Holding the line on the food budget

Yes, we all know that food prices are rising. It's worth remembering that this isn't just happening in the United States but that food prices have risen worldwide. If you look at the global picture, you won't complain about paying $4.00 for a gallon of milk. Bottom line? We are still food rich and we have lots of alternatives if we don't want to pay more for groceries.

Thinking about food purchasing and preparation is another opportunity that the recession brings for recalibrating how we live and spend. We eat and spend too much and move around too little.

Here's a challenge.Take a small spiral notebook and use to it keep track of what you eat and what you pay for the next week. Include the bottle of diet coke that you buy at the gas station, the $28 you spend on take-out, the totals at the grocery store, the five cups of coffee or vitamin water. At the end of the week, sit down with the local store circulars and see whether you can't easily feed your family for less than 2/3 of that amount.

What you do depends on the stores that you can access easily. Here on Cape Cod, I get terrific bang for the buck buying about 1/3 of my food at Ocean State Job Lot. We have access to a Roche Bros., which has terrific sales. And once a month, I make the trip to my favorite store of all -- Trader Joe's, where they actually GIVE you a cup of coffee.

If you're trying Jenny Craig or Nutrisystem, check out eBay.

No matter how you look at it, rice, pasta and beans are not only still plentiful but still cheap for us. Yes, you may decide to pass on tomatoes when they're running $3.49/pound, but you can still make a great coleslaw for $1.00/pound.

I'm fired up today. I'm putting on my pedometer and tossing a spiral notebook into my pocketbook. As they say in the Anonymous programs, "just for today," I'll keep track of how much I move and how much I spend.

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