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‘Cheapest’ mom shares tips for frugal family-feeding

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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