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99-Cent Foodstuffs

One-Dollar Dish on Good Morning America
[Article by Sarah Copeland, Dime Store Diva, Food Network Kitchens, edited]

At the Food Network Kitchens, we live for the joy in getting folks to cook more (and better) at home.... challenged by the soaring costs of food....Milk, eggs and cereal grains (basics) are raising as many alerts as rising fuel costs....

....We're dedicated to our partnership with Share Our Strength and their fight to end childhood hunger in America in our lifetime....Good Morning America called and challenged me to cook a delicious three-course meal using only ingredients from the 99-cent store.

In general, you'll always find me touting fresh, seasonal and local products whenever possible. I value relationships with local farmers and fish mongers, artisanal cheesemakers and bakers.., because those purchases help to preserve a food culture, a community and an agricultural landscape that has tremendous value to the health of our society. But if I am going to buy canned tomatoes or beans that have been shipped across the country to my grocer's shelves, why not (a) price of 99-cents? And what if I put the extra pennies I saved in a jar and gave them to Share Our Strength? And, what if a few other people got the same idea...

So, I accepted the challenge. The segment, which aired April 13, follows Andrea Canning and me to a 99-Cent store in central Manhattan. Then we went to cook both low-cost and luxury versions of the same dish. In the end, the high-end versions won the live taste tests, but the dollar-store dinners were a close second and the savings was over $80....

...Here are a few things to consider:

  • Always check sell-by dates on all products. Avoid expired ingredients.
  • Watch for dented cans, which may disturb the safety of the ingredients. Most stores will take these right off the shelves, but never put your food safety in someone else's hands.
  • Look for ingredients that are minimally processed and pack the most nutritional bang for your buck. Shopping at the dollar store doesn't need to be trip to the junk food hall of fame. Canned tomatoes and beets are packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Frozen vegetables retain most of their vitamins, and yogurt and nuts are healthy protein options that won't break your bank or clog your arteries.
  • Since most dollar stores don't sell fresh produce or herbs, use healthy products with big flavors like V-8 juice, which has the aromas of celery, onions and tomatoes all in one can (plus loads of essential vitamins).

Check back in for more details on rising food costs from our culinary research expert Jonathan Milder. In the meantime, take a spin through your local 99-cent store (on your way to the farmer's market, of course). I bet my bottom dollar (or at least 99-cents) that you'll be surprised at what you find.