"Within the limitations of your budget, you can set a table that has variety and distinction. You can serve gourmet food. It is not the basic cost of the food but the care with which it is selected and prepared that makes it gourmet rather than pedestrian."

-- James Beard in

"How to Eat Better for

Less Money" (Simon and

Schuster, 1970)

* If your storage space permits, buy in large quantities.

* Buy store brands, as they usually cost less.

* Compare prices based on how many servings you'll get.

* Build your meals around legumes and whole grains, less expensive but nutritious protein sources.

* Buy seasonally. Food will usually be cheaper when it is in season.

* Buy cheaper meat cuts such as the beef round.

* Batch cook, divide into servings and save the leftovers in the refrigerator or freezer for future meals.

* Bring lunches to work.

* Make sure each meal is balanced with at least four food groups, and plenty of fruits or vegetables.

* Compare the cost of a homemade version vs.a store- or restaurant- made version of the same dish.

* Compare the fresh, canned and frozen version of your foods. Buy the one that gives you the best price for the serving size.

U.S. Department of Agriculture's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion has many ideas for saving money while eating healthy meals at www.cnpp.usda.gov/foodplans.html. For a copy of the center's "Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals" (Stock No. 001-000- 04680-2, $5.50 per copy), call the Government Printing Office at 202-512-1800.

-- Katherine Tallmadge