package. Usually posted on the shelf below the food, the shelf tag shows the total price (item price) and price per unit (unit price) for the food item. Use unit prices to compare costs of different brands and sizes of the same food.

Check for radon now

Cooler weather is an ideal time to test your home for radon because we tend to keep our houses closed up tighter when cooler weather arrives. Get an easy-to-use radon test kit at the Hall County Extension Office for $5. Or go to www.UGA to complete and print a mail order form to receive a kit for $6.50.

Ginger Bennett is the UGA Cooperative Extension Radon Educator for Hall and surrounding counties. You may contact her at 770-535-8290 or