Today a report by the U.S. Labor Department said that January saw a big increase in the cost of food. They say the cost of food jumped at a rate faster than it has in the last seven months. Do I want to pay more for food? No. But is it a horrible tragedy that will ruin families? No.

I truly believe that families still have room for more saving and more conservatism in their consumption. While increased food prices may impact the grocery bill, most families have plenty they can do to stretch their dollars further. This isn't the end of the world. First, mom and dad can still save money by cutting out unnecessary things like eating out, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, entertainment outside the home, and making unnecessary trips in the car.And they can work directly on that grocery bill. Shoppers can start by focusing on buying food that is on sale, and by using coupons and store discount cards. They can buy bulk items that have a lower cost per unit, and freeze what they don't immediately need. They can cut back on pre-packaged dinners that offer a very poor value for your dollar, and are often filled with unhealthy ingredients. Look to substitute store brands for you usual name brand purchases. Grocery shoppers should be looking for alternatives that are less expensive that what they've been eating, plain and simple.

Families can stretch their food dollars by being creative with leftovers and using less expensive ingredients to bulk up recipes. We used to have mom's famous "stretch your dollar soup" that was made with various meat and vegetable leftovers, and bulked up as necessary with noodles. By being creative and frugal, and by avoiding waste, families can still afford to feed their children. (No matter what the news outlets may tell you.)

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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