Convection Ovens – Frugal Investment?
Rather than let hot air circulate randomly, a convection oven carefully creates a uniform temperature with internal fans that evenly circulate hot air. Convection ovens are often more expensive than standard, or radiant, ovens, but they cook food faster, at a lower temperature, and often with better results. Fans ensure that the same temperature reaches the top and bottom of foods, as well as foods at all rack levels. They are also called European, true, turbo or fan ovens.
First, a few basic mechanics: A conventional oven uses radiant heat that emanates from the top and/or bottom surfaces. The result is usually an oven with hot and cold spots
. What makes a convection oven stand apart is the internal fan that circulates hot air, creating an evenly heated environment for the food. The most obvious advantage to having a steady supply of heat surrounding and penetrating the food is that all your meat, produce, and baked goods will cook faster and brown more evenly.
Benefits of Cooking with a Convection Oven
- Saves time and energy
: Because the heated air transfers heat more efficiently to cooking containers and exposed food surfaces, food will take less time to cook. Most recipes can be cooked for 25% shorter time, which ends up saving energy. The temperature at which food cooks may need to be lowered slightly on a trial and error basis.
Less time and energy usage makes this a Frugal investment and a Frugal use of power.
• Retains flavor
: A convection oven may also do a better job at sealing in the juices of meat so dishes taste more flavorful and moist.
• Cooks evenly
: Baked goods, such as pies or cookies, will be more evenly browned, even if placed them on different racks. Pastries often comes out better, too, because the heat doesn’t fuse the flour and butter, but allows it to form flakes.
• Cooks more at once
: When using multiple racks, the food itself won’t interfere with the heat that reaches other foods.
Cooking more at the same time, causes you to use less power than if cooked separately.
• Works with broilers
: Most convection ovens also have a broiler, allowing food to be exposed to high heat when required.
Editor’s Note: We bought a convection overn over 12 years ago. We have been able to heat up, cook and broil much faster and with less temperature than when we used a regular oven. We don’t use microwaves so this has sped up our cooking requirements considerably.
Resources: wisegeek.com and epicurious.com
Eating Healthier For Less
Consumers over recent years have expressed through their buying habits a desire for more healthy foods, stores and food manufacturers have begun to listen, giving us more health focused options. However, it sometimes seems that in order to eat healthy also means paying more for those foods.
Here are a few tips which can help lower your bill while still managing to make good and healthy choices for you and your family.
Avoid Greasy Pizzas by Making Your Own
For many families, Friday nights are considered pizza night. Simply pick up a phone and dial your local pizza delivery company. However, it is still possible to have a pizza night, but without all the greasy oils and unnecessary fats. Instead, learn to make a basic homemade pizza dough from scratch. When you find a recipe you like, make a few batches and freeze them individually. Take one out each Friday morning and leave in the refrigerator to thaw. By the time you are home from work, take out the dough and let it rest for about 10 minutes on a floured surface. While it is resting, prepare your toppings from pepperoni slices to red onion, sliced tomatoes, black olives and anything else you desire. Roll out the dough and layer on the toppings. Bake according to your pizza recipe’s instructions. The entire process should take less than 15 minutes not including the cooking time.
Make Homemade Waffles in Large Batches
Similar to the homemade pizza, this tip has to do making and freezing multiple batches. Choose a weekend to make a nice batch of waffles. Except this time double the batch and plan for allowing extra time to cook. Let each waffle cool, and then wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper. Then wrap in foil making sure all edges are sealed tightly. Place in large freezer bags and label the contents and the date. Now, for many future mornings you will have your own premade waffles ready to go directly into the toaster oven.
Use Frozen Fruits vs. Fresh Fruits
Eating fresh fruits is always a good idea. Unfortunately unless they are on sale, they can be rather expensive – especially when off season and when buying large amounts for healthy homemade fruit shakes and juices. Take advantage of buying bags of frozen fruit for these purposes. The cost of the bag might be a higher upfront cost, but the amount of servings and quantity will cause it to go a lot further – allowing for more shakes and drinks.
Make Your Own Flavored Yogurts
If you enjoy eating flavored yogurts for breakfast, consider purchasing a large container of plain non-fat yogurt. Then purchase a few jams without any preservatives and you can easily make your own flavored yogurts. It does not take much jam to flavor a big bowl of plain yogurt, perhaps just a 1/2 of a Tablespoon.
