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Stock your pantry with holiday deals

Holiday food sales mean good deals on certain foodstuffs. Fill your cupboards now before prices go up again.

By Donna_Freedman Dec 6, 2011 1:04PM

The food ads are mighty attractive at this time of year even up here in Anchorage, where prices are noticeably higher than in the Lower 48.

A few of the items currently being offered at decent sale prices: bacon, eggs, cheese, soup, canned tomatoes, flour, chicken broth, coffee, yams, canned and plain frozen vegetables, crackers (I'm partial to the cracked pepper and olive oil Triscuits), potatoes, butter, apples and canned beans.

The idea is to get us to buy extra ingredients for holiday meals and those homemade sweets. But why not buy extra ingredients for ourselves?

This may seem like an obvious idea, but not everyone thinks along frugal lines. They buy the way they usually do, i.e., week to week. The trouble is, food prices go up from week to week. By locking in at current prices you're investing in food futures, so to speak.

Having extra food on hand also means you always have something to fix for lunch or dinner. This helps you not to rely on takeout.

Worst-case scenario: If your fortunes go south in the new year, you have what MSN Money columnist Liz Weston calls "the emergency fund you can eat." Post continues below.

The sunk-cost menu

Your budget may be stretched during the holidays. (Or maybe year-round.) But anyone with even an extra dollar or two per shopping trip should be looking to stock up.

The canned tomatoes and beans can be turned into a 20-minute chili that will warm you on a cold January evening. With some cheese and a mug of tomato soup, those Triscuits will make a simple but satisfying weekend lunch. That loss-leader flour is the centerpiece for a night-before-payday event known as "breakfast for supper" -- pancakes or waffles.

Best of all: These will be sunk-cost meals. So stock up for January and beyond, when you're receiving a higher-than-usual utility bill due to a cold snap -- or the credit card bills from holiday indulgences.

Position yourself now for a little after-the-fact frugality. Keep your favorite chili recipe handy, too.

MSN Money columnist Donna Freedman blogs at Smart Spending and Surviving and Thriving.

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