At the beginning of a new year, it is necessary to go over the budget and see where improvements can be made and indications are that 2013 may present challenges to our budgets.

Food and energy are the two budget items that usually allow some wiggle room as opposed to mortgage and loan payments where the amount due monthly is usually unchanged.

Food prices for 2013 will rise so the consumer must be prepared to get the same value for his dollar in the face of this increase.

“Corn is the single biggest driver of food prices. It is widely used in many products as a sweetener and as an oil.  It’s in everything from animal feed to cereal.” said Bob Bresnahan, CEO of Trilateral, an agricultural consulting firm.

It is time to review your food budget and prepare for the 2013 market. Consider your situation, review the basics and make your game plan..

If there is food being tossed into the garbage, there is something wrong and you need the answer as to why this is so.

Buying in bulk is one of the most cost-efficient methods for saving money, but only if every bit of the food is used. If practical, repackage a portion of the bulk food and freeze until needed.

Opelika citizens are fortunate in that they have choices as to where they may purchase their groceries. Know what day (usually Wednesday) when discounts are given and know when it is customary for marked down items to be put out for sale. Check for any mark-downs and use coupons..

Buy generic. In many cases the generic is made by the same company that your favorite name brand is made or at least by almost the same recipe. Purchase store brands.

Make your shopping list and stick to it, UNLESS, you stumble onto a huge sale of an item frequently used and would last in your freezer or on your shelf. Always buy more than two when items you usually purchase are presented as a buy one, get one free.

Think “convenience” and “packaging” when shopping and do not pay for either one. Avoid prewashed or chopped vegetables and items in lovely expensive packaging.

Using food that you already have, especially that found in your refrigerator, is of utmost importance. Thursday night can become ”refrigerator supper night” when whatever is in the fridge is put on the table or it can all be made into a soup or stew.

Help is available everywhere. Punch in or to receive suggestions as to what to do with the items remaining in your refrigerator.

Take your lunch to work every day. Make use of what is left from supper the night before. If coffee is not furnished at your work place, take your own in your thermos.

If it is the custom for the family to eat out to celebrate a special occasion, see if that meal can be scheduled for a lunch meal where prices are lower than for a night meal. These celebrations are important so cut down elsewhere if necessary or grill steaks in your yard if that would please the honoree.

When eating out, order water with lemon and save a bundle on drinks. The water is good for you and the saving will be even better and if celebrating a birthday, eat your restaurant meal and go back home for birthday cake and ice cream..

There is no better way to improve your food situation than to raise your own. Keep this in the back of your mind for later this spring, not the entire front lawn but a few spaces hither and yon in the flower beds?

It is not going to be easy, but we can win the battle of the food budget.

Bita Bullet is the pen name of a local anonymous writer who can be reached at