Search Out Clearance Items Regularly
Make it a habit to not only walk through the clearance sections of your grocery store, but also the organic section. Many items are frequently marked down in these specialty sections because stores are frequently trying to determine which items sell the best. Those that don’t tend to sell as quickly (perhaps simply a result of poor package marketing) will be reduced in price – sometimes by over 50%. This is a great way to include organic products such as cereals, broths, soups and even canned goods into your eating regiment without having to pay the typically higher prices. It is important to always check these sections which can be hit or miss, because when you hit – you generally hit big.
Go For Lower Calorie Desserts
For those looking to cut back on calories, giving up sweets is one of the harder tasks to do successfully. However there are alternatives which allow you to still eat your late night snack such as ice cream without the extra fat and calories. For example, if you enjoy your ice creams, consider buying gelato which is the Italian version of ice cream. Gelato consists of less fat and cholesterol due to the ingredients used. For example, ice cream uses cream, however gelato uses whole milk or even 2% milk. In recent years, companies have begun competing to develop the best gelato machine which produces the best Italian ice cream at home. You can make multiple batches and freeze them in pint size plastic containers for enjoyment when those sweet cravings come around.
By following these steps you will find yourself eating healthier while still keeping your bills under control.
This article was offered by SimpleItalianCooking.com an Italian cooking website specializing in easy to make recipes.
Kitchen Herb Garden
by Dori Fritzinger
If you love using herbs as much as I do, you will probably agree that fresh-picked herbs always taste better than store-bought ones.
If you have available yard or garden space, you can plant a kitchen herb garden. Herbs are easy to grow, don’t need a lot of space, thrive in just about any type of soil, and many are cold hardy. An ideal location would be a few steps from your kitchen, but any spot that gets about six hours of sun a day is good. By planting herbs that are most often used in cooking, you can pick what you need all summer.
Herbs commonly grow two different ways, annual and perennial. Annual plants last one growing season and die when the temperature hits freezing. Examples include basil, dill, cilantro, parsley, chamomile, chervil, sweet marjoram and summer savory.
On the other hand – Perennial plants produce new stems year after year. (It doesn’t hurt to mulch in the fall for reassurance.) Examples include thyme, mint, chives, sage, tarragon, lemon balm, lavender, hyssop and lovage.
For the beginner gardener I would recommend starting with plants. This is because many commonly loved herbs are hard to start from seed. Finding and chosing your plants is easy and fun. Herb plants can be found at farmer’s markets, nurseries and many roadside stands. Controlling the quantity of the plants is harder and between you and your wallet. A basic kitchen garden contains enough different herbs to mix and blend into different and delicious combinations.
Let’s start with some of the most commonly used :
is biennial, which means that it grows for two seasons and then dies and needs to be replaced. The feathery-textured herb (curly and Italian are favorites) adds a tangy flavor to soups, sauces, salads and dressings. Japanese parsley, which is catching on, is a blend of Italian parsley and celery leaves. It is often used as a garnish and makes a nice addition to soups.
– perennial – is an attractive garden plant, and some varieties have variegated leaves. This evergreen herb with a strong flavor comes in many varieties. ‘Berggarten’ from Germany is a hit with cooks (especially for turkey stuffing), pineapple sage sweetens desserts. Sage is traditionally used in breads and dressings that accompany turkey and pork. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
– perennial – a member of the mint family, is one of the oldest herbs known to humankind. Through the ages it has been credited with healing wounds, alleviating headaches and improving memory. It is a strong, pungent herb, and a few leaves add a distinctive flavor to breads, poultry and vegetables. It becomes bushy and shrub-like in a few years. Hardy in Zones 4-8.
– perennial – common thyme grows up to a foot tall and spreads wider. A fragrant, dense, low-growing groundcover with tiny flowers that can carpet a garden or accent pathways and rock gardens. French thyme has the best flavor for meats and vegetables. It has a distinctive, spicy scent and can be used as a salad garnish or to flavor cooked vegetables. Lemon thyme is a branchy trailing plant that forms mats of aromatic, lemon-scented foliage. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
– annual – varieties of the spicy-sweet popular herb range from cinnamon to Thai sweet. Sweet basil is enjoyed for its mild peppery flavor, with a hint of mint and clove. A staple in Italian, Mediterranean and Thai cooking, basil can also be used in flower gardens, as border plants and in hanging baskets. ‘Purple Ruffles’ is a good selection if you want purple foliage with lots of texture; ‘Dani’, if you want lemon-scented basil.
