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updated 9/28/2010 1:17:11 PM ET 2010-09-28T17:17:11

I’m the mom of "America's Cheapest Family." Steve and I have been married since 1982 and have five kids ranging in age from 16 to 27.

When we were first married, all I could do was boil water and scramble eggs. In spite of my lack of experience, I had one thing going for me — I was willing to learn.

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I took my job seriously and I wanted to do it well. Combining my motivation with the help of a few good cookbooks and some awesome friends and family who had great kitchen knowledge, I eventually overcame my culinary challenges. And the best thing, in my mind, is that my family is healthy and they really enjoy the meals I prepare.

Tips for moms:
If you’re wanting to start saving some money as you feed your family try a few of these ideas:

  1. Cook more meals at home. Cooking a simple meal isn’t that hard — you’ll eat healthier and spend way less cash.
  2. Use the ads to your advantage. Careful stocking up on sale items and loss-leaders will really cut your grocery bill. Incorporate as many sale items into your weekly menu as possible.
  3. Take time to plan. It only takes a few minutes to plan a week’s worth of dinner meals. Having a simple menu planned will minimize visits to the drive-thru lane, reduce trips to the grocery store, and save you a ton of time and money.
  4. Avoid impulse buys. If you’re not using a shopping list you’re likely to pick up more items on impulse. Research shows that impulse buys count for almost 60 percent of the average shopper’s purchases.
  5. Stay out of the store. The less often you go to the store, the more money you’ll save.

A little planning can go a long way to reducing the time and money you spend on groceries. Cutting your grocery bill is one of the fastest ways to get your household on track financially.

America's 'cheapest family': 'We are hope and change.'

Here are a couple of our family favorite recipes.

Annette’s Ground Beef Hash
This is an easy one-dish meal that satisfies our family every time.

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1 (1-pound) chub breakfast sausage
4 carrots, sliced
1 large onion, diced
4 potatoes, cubed
2 (10-ounce) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 teaspoon garlic powder or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the ground beef and sausage. Let cool.

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In a 15 x 11-inch baking pan combine the meat mixture with the carrots, onion, potatoes, cream of mushroom soup, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.

Cover with foil. Cook for 1 hour.

This recipe is very flexible and vegetables can be increased or decreased as desired. It has a family rating of nine on a 10-point scale and there are rarely any leftovers. Serves six to eight.

Sesame Chicken
This recipe always gets rave reviews from family and friends—hardly ever any leftovers.

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Ingredients:  
Juice from 6 lemons
1/4 cup teriyaki or soy sauce
1/2 cup chopped green onions
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup peanut butter
15 ginger crystals or 1 tablespoon ginger powder
1 tablespoon to 1/4 cup honey, depending on taste
All-purpose flour or cornstarch for thickening
2 to 3 cups diced cooked chicken or turkey
1/2 to 3/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted

Directions:
In a 10-inch skillet heat the lemon juice and teriyaki or soy sauce with the onions and garlic until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the peanut butter, ginger, and honey, and bring to a boil. Thicken with flour or cornstarch and pour over the cooked chicken. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serves 6 to 8.

Have a question for the Economides? Submit it here.

Annette Economides is co-author of "Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America's Cheapest Family: Includes so Many Innovative Strategies You Won't Have to Cut Coupons."

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Video: Slash your grocery bill with America’s cheapest family

  1. Transcript of: Slash your grocery bill with America’s cheapest family

    MATT LAUER, co-host: We're back now at 8:10. And this morning on TODAY'S MONEY , how to slash your grocery bill in half with a little help from the cheapest family in America . In the Economides kitchen, thriftiness is a virtue...

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: So we're making four meals .

    LAUER: ...and America 's cheapest family is a title worn with pride.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: We spend $350 a month for groceries, and that includes toiletries, paper goods...

    Mr. STEVE ECONOMIDES: ...cleaning products, personal care items, and of course all the food.

    LAUER: With five children and a tight budget, being frugal is an enterprise for Steve and Annette , and it all begins with careful planning.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: I write up 30 meals , 30 days ' worth of menus, so that I only have to go to the grocery store once a month.

    LAUER: Coupons are critical.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Peanut butter and jelly for $1.25 each.

    LAUER: And they're armed at the markets.

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: Always shop with a calculator so we can figure out unit prices.

    LAUER: They buy in bulk, stick to the list, but jump on a deal.

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: Fifty percent off ricotta cheese, and that uses in Italian recipes and it's less than a dollar a pound.

    LAUER: Unconventional shopping strategies abound.

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: These cuts of meat are going out of code, which means they're going to expired in a couple of days. You can get great deals.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Total before, 328.73. And after store discounts and coupons, 194.83. I think I did great.

    LAUER: After shopping, meat is ground and sliced at home.

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: Here's a pile of meat we just sliced and this'll be used for about a week.

