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Food

Rach on CNN the other night

I don’t know if you caught Rachael on Larry King the other night, but if not, I have copied the transcript from the show below.  I watched it and thought to myself, you know, she said some things that I could really use in my efforts to save money.  For instance, she talked about grocery shopping more efficiently and doing one big shop for the whole week.  I do a big shop on Sundays, typically, but I am not a meal planner so I inevitably find myself back at the store a few times during the week to pick up a loaf of bread or a missing ingredient when I get around to figuring out that night’s dinner. This morning, however, as I was packing lunch for my two children, I peeked in the cupboard and saw a box of chicken stock, a can of tomatoes and some rice.  I thought to myself, add some beans and that’s a meal.  I’m so accustomed to running out to make sure I have meat or a big main course, when sometimes a simple meal is all you need and could save you time and money in the end.

Another good tip was about freezing things.  I love this idea-if something is on sale, like chicken breasts, butter, or veggies, stock up and freeze them.  Frozen foods will keep for a few months and will always be useful when you can’t make it to the store.

Read the transcript below and then tell me what you do to shop and eat economically.

CNN’s chief business correspondent (Ali Velshi filling in for Larry King) asked Ray how you can make your meal-time dollars stretch in these tough economic times without sacrificing nutrition or taste.

The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity:

Ali Velshi: How do we keep from packing on the recession pounds? Tonight, help is on the way. Joining me in New York is Rachael Ray, host of “The Rachael Ray Show.” … We’re all kind of stressed right now. We’re trying to sort of do more with less and certainly eating in a hurry. You’ve got some great advice on that.

Ray: We need to go back to the way our grandparents prepared food. Instead of buying pieces of chicken, buy a whole chicken. You make that on Sunday, take the leftovers, roll that into fajitas, soups, stews, make your own stock. You’ve got to start thinking in bigger increments. ….

Stock up on lean meats and proteins, on veggies that you know your family likes and turn yourself into your own frozen food factory.

Every time that chicken breast goes on sale, stock up. Go home, put it in individual storage bags, pound it out nice and thin. It’s a quick defrost.

Velshi: All right. So you freeze; I like that. You make yourself into your own frozen food factory.

Ray: Even with vegetables. … You know, if broccoli is on a great price this week, buy a ton of it, go home, blanch it a little bit of salted water, cold shock it, put it in a plastic food storage bag, done.

Velshi: What’s the better deal: Buying your vegetables canned, buying them fresh?

Ray: Buying them at a local food market. You know, whether you’re in a big city or a small town, farmers markets are your best bargain. You can buy direct from the small producer. And, you know, it’s a great way to not only get organic, but get a great price on it.

Velshi: Let’s talk about takeout food. Parents are trying to save time and money. In many cases, that leads us to fast food, because it’s cheap and fast. …

Ray: The food that we can get most readily and at the best bargain isn’t good for us. It’s processed. I mean all things in moderation. Everybody can have a burger once in a while.

Velshi: What do you recommend to our viewers [for fast food]?

Ray: Hey, I love a veggie sub at Subway. You know, I think that there is affordable fast food. If you’re on the go, fine. Everybody needs to pick up a salad or a burger once in a while. There are healthy choices there. …..

If the kids really love fries, tell them they can have a few as long as they eat the veggies, too. And, there are a lot of great strategies you can take with kids in getting them to eat healthier — little things like switching to whole wheat macaroni, whole wheat pastas.

Velshi: It sounds like it’s a lot like dealing with the rest of your financial life — if there’s a little bit of planning ahead of time, you can actually save a lot of money.

Ray: Absolutely. I think you’ve got to go into the store armed with a good attitude … and with coupons. And another really simple thing: When you go grocery shopping, do not look at the price on the product. Look at the unit price. Right there on the shelf, it will tell you the price per ounce or unit of measurement. And that’s how you find your truest bargains.

Velshi: Let’s talk about planning for shopping. When people are trying to trim their bills, what are the biggest mistakes they make?

Ray: They go shopping hungry. They make a lot of impulse buys. They shop too many times during the week. … Try and make that one master list, really think it out and try and plan one day of the week where you can do a big cook.

Velshi: Are you a big leftover fan?

Ray: Absolutely. But I don’t think they should taste like the first time. You know, I’m all for cooking a big chicken and then making chicken chili, chicken pasta.

Velshi: Not having roast chicken for four days?

Ray: Exactly.

Velshi: How do you make that switch if your kids are addicted to processed and fast food?

Ray: Children love good food, and they love being involved. They love feeling like they’re helping. If you give children ownership of the meal, if you involve them in the process, they feel like they’re problem-solving and it becomes a great self-esteem builder.

And for the transition, it can be as simple as taking things that they like, such as macaroni and cheese, and using a whole wheat pasta instead of a plain pasta.

Velshi: Do you tell them that you’re doing it?

Ray: No. I don’t think so. Just let them enjoy it.

Velshi: What I haven’t graduated to is coupons. I get them in the newspaper every week. Is this something we should be looking at now?

Ray: This is the perfect time to be using coupons. Whether you’re somebody that has [money] or somebody who lives on a very limited budget, it’s always fun to get more for your money.

Velshi: One of the things in your magazine that I really enjoy is the Supermarket 101 column, just sort of factoids about supermarkets.

Ray: Yes. And it gives people neat tips on how to save money when they go shopping.

Velshi: Yes. And one of them was about buying in bulk, particularly with nuts. Is that the case for everything?

Ray: Everything. When you buy in bulk or you buy a generic name, you have to read the label and make sure that the quality is the same. But, yes, I think it’s truly a bargain.

Rachael Ray