– perennial – chives have a mild onion flavor that enhances salads, egg dishes, soups and vegetables. Although garlic is the Herb of the Year, many growers favor milder garlic chives because it’s a "no fuss, no muss" perennial. Snip chive leaves into salads, soups, pasta, chicken and fish. The clover-like purple flowers that bloom in spring are also edible and make a colorful addition to salads. Hardy in Zones 3-9.
– annual – often associated with pickling cucumbers, is delicious with salmon or potatoes.
– perennial – is one of the several species of wild marjoram that can grow up to two feet tall. Peppery-flavored Greek oregano is used in tomato sauces and to season meats and vegetables. Creeping oregano works well in a pathway or rock garden. Cuban oregano has varigated leaves that have a fuzzy texture, similar to the leaves of an African Violet. Hardy in Zones 5-9.
– perennial – the fresh smell and taste of old-fashioned mint can’t be beat in an herb garden. Mints are a family of plants known for their aromatic oils. A few leaves adds refreshing zest to a glass of lemonade or iced tea. The many varieties include candy mint, chocolate mint, orange mint and peppermint. Spearmint is ideal for tea, mint jelly and mint juleps. But be sure to contain mint or it will spread. Hardy in Zones 4-10.
Now we need to plant them.
Follow these planting guidelines for a successful herb garden:
Plant early in the morning or late in the afternoon to prevent the transplants from wilting in the midday sun.
Dig each planting hole to about twice the width of the root ball of the new plant .
Space herbs about 18 inches apart to give them room to spread out and grow.
Place taller herbs, like sage, rosemary and marjoram, towards the back of the garden. Parsley and cilantro are good for the front.
For accents of color in your herb garden, add flowering plants like zinnias and salvia.
Plant perennials on one side and annuals on the other for easier replanting next year.
Give the new transplants plenty of water. Once established, make sure your herbs get an inch of water each week throughout the growing season.
Begin harvesting from the herbs as soon as they are mature, but take only a little bit each time you harvest. If you remove more than a third of the plant at one time , it takes longer to recover and produce new foliage.
To promote branching, keep the tops of the plants pinched back in early summer . With frequent picking, most herbs can be harvested for several months.
After all the work of planting is done, the best part is enjoying them. Here are some simple recipes to get you started. Some of the herbs used are different than the ones you may already know.
This is a wonderful use for sweet herbs such as lemon verbena, rose geranium, lavender or mints. Makes about 2 cups.
1/4 cup leaves and flowers of sweet herbs
2 cups sugar
zest of 1 citrus fruit – cut in strips (optional)
Gently bruise the herbs with a mortar to bring out their aromatic oils, then mix them with the sugar and citrus zest. Put the herbs and sugar in a jar and cover tightly. For the next two weeks, give the sugar a shake or stir every few days to spread the aromatic oils around and to break up any clumps. After 2 weeks, the sugar will be infused with the herb’s flavor. Strain the sugar, discard the herbs and zest, and store, tightly covered.
New Potatoes with Butter and Herbs
Wonderful way to use fresh potatoes and your favorite herbs. Makes 6 servings.
2 pounds small potatoes
2 cups sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup finely chopped mixed herbs: marjoram, chives, lemon basil, etc.
freshly ground pepper
Scrub the potatoes, but don’t peel them. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil with the salt. Stir to dissolve the salt, then add the potatoes. Boil over medium heat until the potatoes are fork-tender, 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the potatoes. Drain the potatoes, then toss them in a bowl with the butter and herbs. Season with pepper and serve.
Red and Golden Beets with Dill
Baby golden beets mixed with the snap of fresh dill makes this dish a wonderful side. Can be served room temperature or well chilled.
2 Large red beets
20 golden or Chioggia beets
2 small red onions
3 tablespoons of champagne or white wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
10 leafy flat-leafed parsley or cilantro sprigs
1 tablespoon of chopped dill leaves
Stem the large beets until tender-firm when pierced with a knife, about 35 minute. Steam the little beets until tender-firm, about 20 minutes. Peel and trim the red beets. Cut them into halves and quarters. Skin the small beets and trim, if necessary. Leave them whole. Peel, then thinly slice the onions into rounds, toss with the vinegar, sprinkle with salt. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
The beets can be thinly sliced and placed with marinated onions on top of fresh salad greens, dressed in vinegar and oil, garnish with parsley. They are also very tasty served as a vegetable side.