    LAUER: For the Economides , eating well is as important as saving money.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: We don't live on Ramen noodles . We eat good stuff like beef Stroganoff , chicken cashew and chicken Parmesan .

    LAUER: As far as restaurants? That's planned out, too.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: One of our favorite things to do is to go to an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet and we stuff the container full of food, we bring it home, and it will feed us for several meals . I think I'm -- I can a fit just a few green beans and that should fill it. Seven dollars a person for lunch. You could just stuff yourselves.

    LAUER: Great meals for great prices.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Well, that's on clearance.

    LAUER: It's a way of life .

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Being known as America 's cheapest family means that we get the best quality for the least price. I actually think we're pretty smart.

    LAUER: Steve and Annette Economides are the authors of the new book "Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half." They're here along with two of their children, Abbey and Becky . Hey folks, good morning to all of you.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Good morning.

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: Good to be here.

    Ms. BECKY ECONOMIDES: Hey.

    LAUER: This just in: Because of you , that Chinese restaurant filed for bankruptcy. That is too much to stick in a Styrofoam container, young lady . That's unbelievable. You really think you can cut everybody's bill in half?

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: We can probably cut it more than in half.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Just a few of the principles that are -- that are in our book are going to start saving people money right away.

    LAUER: One of the things I noticed, this -- you save a lot of money but it takes you a lot of time. There's a lot of prep in this, those cutting of the coupons and all the planning. Time is money.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Yes.

    LAUER: Do you -- have you ever considered that?

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Yes. But I tell people that if they are not taking any time to plan to feed their family , I guarantee you that they are spending more time than I am.

    LAUER: What's with the calculator? Why is that a great tool for you?

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: It's just a way to make sure that we're getting the best deal. Calculate unit prices, compare prices. It just helps you know that you're on target.

    LAUER: I think you may have lost a couple of people when you started talk about -- to talk about buying meat that's about to be outdated. That -- I'm sure that probably got a little bit -- people got squeamish over that. Talk me through that.

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: We're talking about being smart. If you look at the meat and the color is right, there's no juice around it, it's vacuum-sealed...

    LAUER: It smells good.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Right.

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: ...it looks fine, it's perfectly safe to buy. The USDA does not require it to be dated. The manufacturers date it. But you know what? It's -- what's aged beef? It sits, it matures, it's controlled, it's more tender.

    LAUER: Aged beef is different than old beef, isn't it?

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: ...I'm telling you. No, there's no difference.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: No, there's no difference.

    LAUER: OK.

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: It's just humidity controlled.

    LAUER: This 30-day plan you come up -- you plan out meals 30 days in advance. Do you really stick to that list?

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: I do stick to the list. Now, you can swap meals around. I have a plan of what meal is on what day, and sometimes I -- it doesn't always work out and I switch things around.

    LAUER: Right.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: But at least I have all the meals and all the ingredients in the freezer.

    LAUER: Young ladies, this is great being called the cheapest family in America . But you're also called the cheapest family in America . How does this go over with friends in your social life and things like that?

    Ms. B. ECONOMIDES: It's always interesting. I've got a lot of people that I work with, they're like, 'Are you related to that' -- 'Yes, that would be me.'

    LAUER: But you like -- you're completely supportive of this lifestyle?

    Ms. ABBEY ECONOMIDES: Yes.

    Ms. B. ECONOMIDES: Yes.

    LAUER: And what about in other areas of your life other than food? Clothing, entertainment...

    Ms. B. ECONOMIDES: Yeah.

    LAUER: ...vacations, things like that?

    Ms. ABBEY ECONOMIDES: Clothes rock.

    Ms. B. ECONOMIDES: It's the way we were raised, so it's not odd to us. What's odd to us is seeing my friends go out to the mall and purchase jeans for -- I don't even know how much jeans retail for...

    Ms. ABBEY ECONOMIDES: They're, like, 200 bucks.

    Ms. B. ECONOMIDES: ...where I can get them for less than $10 at a thrift store .

    LAUER: Right.

    Ms. B. ECONOMIDES: Perfectly good jeans.

    LAUER: And it's important to note, you think you eat well at home. This is not skimping and eating, you know, garbage, right?

    Ms. ABBEY ECONOMIDES: Oh, yeah. It's-I'm an athlete, so you have to eat well to maintain the schedule that I make for myself.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Matt, I just want to share one thing. We are the hope and change for America . With the unemployment rate as -- where it is today, we -- I believe that our books can allow families to not have to live on two incomes.

    LAUER: Well, we're going to give you a chance to prove that because you're going to come back, I think, tomorrow and Friday, right?

    Mr. ECONOMIDES: Mm-hmm.

    Ms. ANNETTE ECONOMIDES: Yes.

    LAUER: Tomorrow you're going to help another family save money. And on Friday these folks are going to take your questions, so submit them now on our Web site , including 'What is the name of that Chinese restaurant ?' to todayshow.com. Folks, thanks. We'll see you tomorrow.

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