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How to beat high food prices when the table's set for two

High food prices and two-member families are a difficult combination, especially when the twosome is not enthusiastic about leftovers. In many instances, large grocery packages and prepackaged "family combinations" of meat are the most economical buys, but the amounts border on overwhelming for two people.

But with a mix of ingredients such as planning, careful shopping, and willpower, it's possible for a couple, both good eaters, to keep the food budget in line.

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Shopping for specials, also known as buying when the price is right, is basic. Stock up on staples such as pasta, frozen orange juice, cereals, canned soups, and baking needs when supermarkets are having "sales." My husband and I, who follow a food plan geared to keeping the budget down, buy treats such as ice cream when it is a special and choose fresh vegetables when they are available at reasonable prices. We do not buy bunches of broccoli at $1.19 or green peppers at 99 cents a pound, no matter how attractive they look on a wintry day. Instead we buy vegetables such as carrots, usually available at attractive prices, cook them just until crisp, and then quickly make a light sauce.

To save cooking fuel, we plan one or two dinners each week around dishes that can be cooked in the oven at the same time. When beef stew is the main dish, enough for six generous portions is prepared, since stew gains flavor from a few days in the refrigerator.

Pasta dishes are an important part of our money-saving strategy. So are less expensive cuts of meat. No more strip sirloin steaks, once a favorite main course. Instead we now buy chuck steak and prepare it with peppercorns for an economical version of the French steak au poivre. This method, in which the peppercorns act as a tenderizer, was devised several years ago when beef prices started to rise. So far, we have had steaks that were "chewy" but not one that was downright tough. AS a general rule, the meat is tender and the flavor excellent, rivaling porterhouse or sirloin. Economy Pepper Steak Chuck steak, about two pounds with bone, an inch or more thick, with some marbling Whole peppercorns in a pepper mill

Grind peppercorns over surface of one side of steak. Broil from six to nine minutes, depending on thickness and degree of doneness desired. Turn steak, add peppercorns to second side, and broil for another six to nine minutes. Salt steak if desired and serve on a heated platter. Glazed carrots make a good accompaniment in winter. Serves 2. Glazed Whole Carrots 8 small carrots, scraped 3 tablespoons butter or margarine 1/4 cup sugar 1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Cook carrots in boiling salted water until tender. Drain. Melt butter in frying pan. Stir in sugar. Add carrots. Cook over moderate heat, turning several times, until well glazed. Garnish with parsley. Serves 2.

For an oven meal, baked or broiled pork chops (depending on your type of stove), baked potatoes, and baked apples or cranberry upside-down cake make the basis of a winter menu. For a special treat, stuff the cavities of the cored apples for baking with a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, chopped nuts, and raisins. Cranberry Upside-Down Cake 2 cups fresh cranberries 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 cup chopped nuts 2 eggs 1 cup sugar 3/4 cup vegetable shortening 1 cup flour Whipped cream or ice cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 10-inch glass pie plate. Spread cranberries which have been washed on bottom of plate. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar and chopped nuts over berries. Cream eggs, one cup sugar, and vegetable shortening together and stir in flour. Pour over cranberry mixture. Bake 35 minutes. Serve warm with whipped or ice cream.

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