Plant a kitchen herb garden. It will bring you many hours of enjoyment both by the beauty of the plants themselves and the wonderful tastes it can bring to your cooking.
About the Author:
Dori Fritzinger is a freelance writer who writes from her family owned farm, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. When not busy tending to her family, farm, gardens – she enjoys writing about garden produce, herbs, berries, and the interaction of the family in the garden. She has studied both culinary and medicinal herbs and gardening for most her adult life. Now that her children are grown and she is a grandmother, she has more time to devote to her writing. Vist her website.
Using Leftover Vegetables
Keep a large cool whip (Or whatever you have) container in your freezer, as you clean up from each meal , put the bits of veggie, rice or pasta into the container. Mark it Soup Fixings, use it when you are making a stew or soup, there is no need to cook it. I throw it in the top of the stew while it is on it’s last simmer, the big icy chunk will melt into it and stretch it a bit. Lisa S
When I have a very small amount of veggies left, I use them as baked potato toppings, or on top of ramen noodles. I also put them in pasta salads, etc.. If you have a baby around, mashing them would make an ideal baby-sized side dish.
Put them in (and continue adding to) a zip-lock bag in the freezer for when you are making your next soup.
Great grandma had a stock pop on the back burner of the stove. Into it went meat bones, leftover veggies of all kind…anything with good nutrition left in it. Nothing much was wasted in her time.
Today, I keep a plastic tub, the kind soft margarine comes in, in my freezer. When I open canned veggies…which always have too much liquid…I pour some of it into the tub, which is kept in the freezer. Little bits of leftover peas, corn, cabbage and other veggies go into it. Also small amounts of leftover potatoes, cooked rice…whatever. When I cook a whole chicken or turkey, and begin to make soup from the bones……..I get out my tub, defrost it in the microwave oven and add it instead of water…..my soup never comes out the same twice, but very little is wasted in this household! Of course I end up with a very LARGE amount of soup, so If I’m not sharing it with someone busy or in need, I portion it into pint and larger containers and freeze it. Great easy weekend lunches are right at hand in the freezer! Nett
I make a one pot dish that I call pasta casserole. Boil your pasta (egg noodles, spaghetti) When pasta is halfway done throw any frozen or fresh veggies. (leftover veggies go in about a minute before pasta is done cooking) Drain veggies and pasta. In pasta pot combine margarine/butter, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, spices, etc to taste. Mix thorough until melted. Toss in the pasta and veggies in same pot. You can also use up veggies like this by making ramen noodle soup. Toss in veggies (leftovers will work, I normally use any stir fry combination) and noodles when water starts boiling. I add a beaten egg, a bullion cube, and some tvp. cook according to package directions. I sometimes top this with Chinese noodles or fried onions. Jennifer
I chop up the left over corn and add it to scrambled eggs. Kayte
Lunch Tips for School Days
By Tawra Kellam
It’s that wonderful time of year that lightens your heart and fills your soul with peace & tranquility. No, I’m not talking about Christmas! I’m talking about school starting!! Yes! Yes! Yes! It’s a bitter sweet time for most moms. Bitter because you’re back to hectic mornings, finding everyone’s books and papers and trying to get them out of the door on time… because you now have 180 lunches to make over the next 9 months if you have 1 child and 720 if you have 4 — But hey, who’s counting?
It is sweet because the peaceful quietness that penetrates the house is like gentle music to your ears and you can take a lovely relaxing bubble bath without what sounds like the whole US army trying to break down the bathroom door. Well, now that I think about it I’ve not known many moms that had the luxury of a bubble bath in the middle of the day but I can dream can’t I? I can’t help you find time for that bubble bath but maybe I can help you with those 720 lunches. Here are a few lunch and snack ideas from "Not Just Beans: 50 Years of Frugal Family Favorites" that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.
*To keep drinks cold in lunch boxes, pour a small amount in the bottom of the container (not glass) and then set the cap loosely on top. Put it in the freezer overnight. The next day fill with the rest of the drink. The ice should slowly melt all day long, keeping the beverage cool.
*Save the catsup and mustard packets and napkins you don’t use from the fast food restaurants. Use them in lunch boxes.
