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Chicken and egg and beef prices, oh my! Food costs continue to rise for a lot of popular items but we’ve still got to eat, right?

I try to maintain a well-stocked pantry (and fridge and freezer), so that I can whip up a meal by buying just a few things to augment. If I have eggs, it’s easy to make a frittata with fresh veggies bought at the last minute, frozen spinach from the freezer and grated Swiss cheese purchased on sale. A jar of red sauce, dried pasta and seasoned bread crumbs already in the pantry come in handy to make Spaghetti with Meatballs when I find ground beef on sale.

Of course, the trick is to assess what you have and needbefore you shop. I sometimes forget to do this even though this is the best way for me to take advantage of what’s on sale.

Some of the shelf-stable foods I like to have: Various types of canned tomatoes, tuna, black beans, garbanzo beans, corn, chicken stock, salsa, crackers and peanut butter.

There’s more, of course, but I am wondering what food items you always have on hand and what your shopping strategies are to stock the pantry.

Me? I am a fiend for the BOGO items at the grocery store where I shop. Somehow, I am never more smug than when I can score two big cans of albacore tuna for the price of one!

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I've been shopping the values. For example, I make stir fry once a week. I used to use chicken, but have not been finding any good deals. So, when I go out (three different local grocery stores) I look for good alternatives. A few weeks ago, it was a piece of beef for under $4 that sliced up nice and when into the stir fry. Last week, I threw in a good value on stew meat. I also shop for value in vegetables. My Aldi's has frozen broccoli crowns for .77 a bag. I can't buy fresh for that!

We keep plenty of "fancy" flour on hand for pizza nights, great when cheese and other toppings go on sale. Also, you can put just about anything on a pizza (in reason) and it'll be good.

Same goes for masa – it's easy to whip up tortillas or masa patties when the urge hits or we want to switch things up. Let's just hope that cilantro doesn't shoot up to $10 a bunch and limes don't start going for $5 each!

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