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No grocery coupons, but shopping bargains turn into a week's worth of recipes

“Why buy on sale when you can pay full price?"

I wouldn't exactly say that I live by this motto, though some think I come darn close. I've not been much for grocery coupons, nor have I sought out good deals on the food I buy. I want what I want when I want it. That bad attitude has cost me a lot of money over the years.

Lately, though, I've begun being seduced by the bargain. Specifically, the buy-one-get-one-free phenomenon that Publix is spreading throughout the South faster than melted butter in a hot pan.

And now I find my pantry filled with four bottles of ranch dressing, two each of spaghetti sauce and pesto, four boxes of various pasta, tons of tuna and mayonnaise, and countless cans of diced tomatoes, beans and soups, plus various other staples.

The freezer also holds deals that were too good to pass up. Two cheese pizzas, two packages each of bacon and bagels, a 2-pound bag of shrimp, three packs of boneless chicken thighs purchased at 99 cents a pound, two frozen pie crusts. Then there are the foil-and-bag mysteries. A stray chicken breast? A single sausage? A lumpy piece of ham from the holidays?

And the fridge. What a gold mine: a dozen eggs, two blocks of cheese (cheddar and Jack), several bottles of salad dressing and even some barbecue sauce.

The heck with saving money by collecting coupons and store-hopping for deals. How about seven days' worth of dinners from the bargains that made me giddy weeks ago? In short, could I buy milk and produce and get through seven days?

Heck yes. Here's the menu:

Monday: Pasta With Pesto topped with grilled boneless chicken thighs. Green salad on the side.

Tuesday: Cheese Grits With Shrimp and Bacon (see recipe).

Wednesday: Open-Face Bagel Tuna Melts and fresh fruit.

Thursday: Freestyle Chicken and Bean Pasta (see recipe) with steamed broccoli.

Friday: Bacon, Scallion and Jack Quiche.

Saturday: Canned split pea soup enhanced with leftover ham plus grilled cheese sandwiches.

Sunday: The fridge's foil packages yield two chicken breasts, one Italian sausage, one pork chop and two lobster tails snared last summer in the Keys. Thaw, then throw on the grill starting with what needs to cook the longest: chicken, sausage, pork chop and lobster. Serve the mixed grill with a rice pilaf mix from the back of the pantry and frozen spinach heated in garlic and olive oil.

But wait, I am not done. There's even enough on hand to make egg salad for sandwiches and a pasta salad to go with. Plus, cheese pizza with a barbecue ranch dipping sauce for a weekend lunch.

Who says I can't be thrifty? Don't answer that. My almost-bare cupboard is an invitation to start again. Now, where are those coupons? This time, I am going to try.

Janet K. Keeler can be reached at jkeeler@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8586.

>>EASY

Fast Shrimp and Grits

5 slices bacon

2 pounds peeled, raw shrimp

1/2 teaspoon paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

2 scallions, chopped

2 tablespoon minced parsley

Juice from 1 lemon

Cheese grits made according to package directions

Chop bacon and cook until crispy. While bacon is cooking, sprinkle paprika on shrimp and season with salt and pepper.

When bacon is done, remove it from the pan. Saute shrimp in bacon fat. When just pink, add scallions and parsley. Stir in lemon juice.

Pour grits into a shallow, wide serving bowl and ladle shrimp mixture, including the juice, over all.

Serves 4 to 6.

Source: Janet K. Keeler,

St. Petersburg Times

>>EASY

Freestyle Chicken and Bean Pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 small onion, diced

2 small garlic cloves, minced

6 chicken thighs (about 2.25 pounds)

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion

1 (15-ounce) can Northern beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

6 ounces thin spaghettini

Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in covered skillet large enough to fit all the thighs. Saute onion and garlic over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Add chicken, season with salt and pepper, and brown on both sides. This will take about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain off any rendered fat.

Add tomatoes and beans and cover pot. Let simmer for about 30 minutes. While chicken is simmering, cook the pasta. Ladle chicken over pasta and sprinkle cheese over all.

Serves 4.

Source: Janet K. Keeler,

St. Petersburg Times

No grocery coupons, but shopping bargains turn into a week's worth of recipes 03/23/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 22, 2010 11:01pm]

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