*Puddings – sprinkle with marshmallows, coconut, nuts, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or peanut butter chips (for chocolate pudding) or berries (in vanilla pudding)
*Banana, pumpkin or zucchini bread
*Tuna, egg or chicken salad sandwich
*Tuna salad and crackers
*Sandwiches made from last night’s dinner meat (ie. roast beef, chicken ,turkey)
*Ants on a log-celery with peanut butter inside and raisins on the peanut butter
*Carrot sticks, celery sticks or radishes with Ranch dressing
*Homemade granola bars
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cups crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup wheat germ (optional)
1 cup chocolate chips*
In a large bowl, cream sugars and butter until fluffy. Add honey, vanilla and egg. Mix well. Blend in flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir in remaining ingredients. Press firmly into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. To microwave: Press ingredients into a microwave safe dish. Microwave on medium power for 7-9 minutes. Rotate dish every three minutes. Bars will firm as they stand. Cool and cut into bars. Save the crumbs for yogurt or ice cream topping. Makes 24 bars
*The following may be used in addition to or to replace chocolate chips
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup nuts
1/2-1 cup raisins, dried apples, apricots
1/2 cup fruit preserves
Tawra Kellam is the author of "Not Just Beans: 50 Years of Frugal Family Favorites" Not Just Beans is a frugal cookbook which has over 540 recipes and 400 tips. More free tips, recipes and/or to purchase book
Kids ‘n Honey: A Natural Mix
Raw honey is not only tasty, but it’s extremely nutritious. Incorporating it into your daily diet is an excellent step to take towards maintaining general good health. Dr. D.C. Jarvis says "I am saddened when people tell me that they don’t eat honey because costs more than white sugar. In the long run, you must pay either the grocer or the druggist." Honey can be substituted for white sugar very easily, even in baking, and the health benefits for everyone but especially for children are worth every penny. Here are some simple suggestions for getting some honey into your kids!
Baked Honey Apples
Core 4 apples, peel a ring of skin away from around the middle of each apple. In the center of each, place 1 Tbsp. chopped nuts and drizzle with honey. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.
Peel and slice lengthwise 2 bananas. Place flat side down on a greased cookie sheet. Brush with warmed honey, bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
Simple Sesame Seed Bites
For an exceptionally nutritious and easy to make snack, grind 1 cup of sesame seeds in food processor, empty into medium size bowl. Add enough honey to make a stiff paste. Shape into thick ropes, cut into bite size pieces, roll in whole sesame seeds.
Children’s Sweet Milk
.(for children over a year old)
Stir in 1 to 2 tsp. honey into an 8 oz glass of dairy or non-dairy milk. It is reported that children who are given this honey-fortified milk suffer less colic and digestive upsets. In addition, the honey contains potassium vital for growth, and it provides both "quick-release" and "slow-release" energy. This helps maintain blood sugar levels and avoid extreme energy level swings
Hot Honey Nog
Beat together one egg and 1 Tbsp. honey. Heat 1 cup of milk to just below boiling, add to honey and egg mixture. Top with a sprinkle of nutmeg.
Excerpt from "101 Things To Do With Honey
The Secret To Saving Money On Food
Four years ago when our family took a pay cut to move closer to our extended family, we needed to trim the budget. We did not have a lot of areas to cut spending but I did notice that we spent hundreds of dollars each month on feeding our family of 4. I had I had heard about freezer cooking and did some searching for recipes online. Most of what I found, called for cooking multiple dishes simultaneously, (I was having a hard enough time cooking a side dish with a main course so I knew this wouldn’t work for me). I decided to modify my recipes into meals that could be stored in the freezer, to be used by the hurried, cooking challenged woman (me). I decided that I would not cook during meal assembly. Instead, I would cook any meat needed before hand. This would speed up meal assembly and make it easier.
I called a few friends to try freezer meals with me, and I have been cooking this way for the last 4 years! It has been great! We are able to cut our spending on groceries by buying in bulk and not making multiple trips to the grocery store. We have spent less money on eating out due to having quick, delicious, easy to prepare meals at home. Not to mention the stress that freezer meals save, by staying within our food budget and not stressing over what to make for dinner each night.
