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The cost of gas is rising almost daily. There's no end in sight. The higher the gas and oil prices go, the higher the cost of everything else seems to soar as well! This, unfortunately, includes the cost of food. You can park your car, but you can't stop eating.

So, how can we avoid turning to cheap, unhealthy food during these hard times?

Here are some valuable ways to pick up good food without breaking your budget so you and your family can stay the course to a healthier lifestyle.

1. Grow your own. It doesn't take a lot of space to grow your own vegetables. All you need is a patch of yard - or even a windowsill - where the sun shines often. A bit of weeding and feeding and soon you'll be feasting on your own homegrown tomatoes, peppers, radishes or beans. Remember, if your goal is to cut back on eating expenses, a small veggie garden will reduce your grocery bill!

2. Right on, leftovers! If you are usually one to throw away food, now is the perfect time to become a saver instead of a scrapper. Leftovers should become your very best friend in times of financial strain. If you can have two meals for the price of one, then shouldn't you do it? YES! So start saving and you'll be seeing double when you dine at home or at a restaurant!

3. Clipping coupons. If you knew there was a way for you to save 10, 20, 30 or even 40 to 50% off your grocery bill... wouldn't you jump on it? Such a way exists, folks - and it's called the notorious coupon! These babies are a great way to save a little here, a little there - and it adds up! So take advantage and start clippin'! Just remember to stick with coupons for products you usually buy.

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4. Bulk up! Buying in bulk can add muscle to your food budget. You can buy a huge box of cereal from the grocery store, or a good amount of meat from the butcher shop and freeze what you don't eat on Day One. And contrary to popular belief, you can buy fresh produce in bulk. The trick is to "go in on it" with a friend or two. Buddying up will allow you to buy more for less! Since you're splitting it with a friend, it won't go bad before you can finish it. Brilliant!

5. Store brand mania! If you think that there's a huge difference between the store brand and the name brand, then you have fallen into the marketing trap of clever advertising! The fact is that with brand-name items, you're paying for the advertising that promotes the brand name. Go ahead and compare ingredients and you'll find that you can buy many of the same exact items for A LOT LESS if it's got a generic store brand name stamped on it.

The cost of living is certainly increasing, but that doesn't mean that your quality of living should take a downturn. Food is more important than gas - so make sure that you're not skimping on the quality of your meals now that they are costing more.

Keep these tips in mind and you'll enjoy a satisfied belly AND a fatter wallet!

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