The tips in today’s post are filled with practiced wisdom for practical solutions, novel ideas, and inspiring concepts that make cooking fun and rewarding for you and your family—and stretch that food budgt!

GRATE SAVINGS. You pay a lot to have someone else grate your cheese for you—at least two bucks a pound more than if you buy it by the block. You’ll also save by cutting up whole chickens, slicing your own pickles, slicing meat for cold cuts, and using a blender or rolling pin to make your own bread crumbs.

FOUND FOOD. You know that last slice of bread? Often it’s dry, past its prime and not enough to make a sandwich, so into the garbage it goes. Well, not so fast!

Making your own breadcrumbs is as simple as whirring a few slices in a food processor blender until the bread becomes fine textured crumbs. Bake the crumbs on a baking sheet; 350 F stirring every 10 minutes. Depending on how much moisture you’re dealing with and the depth of the crumbs, it should take about 20 to 30 mins.

Make Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs by adding 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning blend to every 2 cups to crumbs before baking. Cool completely then store in an airtight container.

VEGGIE BOUQUET. Store asparagus in the fridge in a glass of water (like cut flowers in a vase). It will stay fresh for a couple of weeks. Works with celery, too.

STORE TOMATOES stem end down to keep them from spoiling as quickly. This prevents air from entering and moisture from exiting the scar where the tomato once attached to the vine. Storing them at room temperature rather than in the fridge also makes them last longer.

BEEF IN BULK. Buying the “family size” package of ground beef will chop the cost per pound significantly! But if you use it up faster just because you have more, there go the savings.

When you get home you need a reliable way to divide the meat into usable portions.

If a recipe is filling and tastes great with just 1 pound of ground beef, why use 1 1/4 pounds? If you try to eyeball that amount, you can easily be off by a quarter pound.

Investing in a reliable kitchen scale makes lots of sense. You don’t need anything fancy, just make sure to purchase one that can be easily cleaned. I have this digital multifunction food scale, about $12.

D.I.Y. BUTTERMILK. To make buttermilk when there’s none of the real stuff in the fridge, add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk. The mixture won’t get as thick and creamy as buttermilk, but it will help create fluffy pancakes and quick breads just the same.

COKE MARINADE. Tenderize cheaper cuts of meat by marinating them in cola. Several hours ahead of time place the meat in a bowl and cover with cvola. Add 2 of tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon garlic powder. While grilling brush the cola marinade over the steaks. This is a great way to use up cola that has gone flat!

BYE BUGS. To protect dry staples such as flour, meal, grits, pastas, and rice from contamination, pop in a couple of dry bay leaves. This won’t affect the taste, but it will prevent pesky bugs from ruining these products.

ACT LIKE A KID. If ordering a small smoothie from Caribou Coffee, get a kid’s size instead. It’s 27 percent smaller for $2 instead of $4.29.

WEIGH BAGGED PRODUCE. Use the handy scale in the produce department to weigh pre-weighed bags. For example, if you’re buying a 10-pound bag of potatoes, weigh several. The bags will vary and you’re sure to find one that’s 10 and a half or more for the same price.

SOFTEN BUTTER IN A FLASH. Keeping butter out on the counter for an hour isn’t exactly ideal for a tight schedule. To speed up the process, grate it with a cheese grater or flatten it with a rolling pin (but put it in a plastic bag first) for spreadable, mixable butter in a pinch.

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