I highly recommend no-cooking freezer meal assembly because of the time it saves. We usually prepare 15 meals including set up, clean up and breaking for lunch, in about 4 hours. Fifteen meals will last our family over a month due to leftovers. Plus we love the assembly sessions because my friends and I talk and have fun while being productive!
You can easily start your own freezer meal assembly sessions, here’s how: grab a few friends and ask them to bring their favorite easy-to-prepare recipes. Slow cooker meals, casseroles and marinades for grilling are usually easy to change into freezer meals. Create a „menu‰ that has serving day instructions on preparing each frozen meal. If a recipe calls for cooking ground beef, or another meat, just make a note that everyone will do that prior to the assembly session. You can easily modify most casseroles by boiling the noodles on serving day and adding them to the casserole then baking. Many times, slow cooker recipes call for serving the dish over cooked noodles or rice. Make a note on the menu to cook the noodles or rice on serving day and then place the cooked meal over the noodles or rice when serving.
Here are some tips to make your freezer meal assembly session go smoothly:
• If you are using raw ground beef for recipes such as sloppy joes or meatloaf, be sure to use the leanest ground beef you can find.
• Depending on what time of the day you’ll be meeting, and how many meals you are assembling, you may want to add a couple of frozen pizzas to the grocery list. Then half way through, your group can break for lunch.
• Get childcare. It is too difficult to be watching/tending to children during this process.
• The host home should have multiple sets of measuring cups & spoons, sharp knives, strainer, a few cutting boards, electric can opener, cooking spray and a sharpie marker. Have recycle bins and/or garbage cans ready to accommodate multiple cans and boxes.
• You will want to bring an apron and a cooler. Wear comfortable shoes.
• It is best to prepare your meals in order of the type of meat. This will help avoid cross contamination. For example, every meal that requires cooked ground beef, you’ll complete first, meals that contain raw ground beef second, etc. You will want to disinfect the counter top each time you switch to a different type of meat.
• Write the name of the meal and date on the freezer bag with a permanent marker.
• Lay your freezer bags flat to store to make best use of your freezer space.
• You will want to thaw out your meals in the fridge two days before using them.
Using freezer meals has made the biggest difference in my life as a busy, working mother. They save our family money, when I didn’t feel I could stretch our dollar any more. They also make dinners more peaceful, as I’m not stressed out about what to prepare each night. Most of all, I have fun with my girlfriends as we’re assembling these meals! Give freezer meals a try and enjoy the monetary rewards and stress free meals!
Jennifer Schultz lives in Dubuque, Iowa with her husband of 11 years and 2 children. She works part-time as a dental hygienist. She has been assembling freezer meals for four years and supplies recipes and organizes meal assembly for groups nationwide, through her web site at www.FreezerMealsInMinutes.com. You can contact her at in**@fr*******************.com.
8 Ways to Be Frugal With Your Food
Learning to be frugal with your food, is a good practice not only during hard economic times, but also through times of prosperity. Being economical at all times will help you not only save money, but to help keep your budgets in good standing all year long.
Grow Your own Food
Learning to grow your own food is not always an easy task. But for those who do it right, it can play a big part in lowering food costs. If you are a beginner, start by picking crops which are known for being easy to grow. Examples would be tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and zucchini to name a few. When choosing your vegetables, always figure out where you plan on growing your vegetables before you purchase them. Then make sure there is adequate sunlight and proper water drainage for those plants. Some plants, such as herbs usually require full sun. This means at least 6 to 8 hours of full direct sunlight per day. Always follow the guidelines for when to start planting your vegetables either from seed or from seedlings. Some plants such as basil are very susceptible to cold weather, where a quick morning frost can hurt its chances for survival.
Clip Coupons and Sales
Through the use of coupons and store sales, a person can save quite a bundle on their shopping bill. A great idea is to set a schedule for looking through coupons and sale announcements in your local paper. Since many coupons can be valid anywhere from 3 months to a year, clip out anything you might need in the future. Taking advantage of store sales are always helpful. These are promotions a particular store is running on particular items. Sometimes these are meats, boxes of pasta, or vegetables. If your budget allows, make the most of these sales by stocking up on these items. Remember, you will need to make sure you have adequate storage area – especially for items that need to be frozen.
Organize your Kitchen Pantry Regularly
Organizing is often overlooked as an easy way to practice frugality. Each week take inventory of items which are on your pantry shelves. You might be surprised at what you have laying around which you had forgotten about. Using what you already have on hand to create a new recipe helps avoid taking needless trips to the store throughout the week.
