After reading on WalletPop this week that Kraft jacked up the prices of its mac & cheese despite a 10% first-quarter profit increase, it got me thinking: What do I have in my pantry that shows a culinary belt-tightening?

My days of splurging on exotic salts and hand-crafted butter are over, for now. Like many Americans, I've made way instead for more down-to-Earth staples that are both cheap and satisfying.

Exhibit A: Pasta. My supermarket has a great two-for-one section when you first walk in, and it always has some sort of dry pasta on the shelves there. Last time I went, I scooped up four boxes in fun shapes (Fusilli Jerry, anyone?) that I can dress up with a simple tomato sauce or some olive oil, garlic and (supermarket brand) Parmesan.

Exhibit B: Coffee. I used to love me some $3 java in the morning from a certain Seattle-based chain you may have seen once or twice. But it depleted my checking account, so now I invest more wisely in my caffeine needs and buy the beans myself from Dunkin' Donuts or Eight O'Clock, depending on which is offering the best sale. This saves me some major bucks and makes my apartment smell delicious -- a win-win.

Exhibit C: Chicken. OK, so this one's in my fridge, not my pantry, but it still fits the bill. Instead of reaching for the bags of frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I've been getting whole, fresh chickens (killed, cleaned and de-feathered, thankyouverymuch).

I read that grocery stores have been seeing a rise in sales of rotisserie chickens from the deli department, which makes sense given that you get more bird for your buck, but I prefer to cook it myself. You can get a ton of meals from an average 3-pound bird.

Start by roasting it for dinner with some lemon and thyme. Chop up the leftover meat, mix it with a little mayo, and have chicken salad for lunch. Don't throw away the carcass -- put it in the freezer, and next time you're feeling a little swine flu-y, simmer it with some water and veggies to make a homemade chicken stock that would make grandma proud.

There are three of my favorite recession-busting food strategies. What are some of yours?


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