Use less money while still eating well

I was totally bummed to read last week that the price of vegetables jumped 6 percent in June. Eggs and beef edged a bit higher too.

It's not that I don't know food costs are rising. I see it every time I go to the grocery store. The $180 weekly grocery tab for my family of three buys less and less. Thank you, Exxon and Co.

But I worry that the cost of produce and other basics, coupled with regular stories about contaminated veggies, scares people away from eating (and cooking) real food. And by real food I mean something close to its original form. Chicken breasts vs. chicken nuggets. Milk vs. Milk Duds. Sweet onions vs. onion dip.

Yes, eggs are more expensive than they were a few years back. I try not to look at the price tag and think about what I can do with a dozen eggs. Besides the usual breakfast fare, there are deviled eggs, quick breads, quiches, frittatas and egg salad. Most of these foods can be prepared with pantry items and veggies lingering in the vegetable crisper.

Starbucks' new Vivanno "nourishing blends" also got me thinking about our perception of nutrition and what we're willing to pay for food. The Orange Mango and Banana Chocolate smoothies seem like health food compared to the chain's calorie-laden coffee blends. Both Vivannos are under 250 calories and have about 20 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber. They are made with fresh fruit, whey and fiber powder, fruit juice and no artificial sweetener.

A 1-ounce piece of hard cheese and a medium orange will give you about the same nutrition for 100 calories less and half the money. Actually, less than that, considering a Vivanno costs $4.23. I can buy an 8-ounce block of cheese and nearly a pound of oranges for that.

If I sound like someone's mother, it's because I am and I want us to eat right.

Your signature dish

Since we launched the new Taste section in May, this space has mostly been occupied by Signature Dish, a feature highlighting local cooks and their best-loved recipes. I'm inviting more people to nominate themselves or someone they know.

I'm looking for a variety of dishes (desserts, appetizers, entrees, salads, soups, etc.) from cooks of all ages throughout the bay area.

Don't be afraid to brag about your fish tacos or your neighbor's lasagna. Good cooks love to share.

Please e-mail nominations to features@sptimes.com with a name and daytime phone number. Include SIGNATURE DISH in the subject line. Nominations can be mailed to Taste, St. Petersburg Times, 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

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

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Use less money while still eating well 07/22/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 22, 2008 4:30am]

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