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Budgeting is not an easy task for homemakers especially in these times of economic difficulties. Mothers are faced with the problem of how to extend the family's budget in order to meet all the needs of the family as the increase in prices of basic commodities is dragging the budget down.

Here are some simple tips that can help you stick to your budget:

Menu Planning

Menu planning is a very important step to stick to your budget. Advance menu planning will also help you reduce leftover foods. Planning carefully what to cook for the next meal involves a great deal of energy, not to mention the time and money that you have to spend.

Use the Pinggang Pinoy food guide to help you select the right kind of foods for your family. The Pinggang Pinoy food guide conveys in a simple and understandable way the concept of eating a variety of foods in the right proportions as depicted in the form of a food plate. The Guide classifies food into three basic food groups from which you can choose healthy foods to build a healthy plate at mealtimes. Foods within a group have similar nutritive values and may be substituted for one another. Choose foods from each group that are cheap, available and in season.

This is an easy-to-understand food guide for adults to know how much to eat per meal using a food plate model. Pinggang Pinoy illustrates recommendations of the right proportions of various food groups to consume a healthy and balanced meal.

• Plan meals in advance (in a week or three days) if you will have a busy schedule ahead of you.
• Use cycle menus (rotation of menus) in planning meals.
• Serve fresh fruits, fruit juices or root crops for snacks.
• Use leftovers.
• Prepare fried fish or meat into cardillo, omelette, escabeche, or sarciado.
• Chop meat from your sinigang or linaga, saute with vegetables, mix with pancit or lumpia, or make into mechado.
• Fry leftover rice. For more nutrients and flavor, add flaked fish, chopped meat, egg, and shrimps. Season and serve with green leafy vegetables to make the dish palatable and attractive.
• Make popped rice (ampaw) from leftovers. Just dry leftover rice under the sun, fry in cooking oil and sprinkle with brown sugar.
• Toast pan de sal and pan americano with margarine and sugar or make into pudding. You can also cut them into bits and mix in your fish or meat burgers.
• Use fats and oils in preparing family meals for more energy

Shopping/ Buying Wisely

Shop wisely so you can stay within your budget. With the proliferation of too many “adulterated” food products in the wet and dry markets, you are not often aware that the foods weigh less than the money you spend in buying these foods. Adulterated food is food that contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health (unless naturally occurring substances are present which are not ordinarily injurious to health). It also contains an unsafe food additive and has been prepared, packaged or held under unsanitary conditions.

The following are helpful tips to consider before, during and after going to the market
• Prepare a market list. This will prevent unnecessary trips to the market and buying of needless items.
• Choose foods in their best quality.
• Do not buy frozen meat, seafood, or poultry with damaged packages.
• Buy fruits and vegetable that are in season. Whole fruits and vegetables should be clean and the skin should not be cut or damaged.
• Fresh fruits and vegetables are better buys than canned products. The fresher they are, the more nutrients they contain.
• The greener or the deeper the yellow color of a vegetable, the more pro-vitamin A you get.
• Lean cuts of beef like punta y pecho, kabilugan or kenchi give more servings and are good buys compared to cuts that are made of bones and fats like tadyang and leeg.
• Fresh meats are usually cheaper than canned meats. Both have the same food value.
• Organ meats like liver, kidney, heart, sweetbread and pancreas contain as much protein as the more expensive lean cuts.
• Weight for weight, the small cheaper fish gives you as much protein as the big ones. Small fish also gives you more calcium because their bones are edible.
• Use good judgement in selecting brands and trademark of canned products. Shop around first and read labels carefully to compare quality, quantity and price.
• Buy in quantity based on your needs and storage facilities.
• If you have extra money and storage space, buy items that you use often when you see them on “ special”. Take advantage of “sales”. Make sure you check on the expiration dates of said products.

Cooking

Knowing what to cook and how to cook a certain food is important in stretching the family's food budget. The following are pointers for preparing a nutritious yet affordable meal for the family:
• Do one time cooking on Saturdays and Sundays, e.g. boiled one kilogram of meat instead of half kilogram. Refrigerate or freeze in amount for one time serving for your family. Add fresh vegetables (i.e. nilaga or sinigang) during the re-heating prior to serving to preserve nutrients in vegetables.
• Cook more often one-dish meals like sinigang, linaga, pinakbet, tinola, ginisang munggo, to save time, money and effort.
• Use dried fish or beans to extend your meat supply. Cook and serve dried beans in a variety of ways like menudo with garbanzos or pork and beans.
• Extend your precious rice supply with corn and root crops such as yellow kamote, gabi, tugi. Serve boiled rootcrops for snacks.
• Prepare baby's foods from the family pot. Mash, flake or strain foods to suit baby's needs.
• Oil can be reused four times without affecting food flavor if you add one part fresh oil to three parts used oil before each reuse. Before storing used oil, remove the burnt particles to preserve the oil’s flavor and odor.

For more information on food and nutrition, contact: Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City; Telephone/ Fax Nos: 837-2934 or 837-3164; Direct Line:839-1839; DOST Trunk Line: 837-2071-82 local 2296 or 2284; e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; FNRI-DOST website: http://www.fnri.dost.gov.ph. Like our Facebook page at facebook.com/FNRI.DOST or follow our Twitter account at twitter.com/FNRI_DOST. (DOST-FNRI S&T Media Service: Press Release- MA. IDELIA G. GLORIOSO)

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