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Shop now to save on foods for the holidays

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The calendar tells us that the holidays are not far away. While shopping for decorations and gifts may be on the minds of many shoppers, it's also a good time to be thinking about shopping for holiday foods that will be served for those special meals and parties.

Karen Blakeslee, Kansas State University Research and Extension food scientist, reminds shoppers that it's not too early to start looking for savings on traditional holiday foods.

"Now it the time to start looking for specials," said Blakeslee, who reports recent sale prices in her area on frozen turkeys, stuffing mixes, fresh and canned cranberries, canned fruits and vegetables (including pumpkin), frozen fruits and vegetables, and baking supplies such as flour, sugar, and frozen and refrigerated pastry and pie crusts.

Weekly grocery store specials will be offering many food items that will be needed during the holidays, so now is a great time to start stocking the cupboards and the freezer. It will save time as the holiday season gets busier and will help to spread out the expenses. Buying early, when stores are less crowded and supplies are plentiful can also help reduce holiday stress.

Blakeslee recommends choosing health-promoting holiday foods, such as:

* Lean poultry and meats;

* Low-sodium versions of canned vegetables, vegetable juices, soups and sauces;

* Fruits canned in natural juices (rather than sweetened syrup);

* Whole grain breads, crackers, and rolls that add flavor -- and fiber;

* Whole wheat and specialty grain flours for baking, with consideration for adding extra fiber from bran or milled flaxseed;

* Lowfat dairy, including cheeses, sour cream, dips and spreads; and,

* Ingredients such as lowfat or nonfat canned milk and sugar-free gelatin that add fewer calories or fat.

While buying holiday foods at pre-holiday sale prices can generate a savings, shoppers should consider planning their menus and the number of guests so as not to overbuy and waste food.

It's not too soon to start baking, either. Blakeslee recommends baking quick or yeast breads or rolls now and freezing them for future meals. That frees up oven time for other foods that need to be prepared just prior to the meal.

When preparing baked goods that will be frozen, be sure they have cooled completely before wrapping for the freezer. Yeast breads may have a yeasty taste if packaged while still warm. Double wrap in freezer-type bags or containers so any odors from the freezer will not be absorbed.

Frozen products should be removed from the freezer a few hours before serving and allowed to thaw at room temperature still wrapped in the freezer packaging. For the best quality, do not open the packaging until the product is completely thawed and all ice crystals have been re-absorbed.

Speaking of holidays, the annual Fall Follies programs, sponsored by Extension and by the Family and Community Education (FCE) units will be Thursday, Nov. 18, starting at 5:15 p.m. with refreshments, at the First Southern Baptist Church. The first program will be on feed sacks -- the history of fabric feed sacks and sharing of feed sack items by those attending. At 6:30, a program on nuts will discuss the research which supports including nuts in the diet, portion size, and ways to include nuts in meals and snacks. The public is invited to attend either or both programs.

Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Bourbon County. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.

Ann Ludlum
FCS Agent, Southwind District
Editor's Note: Ann Ludlum is a K-State Research and Extension family and consumer sciences and 4-H extension agent assigned to Southwind District -- Fort Scott office. She may be reached at (620) 223-3720 or aludlum@ksu.edu.