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AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Many families have a hard time staying within their food budget during the holidays. With some careful planning, these problems can be avoided.

Extension regional agent Helen Jones with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, offers some ways to trim food costs while shopping:

  • Plan menus ahead of time. Decide what you’re going to cook and then look over ads before going to the store. Avoid needless and overpriced items. Check stores for seasonal sale prices. For example, if turkey or ham is on sale, buy an extra one and freeze it for use later in the year.
  • Christmas-shop at the grocery store. If you have a good sense of value, you can assemble a coffee break (coffee beans and fancy sugar cookies with a mug),  a sweet dreams package (favorite candies with a new book or create a spaghetti dinner kit (pasta, bottles of sauce and garnishes in a serving bowl or strainer).
  • Spend your money where it’s most likely to show. When buying cheddar cheese to use in a sauce, don’t buy the national brand. Try a local store brand that is as good and costs less.
  • Homemade or bought? Sometimes it’s not worth making something from scratch. By the time you make your own pumpkin pie, plain sugar cookies or angel food cake, you may be better off buying from a deli or bakery.
  • Double-batch the family’s favorite recipes and freeze in individual portions. With everyone going in different directions during the holidays, let family members microwave a frozen entree. This practice can save you a lot of money and it also can get you out of the calling for a pizza habit.
  • Use food as a centerpiece. Artists have portrayed earth’s bounty for ages. Artfully arranged bowls of fruit or baskets of breads make beautiful and edible cornucopias.
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