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ST. LOUIS — In one recent month, more than 3,000 clients visited the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry in west St. Louis County, Mo. Simply providing them with food might be considered a success, but by giving clients tips for stretching their food budgets and by placing an increased emphasis on healthy eating, pantry coordinator Sue Rundblad and her staff were able to stretch their resources even further.

“We need food, food and more food,” said Ellen Sabin, a program assistant at the pantry, which is housed in the Jewish Family Services Building in west St. Louis County. “But now we’re also putting more emphasis on healthy food by asking for donations of low-sugar, low-fat and low-salt items whenever that’s possible.”

Rundblad added, “If you’re not healthy, you’ll end up spending more on medicine and have even less to spend on food.”

The pantry is open to anyone in need, and no appointment is required.

Demand has been growing steadily for many months: Rundblad estimates that 20 percent of December’s clients were first-time visitors.

Even with rising food prices, breakfast, lunch and dinner for a family of four can be had for less than $10.

For ideas, Rundblad recommends that cooks on a budget visit the United States Department of Agriculture’s Recipe Finder Database, recipefinder.nal.usda.gov.

The Web site allows searches based on ingredients, cost preserving, dietary restrictions, ethnic preferences and many other qualifiers. Recipes include nutritional information. “It’s a terrific tool,” she said.

Rundblad devised this menu. She shopped at Aldi, spending just $9.16.

TUNA QUESADILLAS

Yield: 4 servings

1 (5-ounce) can tuna packed in water, drained

1 tablespoon light mayonnaise

4 flour tortillas

1/2 cup grated low-fat Cheddar cheese, divided

1. Mix tuna with mayonnaise.

2. If using a microwave, spoon filling onto half of each tortilla, dividing evenly. For each tortilla, top filling with 2 tablespoons cheese. Fold tortilla in half. Microwave on high for 60 seconds or until cheese melts. Turn the plate halfway through cooking time if microwave tray doesn’t rotate.

If cooking on a stovetop, divide mixture between two tortillas. Top each with 1/4 cup cheese, then top with the remaining 2 tortillas. Spray a skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Brown quesadillas on both sides, cooking until cheese melts. Cut in half before serving.

Per serving: 180 calories; 5g fat (25 percent calories from fat); 1.5g saturated fat; 15mg cholesterol; 17g protein; 17g carbohydrate; 1g sugar; 1g fiber; 330mg sodium.

Adapted from a recipe from the Utah State University Cooperative Extension posted on recipefinder.nal.usda.gov.

BAKED CHICKEN WITH VEGETABLES

Yield: 4 servings

3 large potatoes, sliced

4 carrots, sliced

1 medium onion, quartered

4 chicken leg quarters, skin removed

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes, carrots and onion in a large roasting pan. Put chicken pieces on top of the vegetables.

2. Mix water, thyme and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over chicken and vegetables, taking care to coat evenly.

3. Bake for 1 hour or until browned and tender, basting with the juices once or twice.

Per serving: 340 calories; 8g fat (21 percent calories from fat); 2g saturated fat; 89mg cholesterol; 30g protein; 37g carbohydrate; 5g sugar; 6g fiber; 140mg sodium; 65mg calcium; 1,141mg potassium.

Adapted from a recipe from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service posted on recipefinder.nal.usda.gov.

BAKED EGGS AND CHEESE

Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

4 whole eggs

4 egg whites (see note)

1/2 cup nonfat milk

1/2 cup grated low-fat cheese

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put oil in a medium baking dish or small cake pan and heat in the oven for a few minutes.

2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs and egg whites. Mix in milk, cheese, garlic powder and oregano. Pour into hot pan.

3. Bake 20 minutes or until egg mixture is firm. Serve immediately.

Note: If desired, use 6 whole eggs instead of a combination of whole eggs and egg whites. Each serving will contain an additional 2.5g fat and 105mg cholesterol and 2g less protein.

Per serving (using eggs and egg whites): 160 calories; 10g fat (50 percent calories from fat); 2.5g saturated fat; 215mg cholesterol; 15g protein; 3g carbohydrate; 2g sugar; no fiber; 230mg sodium.

Adapted from a recipe from the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension Service posted on recipefinder.nal.usda.gov.

WAYS TO STRETCH YOUR FOOD DOLLAR

When shopping for fresh produce, stick to foods that are in season.

• Frozen fruits and vegetables often cost less than fresh, and they usually work as well in recipes.

• Buying in larger quantities usually results in a better value.

• Make a shopping list, check store sales ads and cut out coupons.

• Don’t shop while you’re hungry.

• If you visit a variety of stores to buy what’s on sale, make sure that increased gasoline costs (and time spent) don’t eat up your savings.

• Make a budget and stick to it — for food and for everything else.

Source: Sue Rundblad, coordinator of the Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry

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