If food prices continue at their present rate, by the end of this year you will be paying 20 percent more for groceries than you did last year.
Or if you want to look at it another way, what cost you $10 in 1967 now costs you $19.50.
How about the fact that the price of food in Washington went up 2.6 percent in June or twice the usual increase for that time of year? And leading the pack, as it has since last October, is beef. In the last eight months beef prices have risen 30.7 percent.
Since you can't stop eating, and long ago you probably gave up sirloin steaks and traded down to chuck steaks, which were then supplanted by hamburgers, and maybe now beans, are there really any ways left to cut back?
Yes. But in order to save money, you may to have expend some time - shopping carefully and cooking - and you may have to consider additional changes in your eating habits.
One-stop shopping may be quick but it isn't the way to save money.If you use the newspaper food ads and can keep a rough estimate of major food costs from one week to the next you will be able to spot the buys in the ads. Everything advertised is not a bargain.
Last week, for instance, one supermarket chain was selling whole chickens for 49 cents a pound. Another chain had chicken parts on sale. But chicken parts are never a good buy. It's always cheapest to buy whole chickens. At the same time, ground beef was being advertised at $1.19 a pound. That's the price it has been every day for weeks now.
So far, no one seems to have put ground beef on sale, even though the more expensive cuts of meat have been on special recently. But even at $1.79 a pound, sirloin steak is high.
The price of fruits and vegetables in season is beginning to make them reasonable enough to buy now. A combination of a terrible growing season in California and general inflation had put the common garden variety iceberg lettuce into "fit for a Shah" category. But romaine lettuce has been 29 cents a pound for the last few weeks and green peppers, which had ben selling for 39 cents each, have been 6 for $1. Zucchini and yellow squash have come down in price, too.
Nectarines which started out the season at 89 cents a pound are now 49 cents. So are peaches and plums. But blueberries are still high, as much as $1.09 a pint.
In other words, things are looking better for vegetarians, but not for those who still want some meat to go with their vegetables. And that's where a slight change in eating habits may help to alleviate the problem.
Few people want to be forced into being vegetarians just because the price of meat is so high. Some might, however, be willing to cut back. And in the summer, it's probably easier to do than any other time of year. Lighter foods and less of them appeal to many in the hot weather. Every dinner doesn't have to be roast, potatoes, a vegetable and dessert.
There are a couple of relatively painless ways to cut down on the amount of meat you serve. For one thing, don't make it the centerpiece of the meal. Give the starring role to a vegetable casserole, an interesting starchy dish or a big salad and serve the meat on the side.You can also use small amounts of meat as a garnish or flavor enhancer for a salad or casserole.
Make a roast that would have been finished with one meal and possibly a sandwich for lunch the next day, last for two dinners. Slice it thinner than usual for the first dinner, cut the leftovers into julienne strips and add to the second night's main course. Follow the lead of the Chinese who know how to make small amounts of meats go further than anyone else. Bits of leftover chicken will give additional flavor to dishes such as egg foo yong.
One possible subterfuge, which was standard operating procedure in the days when dinner wasn't considered complete without a first course and dessert, is to take the edge off everyone's appetite before the main course even hits the table. Start the meal with a wedge of melon, a glass of tomato juice or a bowl of cold soup.
Here is an assortment of recipe ideas that may help keep the food bill from getting any further out of hand. EGG FOO YONG (6 servings) 10 eggs, well beaten 3 cups bean sprouts, washed and drained 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion Salt and pepper to taste 3/4 cup leftover cooked meat, fish or chicken scraps Salad oil Sauce: 1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon cornstarch 3 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce 1 1/2 cups water
Add the sprouts, onion, salt and pepper and meat scraps to the beaten eggs. Heat large skillet and coat well with oil. Pour batter in hot oil and cook on both sides, like a pancake, until golden. While eggs are cooking, make the sauce. Mix the cornstarch and sugar and stir in the soy sauce and water. Cook until thickened, stirring. Serve sauce over cooked eggs. SUNSHINE PASTA (4 servings)
Make this dish the centerpiece of the meal; serve a small portion of meat on the side. 1 pound package elbow macaroni 4 tablespoons butter 4 tablespoons flour 2 cups milk 1/2 cup oil and vinegar dressing 10 tablespoons orange juice concentrate, undiluted 8 black olives, chopped 3/4 cup chopped, unsalted peanuts Salt and pepper to taste 3 medium oranges, sliced
Cook the macaroni until just tender: drain. Melt the butter: off the heat, blend in the flour, then stir in the milk. Return to low heat and cook, stirring, until thickened. Add the dressing and orange juice. Combine the macaroni with the olives, peanuts and oranges. Season with salt and pepper. Then gently stir in the dressing-orange juice mixture. Place in a casserole and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes, or until heated through. STUFFED GREEN PEPPERS (6 servings) 3 large green peppers 1/2 pound ground beef 1 onion, chopped 1 1/2 cups cooked rice 2 peeled tomatoes, chopped 4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped 2 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt Salt and pepper to taste 6 tablespoons grated cheese
Cut the peppers in half lenghtwise and seed. Scald in hot water four or five minutes. Drain. Meanwhile brown the beef and onion in a skillet. Add the rice, tomatoes, eggs and sour cream. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Stuff pepper halves with mixture and place in baking dish. Sprinkle each half with a tablespoon of cheese and bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes, until pepper is tender. ARMENIAN SALAD (4 servings) 1 cup bulgur 2 cups cold water Salt to taste 1/2 cup oil and vinegar dressing 2 tablespoons diced green pepper 1/4 cup chopped chives or green onion 1/2 cup diced celery 8 pimiento-stuffed green olives, sliced 1 can tuna packed in water, rinsed and drained 16 cherry tomatoes, halved 1/4 cup mayonnaise Crisp salad greens
Combine the bulgur with cold water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes. Drain. Pour dressing over hot bulgur. Chill for at least one hour, overnight, if desired. Add remaining ingredients, except the salad greens, to the bulgur and mix gently. Serve on the greens. GREEK SALAD (4 servings) 1 head lettuce, shredded 1 cup chopped celery 2 peeled cucumbers, chopped 2 small onions, sliced thinly 4 medium tomatoes, sliced 1 green pepper, chopped 10 black olives, sliced 1/2 pound Feta cheese, crumbled Juice of 4 lemons 2/3 cup olive oil* 2 teaspoons dried oregano 1 tin of sardines, drained
Toss together the lettuce, celery, cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, green pepper, olives and cheese. Mix together the lemon juice, oil and oregano. Toss with the salad ingredients. Garnish with sardines.(FOOTNOTE)
* The preferred oil is olive, but due to it's cost you may wish to substitute salad oil. Or use only 1/4 cup olive oil for flavor and add salad oil to fill the required 2/3 cup. COLD CUCUMBER SOUP (8 servings) 4 tablespoons butter 1/2 cup green onions 3 cups diced raw potatoes 4 cups chicken broth 1 cup watercress leaves Salt and pepper to taste Dash hot pepper sauce 2 cups sour cream or plain yogurt or combination of both Minced chives for garnish
In a skillet melt the butter. Saute the green onion until it is wilted. Add the cucumbers, Potatoes and chicken broth and simmer 15 minutes. During last five minutes, add watercress leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Puree in blender, food mill or food processor. Cool. When cold, add hot pepper sauce and sour cream and/or yogurt. Mix well and chill at least 2 hours longer or overnight, if desired. Serve sprinkled with chives.(END FOOT)