Eat better, spend less money

Coupons, circulars and store brands are helping women save at the supermarket. But according to a new poll featured in ShopSmart, the shopping magazine published by Consumer Reports, most women are overlooking the biggest place for savings — their own kitchens.
Even though less-expensive meals are just a few tweaks away, only 29 percent of women say they budget or estimate how much a weekday dinner will cost. One-in-10 women refuse to eat leftovers.
“Women are spending only $1 less on groceries than they were 18 months ago, and this shows that we need to look beyond the supermarket to cut costs,” said Lisa Lee Freeman, editor in chief of ShopSmart. “The biggest place for savings is right in your kitchen, and our tips for buying foods and tweaking recipes will shrink your food bills and increase the flavor of your meals.”
The cooking poll, conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, was a nationally representative telephone survey. CRNRC completed 1,001 interviews among women aged 18 and over in April 2009.
Other findings include:
— Grocery Shopping. Women are making fewer trips to the grocery store now compared to 18 months ago. Women who do at least half their household’s grocery shopping report they spend, on average, $115 per week on groceries, only a dollar less than the average in November 2007.
Seventy percent of married women do all or most of their household’s grocery shopping.
Forty-two percent of women are stocking up on on-sale food items more often, and 35 percent are purchasing more generic or store-brand items more often due to the economy.
— Cooking. Seventy percent of married women are primarily responsible for cooking weekday dinners. Most women (55 percent) do not mind cooking weekday dinners; 18 percent dislike it. When deciding what to cook, women go through the refrigerator and pantry to see what they have (86 percent), decide what can be prepared quickly (78 percent) and pick what will be nutritious or healthy (72 percent). Less than a third (29 percent) say they budget or estimate how much the meal with cost.
Thirty-eight percent of women are cooking at home more often and 35 percent are preparing less-expensive meals more often due to the economy.
— Eating. On average, women spend 45 minutes cooking a weekday dinner and 31 minutes eating it. In a typical week, women eat about five home-cooked or home-prepared dinners. Two-thirds (66 percent) of women watch television during dinner at least once a week. Fifty-three percent of women eat dinner between 6-7 p.m., with 6 p.m. the most common time.
ShopSmart’s creative ways to cut food costs SUBHEAD
— Instead of buying potatoes by the pound, try picking up the bag, which is often cheaper.
— Instead of the average priced $2.99 bottle of salad dressing, make your own for far less money.
— Instead of packaged bread and rolls, try the often-cheaper supermarket baked goods.
— Instead of bottled lemon juice, try slitting a fresh lemon and squeezing out juice as needed.
— Instead of whole peppers or onions, try the supermarket salad bar if all you need is a little bit.
— Instead of ready-made croutons, try recycling stale bread by cutting into cubes and crisping with some olive oil in a skillet.
— Instead of ground pepper, try whole peppercorns that are cheaper and have more flavor.
— Instead of buttermilk in recipes that call for a cup or less, make an easy substitute of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.
— Instead of pasta sauce, try buying canned tomatoes and making your own.
— Instead of hamburgers, try substituting beans for just one meal a week.

Visit the Consumer Reports Web site at www.consumerreports.org.

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