Turn Leftovers into Makeovers
Another wonderful frugal tip is to master the art of using leftovers. Instead of simply serving last night’s dinner again, try to create a new meal from the left over ingredients. For example, if you had a rice and stir fry dinner and there is left over rice, use that rice the following night as part of a chicken casserole. No one will ever notice!
Buy in Bulk
Buying items in bulk takes careful monitoring because not all bulk items are necessarily cheaper. However, in many cases the price can be cheaper – especially in the world of meats. Often times, when a store needs to move items quickly, they will drastically reduce prices, or run a Buy One Get One free promotion. Purchase the extra meat and freeze what you do not intend on using right away. Most meats, if properly stored, will last indefinitely in a freezer. However, keep in mind that although the meat will still be okay to eat, it will start losing its freshness after 6 months.
If you find yourself always picking up a coffee at a drive through on your way to work, you can easily save money by purchasing a nice insolated coffee mug tumbler and make your own coffee at home. If you enjoy espresso, consider purchasing a stove top espresso maker which can give you lattes, cappuccinos and other great specialty coffee drinks at a fraction of the price.
Replace Eating Out With Good Meals at Home
If you tend to eat out quite a bit, try to make it a point to cook more delicious meals at home. Instead of just cooking what you need for that meal, make sure to cook up extra serving amounts so you can take the extras to work the next day for lunch. This helps prevent any unnecessary spending for eating out during the work day. By reducing the number of times you eat out at work by at least twice a week, can easily save $40 to $50 – that’s about $160 to $200 a month.
Cooking foods from scratch may not be the answer to all your budget problems or needs, but in some cases it can help trim down the expenditures. Common foods which can be made easily at home instead of purchasing at the store are any type of dough product. Examples are biscuits, pie shells, cookies, and even pizza dough. Through the use of convenient kitchen appliances such as an 11 cup food processor, or bread machines with dough settings, people are able to create many of their baking concoctions in a fraction of the time normally required.
Learning to be more frugal with food does not have to mean compromising the quantity or quality of your meals. In fact, being frugal is really being more economical with your purchases and uses of your foods. Take advantage of these tips and over time you may find yourself with more food- at less of a cost!
This post is offered by SimpleItalianCooking.com, a website featuring Italian recipes and tips, reviews for the best meat grinders for making Italian sausage, along with other appliances used frequently in Italian cooking.
Warm Weather Food Safety
by Dori Fritzinger
Summer is often associated with cookouts, picnics and other outdoor meals. But the combination of warm weather and leaving food out at room temperature can cause serious food safety concerns. It’s not always possible to see, taste or smell dangerous bacteria. Each year, many people will become the victims of some form of food poisoning. When transporting food and cooking out, it’s especially important to pay attention to matters of food safety and keep Cold foods Cold and Hot foods Hot.
But you can greatly reduce any food safety risks for your family by following some simple guidelines, starting at the grocery store.
Always keep cooked and raw food separate during preparation to prevent the contamination of foods that will not be cooked (such as salads).
Buy cold food like meat and poultry right before checking out. Separate raw meat and poultry from other food in the cart to prevent cross-contamination.
Load meat and poultry into the coolest part of the car. If you live further than 30 minutes away, bring a cooler with ice during summer months to store perishable foods when driving.
Place meat and poultry in the refrigerator immediately when you return home. Freeze ground meat and poultry that won’t be used in one or two days.
Completely defrost meat and poultry before grilling or cooking so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing.
Cook food to safe internal temperature. Whole poultry should reach 180 degrees F. and breasts should be cooked to 170 degrees F. Hamburgers should reach 160 degrees F. Beef, veal and lamb steaks and chops can be cooked to 145 degrees F. All pork should reach 160 degrees F.
Always thoroughly clean your meat thermometer between temperature checks to prevent re-contamination of the cooked meat.
In hot weather, food should not sit out more than one hour.
Frequently wash your hands, cutting board, counter, utensils and make sure you are using clean wash cloths and towels to dry your hands. This is especially important when preparing meats.
A cooler chest can also be used to keep hot food hot. Line the cooler with a heavy kitchen towel for extra insulation and place well wrapped hot foods inside. It’s amazing how long the foods will stay not only warm, but hot. Try to use a cooler that is just the right size to pack fairly tightly with hot food so less heat escapes.
