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Everybody wants your money. Most of us have about five different places to spend each dollar in our pocket. If it's not the school it's the gas company. When they're paid, here come the electric and the water bills and the brakes on the car. Many voices say to you: GIVE ME YOUR MONEY! There is no end to such demands. You know how scarce dollars can be -- how important it is to make each nickel do the work of a dime before you let loose of it. One place where you have some pocketbook wiggle room is in the grocery store. Careful meal planning and shopping can save you many dollars.

This is not just about money. It's about quality of life. Control over your life. Fun, convenience, and tasty meals. We're not talking about feeling sorry for yourself, going second class, or giving up your favorite munchies. In fact, we'd like to introduce you to many new treats. That's what Better Times is about.

You are a first class person. You deserve first class meals. Since you are in control of your kitchen, you can "cook smart". But if you listen to the grocery industry's merchandising tricks, you end up paying more money for your food than is really necessary. You can spend less money, and have more quality.

Getting control of your life happens one step at a time. Cooking smart isn't everything, but it is something. It is a step in the direction of economic security. It boosts your quality of life. It provides instant rewards -- good food, rave reviews from family, and don't forget the more important results -- better health and extra money in your pocket to spend or save for other things besides food.

Doesn't this kind of cooking take a lot of time? Not necessarily. It's not like putting a frozen dinner in the oven, but usually these recipes only take a few minutes of the cook's time. Plus, as you practice this kind of cooking, the learning curve kicks in. You develop time saving convenience skills. The first time you bake a cake "from scratch" takes longer than the fifth time you do it. By the time you have made ten, you will be cranking them out like they were popcorn. When you plan your meals carefully, you can organize your cooking and your kitchen so that when dinner time rolls around, you throw a few tasty things together and you are set.

Your kids can help. Kids need to learn how to cook. There is no better way to do this than helping Mom and Dad in the kitchen. As they get older, give them more to do. It's good for kids to learn that food just doesn't fall from the sky onto the dinner table. Later in life, they (and their wives, husbands, and roommates) will thank you. Never mind their whines, just do it!

It's OK to make mistakes. And you do get better with practice. Better Times gives you a lot of information. So much information, it may seem like quite a job just to figure it out. You may make some mistakes, but who doesn't? It's OK to make mistakes. That's how you learn.

Food is an adventure. You can do amazing things in your own kitchen. Be not afraid, God is on your side. If you get stuck in the middle of a recipe, and aren't sure what to do next, start your problem solving process with a little prayer, as in, "Hey God, I need some help!" You'll get an answer, you can believe that.

Life is complex. It's OK if you can't solve all of your problems at once. Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. A good place to start is in your kitchen.

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