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February 8, 2012     Feather River Bulletin
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4B Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2012 Bulletin, Record, Progressive, Reporter O Sheri Alzeerah foodonthetable.corn Shop 'til you drop the grocery bill this year by opting for the free and easy money- and time-saving tool most shoppers take for granted -- the shopping list. Think of the shopping list as a roadmap for your ad- venture otherwise known as a trip to the grocery store. Plotting out stoppmg points, destinations and routes in advance will make your trip efficient and direct and in this case,' save you from over- spending. But before you chart your route just yet, keep these tips in mind to become a savvy grocery-store explorer: Make a meal plan. Orga- nization is key to saving money, and meal planning is a simple way to be a pro planner. Each week, make note of what entrees to cook and eat on which days, and be sure to plan for leftovers. With meal planning, each grocery store purchase has a predetermined purpose, meani.ng no more compulsive buying and no mcre food waste. Work grocery day into part of the routine. Rather thanshopping on an impulse, go to the store only as your meal plan calls for. Avoid shopping without a mission to steer clear of buying unnecessary goods, meaning unnecessary expenses. By setting aside specific days to grocery shop, your meal plan and more importantly, your budget, will thrive. Don't shop on an empty stomach. A rumbling tummy and aisles bursting at the seams with appealing foods don't really mix. Shopping after a meal is wiser for the budget and likely your health. Those sugary, processed foods might look less desirable when your stomach is satisfied. Carry a physical list. Try not to rely on memory when it comes to shopping lists. That way, you'll be sure of what exactly you need and even better, enjoy the fulfillment of crossing some- thing off a to-do list. Whether written on paper or saved on a smartphone, shopping lists take on many forms suited for many people. Simply use what you're more comfortable with. Organize the list by section. Separate the list by type of grocery to cut shop- ping time down. Categories such as dairy, meats, produce, baking goods and beverages will helP you navigate the store efficiently rather than backtracking, wandering and circling. Separate wants from needs. Luckily for you, a meal plan automatically separates wants from needs. Still, don't skimp on snacks in between meals. Allot room in your list and your budget for a few snacks. That way, you'll have no reason to spontaneously dish out coins and bills to vending machines and drive- throughs. Consult with the family. Take family favorites into account when creating a shopping list. You can't expect your family to eat what you buy, so have them join in on the grocery list- making process. In fact, the family should have say with the meal-planning process too. Again, keep in mind separation of wants and needs, being~areful not to go overboard and over budget. Build around coupons and discounts. Keep up with in-store savings, mail-in coupons and manufacturer coupons. Scope out your store's membership program for customer rewards and loyalty perks. By knowing in advance what's on sale when, you can plan your meals arbund the week's cheapest eats. Think seasonally. Gener- ally, for in-season produce, go fresh, and hit up the frozen aisle for out-of-season goods. Because the supply is bountiful for in-season produce, prices for these fresh fruits and veggies are kept low. Keeping the season in mind as you make your meal plan and your grocery store route is an easY way to save money and give your meals variety throughout the year. Stick to the list. Perhaps most important, avbid shop- ping for goods off the list. Think of the shopping list as a budget more than a guideline. Unless considered part of the meal plan, the good in question is more likely a want rather than a need. By abiding by the list, you'll be shopping (and saving money) in no time. With these ideas in mind, set forth and conquer the grocery store. Just don't forget your map. Sheri Alzeerah is a journalist and freelance Writer for meal planning and grocery list service foodonthetable.com. r Heather Hunsaker Chef foodonthetable.corn Planning a romantic Valen- tine's dinner for twq? Well, with Valentine's Day just around the corner, you may find it hard to get a reservation at that fancy and expensive steak house. Instead, plan for a special night at home, full of good food and good company. Having a steak house dinner at home is easy, more personal and a lot less expensive. Here are four tips to help ensure you have a successful night with your loved one, no matter the occasion. Plan ahead: Dinner at home should be relaxed and stress free. Coordinate your schedule with your loved one so that you both will be home at the same time with no in- terruptions. Plan a dinner menu and select foods that the both of you like. Shop for your dinner ingredients in advance and prepare as much as you can beforehand. Eliminate distractions: Take this time to focus on each other and enjoy good company. Arrange for babysitting at a family member's house for the kids Or plan to enjoy your dinner after 'they have gone to bed. Turn off the television, computer and cellphones. Clean your home and keep your kitchen clean as you work and prepare your dinner. Set the mood: Dim the lights and light candles throughout your entire home. Set the dining room table with a clean, crisp tablecloth, your finest dishes and a vase of vibrant, fresh flowers. Play sentimental songs softly in the back- ground and get dressed for the occasion. The food: Keep dinner simple but plan to serve an appetizer, main course and dessert to make your special night together last for hours. Consider foods that require interaction and connection with each other, such as fondue; or serve up a menu full of "love" foods. Aphrodisiacs are foods that have been enjoyed for cen- turies for their love inducing powers. Recent scientific studies have proven that these foods really do have the ability to lower inhibi- tions and heighten moods. Honey, oysters, chocolate, strawberries, vanilla and asparagus are just a few of these love foods that you might want to include in your romantic dinner. With these tips, a little planning and some creative resourcefulness, a special eyening at home can be a night to remember. Serve up this classic seared sirloin with a baked potato, wedge salad and, of course, chocolate dipped strawberries for dessert. Seared Sirloin with Sweet Balsamic Sauce prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 15 minutes Serves: 4 In gredients: 1 pound boneless sirloin steak, 1 inch thick 114 cup red wine (water or beef broth may be substituted) 1 tablespoon soy sauce 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon sugar Place a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add beef and cook 4 minutes. Turn and cook 4 minutes longer or to your desired doneness. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine remaining sauce ingredients. Stir to blend and set aside. When beef is done, place on cutting board, cover with foil to keep warm, and let stand. Add sauce mixture to pan residue in skillet. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and cook 1 - 2 minutes, scraping bottom and sides of skillet. Thinly slice beef and Spoon sauce over to serve. Hunsaker graduated from Le Cordon Bleu College of CuUnary Arts. 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