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entertaining on a budget  
by Patricia Virella
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continued from page 1

savvy shopping
Chinatown is my all time favorite bargain land. Cheap butchers, cheap fish markets, cheap vegetables, cheap everything! Your sources may be limited and you may have to go to a lot of different vendors but the savings are worth it. I was able to snag three pounds of ground pork for pork dumplings for $4.00, plus one pound of green beans for $0.75, and a pound of spinach for $1.25. The savings are great … which is why I now shop at Chinatown for just about everything.

Farmers markets can also provide a plethora of savings. You can score cheap fruits and vegetables, and often even breads and pies. Also, some of the vendors will be willing to let you haggle a better price. One thing I have learned from a good farmers market is that if you really want something, and it happens to be perishable, the vendor will negotiate. So bargain! bargain! bargain! Your efforts will be well rewarded with the finest of fresh eats, at great prices.

Buying cans of veggies is also another way to save big, and sometimes frozen veggies can be just as cheap. Overall, if you have to choose whether to get fresh vegetables or better quality meat, go for the better quality meat and save on veggies. Asian dishes, especially curries and soup noodles, as well as some southern and Creole dishes, often work fine with canned and frozen vegetables. You can even serve up a great pasta primavera with vegetables found in the frozen food section. Depending on the recipe, canned and frozen veggies can work just as well as the fresh alternatives. Moreover, you can store them longer, so if you have leftover veggies, you can easily save the remainder for later use.

bulking up
Some dishes have the handy characteristic of possessing a "bulk" that belies their quantity, allowing you to skimp on other content. Pasta dishes and rice dishes are examples of "bulk" dishes, as are many soups. You can use tons of very affordable pasta as a bed for a relatively small amount of pricier veggies or meat. (For an extra special, low-cost treat, try your hand at crafting homemade pasta. With just three ingredients – eggs, salt and flour – fabulous food doesn’t get much more budget). The same trick works with rice dishes. Homemade soups can also be very filling and cheap. A chicken soup made from less expensive cuts, like wings and drumsticks, will fill up your guests with all the broth and veggies, while still providing plenty of good chicken flavor. A faux-"creamy" soup thickened with potatoes make an elegant, hearty starter that’s low in fat, and inexpensive too.

don't stop: more this way!


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