Now that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed, are there any bargains left in the stores? Luckily, the grocery store holds a few surprises during the month of December.
You’ll find baking supplies at about 20 percent off the usual price, so it is a good time to stock your pantry with spices, flour, white sugar, brown sugar and other baking necessities.
Clementines, oranges and tangerines have arrived. A five-pound box of clementines is going to be at a good price this month, and citrus fruits are often one of the best values in December. The three growing areas that domestic fruit is coming from are Florida, Texas and California. In addition to vitamin C, these fruits provide energy, potassium, fiber and folate. They are also good sources of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Set a goal to get a good source of vitamin C daily.
While we may be freezing up here in the north, it is berry harvest season in the southern hemisphere. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries from South America are available in U.S. stores. For a short period of time, the price for a pint is expected to be just a little more expensive than half a pint. Berries are a great source of fiber, low in calories and a great quick snack.
Coffee goes on sale in December. Whether you are buying it for gifts or for entertaining, now would be the time to stock up. When you compare prices, be sure to look at the weight of the product — not all “pound” bags of coffee actually weigh a pound anymore, some are only 12 ounces.
Root vegetables including turnips, carrots, parsnips and rutabagas also are on sale in December. Yellow and orange vegetables and fruits are good sources of vitamin A. Also in December, potatoes and sweet potatoes are coming out of storage instead of the fields but the price should be good as well on these staples.
Some cuts of beef are also priced for savings in December. Buy early in the month for the best prices. Top round and top sirloin are two cuts that are best marinated and sliced thin on the bias. These cuts allow you to serve good-quality beef for less. If you are serving beef for a holiday meal, buy only what you need, figuring on four to five ounces of cooked product per person.
On snowy days, or when you would like a heartwarming meal, how about making some beef stew? You can take advantage of many of the bargains in the grocery store: beef, carrots, potatoes and turnip. I’ve included my favorite stew recipe, which I top off with dumplings. These are two recipes from my Newfoundland cookbook, recipes that my mother prepared and that I grew up with. Beef stew is always better the next day as leftovers.
Beef Beer Stew
Dredge one pound of stewing beef, cut into small cubes, in a mixture of ¼ cup flour, 1 teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.
Add ¼ cup of cooking oil to a skillet and brown the beef. Remove the beef and add two large onions thinly sliced and one clove garlic, finely chopped. Cook until onion is transparent and then add the meat back in. Stir in one 12-ounce bottle of beer, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon steak sauce, 2 bay leaves and ¼ teaspoon thyme. Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat for about 1½ hours or until meat is almost tender. This can be put in a crock pot to simmer if you prefer.
Add in cut up turnip and carrots, allow to soften, then add potatoes. Add 1 10-ounce package of frozen peas.
Bring the stew to a boil, cover and reduce heat, simmering for about 10 minutes.
Remove the bay leaves.
Sift or blend together 1 cup flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ teaspoon salt.
Stir in ½ cup milk.
Drop by spoonfuls over hot stew. Dough should be soft enough to drop from spoon.
Cover and simmer 15 minutes without lifting the lid.
Makes 6-7 dumplings.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Penobscot Community Health Care in Bangor. She provides nutrition consultant services through Mainely Nutrition in Athens. Read her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.