Special Reports

Eating in and eating out budget tips

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Americans are paying up to 50-percent more on grocery bills these days and the soaring cost of certain staples are forcing some restaurants to raise prices, too. But not to worry Action News has been digging for ways you can get all kinds of deals and discounts on food.

A loaf of bread will cost you 15-percent more these days, eggs 25-percent more! But by now most of us know to clip coupons, buy in bulk, and choose generic instead of brand name. Action News went searching for different ways to save money on food when you're in the grocery store, a fancy restaurant, or your own kitchen.

As culinary director of Albertson's Cooking School in Wynnewood, Ann-Michelle never skimps on taste or quality but she does skimp on spending.

Her secret is substituting certain ingredients with other items that work just as well but end up costing less.

In a chocolate cake recipe, Ann-Michelle said to switch out the buttermilk. The recipe calls for a half-cup but buttermilk usually comes in a quart size container and she doesn't need that much.

"Everybody has distilled vinegar in their pantry, it curdles the milk, that's all that buttermilk is, is curdled milk," Ann-Michelle said. "Instead of buying the quart of buttermilk, you pour your regular milk - measure out a half cup of regular milk and add a touch of distilled vinegar to it."

Or use powdered buttermilk and if a recipe calls for regular milk use powdered Parmalat instead.

Ann-Michelle's cake also calls for half a cup of pureed prunes but they normally come in 16-ounce cans that cost four or five-dollars. Instead:

"Go down the baby food aisle. They have pureed prunes for 99-cents in almost the exact serving size you need."

We all know filet mignon is great but pricey the good news is you do have other tasty options.

"What a lot of people don't know is it all comes from the same loin, at the end of the loin is something called filet tails and they will sell for half the price of what a regular filet mignon is," Ann-Michelle said.

Also substitute high-quality ham for prosciutto.

Weavers Way is one of a growing number of co-op markets in the Delaware Valley.

"I save about 100-dollars a month."

Gloria Bell is a member of Weavers Way, on top of her membership she donates six hours of her time every year to the shop.

"I'm here wrapping fish, I also wrap chicken. I work with prepared food sometimes," she said. "And it helps our bottom line and lets us have lower prices as a result of that."

Anyone can shop at Weavers Way but if you're not a member you will pay a 10-percent fee. Members pay a 30-dollar annual fee.

"And we do have a rebate we give back to our members at the end of the year - this year we gave back 100-thousand-dollars in February to the membership," said Operations Manager Rick Spalek.

Prices on many items are lower at Weavers Way than at regular stores because co-ops are owned by members, which mean there's no owner making a profit off purchases. Plus, co-ops buy from local companies and growers which minimizes the cost of shipping.

A two pound bag of organic carrots is two-dollars at Weavers Way, $2.49 at a traditional grocery store. And you'll pay $1.15 per pound for fresh green beans at the co-op, $1.69 per pound elsewhere.

Angel Food Ministries sells boxes of food worth 65-dollars for just 30-dollars. It doesn't use out-of-date food or inferior products; instead, it buys food from first-rate suppliers at substantial volume discounts.

Each box of food can feed a single senior citizen for about a month or a family of four for about a week. For example, May's menu includes bacon-wrapped beef filets, pork steaks, lunch and breakfast items as well as veggies, milk and eggs.

Anyone can participate there are no restrictions, conditions, or forms to fill out - and you can buy an unlimited number of boxes.

All you have to do is buy from your nearest host site. Call toll-free1-888-819-3745.

"We're offering a great value at lunch. It's a 19-dollar café table three courses," said Jeffrey Miller, the General Manager at the Park Hyatt Philadelphia.

Of course, even in these tough economic times many consumers still want to splurge. At XIX in the Park Hyatt Philadelphia a 19-dollar lunch is a hefty discount off normal menu prices. The deal includes a salad, meat and cheese buffet, an entrée from the kitchen and a dessert buffet.

"I think the lunch deal's great because you get a very high quality meal at a reasonable price," said one customer.

Other restaurant deals in Philadelphia:

Lunch Deals
XIX
**$19, three courses in the café

Amada
**Catalan Express  $12.50

Tinto
**Biablo Express - $14.50

Weekly Price Fix
Xochitl
**On Sunday, guacamole prepared tableside and any appetizer, entree and dessert for just $35
**Thursday's "staff meal"  half price late menu in the lounge

Marigold Kitchen
**Sundays, three courses for $30

Fork, etc Bistro Table
**Every Wednesday night starting at 8 pm, $40 for three courses including wine

Iron Hill in West Chester
**Every other Wednesday night, 7 pm, four courses, paired with wine or beer - Chef's Table with Executive Chef Dan Bethard

XIX **Monday to Friday, the $30 Café Table Dinner Menu  three, courses- including coffee or tea.

Happy Hours

White Dog Café
**Late Night Happy Hour  Sunday to Thursday, from 10 pm to midnight  half off pints of craft draft beers.

London Grill
**Monday to Friday from 4 to 7 pm, $3 Happy Hours
**$3 mini meals (mini fish & chips, mini duck quesadillas, mini mussels, mini duck spring rolls, mini grilled chicken and brie, mini London burger [with caramelized onions and boursin]  wimpy stack is 4 minis for $10, mini mixed greens, mini soup etc.)
**$3 draughts
**$3 well drinks
**$3 beer bottles

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