Never reuse marinades that have come in contact with raw meat, chicken or fish.
Do not partially grill meat to use later. Once you begin cooking meat by any method, cook until completely done to assure that bacteria are destroyed
When taking foods off the grill, put them on a clean plate, not the same platter that held raw meat.
When preparing chicken, egg, or cold meat salads, or any recipes featuring mayonnaise, refrigerate it as soon as possible, and keep cold right up until packing time.
Pack food from the refrigerator right into the cooler.
Pack foods in the cooler in the order opposite of how you’ll be using them. In other words, pack the food you’ll need last at the bottom and so on.
As much as possible, keep coolers in the shade while at the picnic. Keep cooler lids closed and avoid unnecessary openings.
It’s a good idea to use a separate cooler for drinks, so the one containing perishable food won’t be constantly opened and closed. Replenish the ice if it melts.
If there are leftovers, throw them out unless you can safely keep them chilled until you get home. If there is still ice in the cooler when you get home, the leftovers should be okay to eat. When in doubt, throw it out! I hate to be wasteful, but when it comes to food poisoning, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
If you follow these guidelines and use some common sense, not only will your next cookout be a success, it will be safe too!
About the Author:
Dori Fritzinger is a freelance writer who writes from her family owned farm, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. When not busy tending to her family, farm, gardens – she enjoys writing about garden produce, herbs, berries, and the interaction of the family in the garden. She has studied both culinary and medicinal herbs and gardening for most her adult life. Now that her children are grown and she is a grandmother, she has more time to devote to her writing.
Making Water For a Humidifier
love your newsletter and was wondering if anyone knew of a way to make "homemade" distilled water from tap water. Possibly boil, then strain through a coffee filter? We have hard water and must use distilled in our humidifier. Any hints will be appreciated! Thanks, LCR
LCR needs water that has the dissolved minerals removed. While it might be possible to set up a still on her stove, the cost of the fuel used would probably be greater than buying the same amount of demineralized water in a store. (If her family uses a stove for heating, a still would not increase the cost appreciably.)
If they have a reverse osmosis water purifying unit for drinking water. That water should be OK for a humidifier. Otherwise, I would recommend buying demineralized water. In our area this costs $0.35 a gallon if you bring your own container to the store. Allen – Decatur, IL
If you live in a humid climate and use a dehumidifier in the summer, the water that is pulled out of the air is distilled. I live in Massachusetts and if I bottled all of the water I collected in the 3 months I use the dehumidifier, I would probably have enough to drink for an entire year! Running it through a coffee filter won’t do anything, distilling is "reverse osmosis" (don’t ask me to explain that, it’s the only think I remember from HS Chemistry!). Love the newsletter! Leslie
Well, first you can just use regular water in the humidifier and periodically descale it by filling with vinegar and leaving it to sit over night. Rinse before you refill the humidifier. (Reuse the vinegar in a marked jug, or use for cleaning only). My parents did this for years and have the softest humifier drum "sponges" and cleanest ultrasonic humidifiers you ever saw. But if you want distilled water, it is easy to make too.
Distilled water is regular water that has been turned to steam and recondensed. Particles do not turn to water vapor and so are left out in the bottom of the boiling vats. It would likely cost a fair bit to boil away the teakettle into a slanted receptacle….would warm and humidify the house of course.
MUCH CHEAPER – FREE after you build it – and MUCH SAFER are SOLAR POWERED WATER PURIFIERS. Even a klutz like me, with substandard house tools, can make one in less than an afternoon using plans available FREE on line at places like kids science/survivalist sites. Their basic design is simply a shallow trough (or even a kiddy pool) with angled or A-frame glass or even heavy mil plastic over them. The heat of the sun evaporates the water and it condenses on the glass. The glass is angled so that when the water condenses on it and builds into droplets gravity runs it over to the lower side into a clean gathering area (another trough, a jug set under under a drainhole or whatever). You can use any type of water for this, because the impurities are left on the dirty side. If all you are using is regular tap water, you can just periodically clean out the source side. The same principles are now used in some developing countries for potable water. You can even use these in the winter. The water will go straight from frozen to vapor, and it will all be liquid in a surprisingly short time after the sun starts hitting it in the morning. (Even in Saskatchewan Canada, which has a Siberian climate). — Cathy, in Texas now.