Good Monday Morning! Let’s Talk About Saving Money on FOOD :-)

Filed under :Food Storage, Freezer, Meal Planning, ZIPLOCK Bags and Containers

This past weekend was a test for me personally.  I know that you’ve been there before too.  You take off on a Saturday to run errands, visit some friends, go places with the family and then you come home and it’s late and everyone is HUNGRY!  But you didn’t leave out anything to thaw and you didn’t really have plans for your dinner today because you thought you would be back home much earlier and you’d just take care of it them.  But you didn’t arrive home early – you arrived home LATE.  Now – what are you going to do?

Let me introduce you to DOUBLE COOKING.  Yes…. There are times with some of our favorite meals that I will DOUBLE UP and cook two of the same meals (at the same time).  We have one of the meals for dinner and the other meal I place in the freezer for times that I’m unprepared and I need to cook something quick!  Now this doesn’t work with all meals – some things freeze well and other food items do not.  I’ll share some of the meals that I like to DOUBLE COOK and they work well for my family.

Our favorite of course is spaghetti – it is to easy to cook a double batch of sauce and noodles.   And it is so easy to freeze and lasts very well in the freezer too.   Just double your recipe for sauce – put aside 1/2 of what you cook and let it cool down.   Then place into one of the ziplock plastic containers and pop into the freezer.  It’s equally as easy to do the spaghetti noodles as well.  Just double up on the noodles you are preparing for your meal, drain and rinse.  Many times I will let the extra noodles sit in cool water while we eat our meal.  Then when I’m cleaning the kitchen, I’ll scoop them out and place them in a ziplock plastic container (or I’ve even put them in a ziplock freezer bag) and then place them in the freezer.

Another item we like to double up on cook is beef or pork roast.    It can be reheated and eaten again.  Or, if you want to change things up a bit, make BBQ for sandwiches from it :-)   That is always a hit.   Baked or roasted chicken is a great item to double up on when cooking.  It takes the same amount of electricity to cook one as it does two – so you’re saving some money there too!   For the 2nd chicken, I like to let it cool down and then remove the meat from the bone.  I separate the white meat from the dark meat.  The white meat is used for preparing items like chicken salad and the dark meat is what I use in soups and casseroles or even chicken pot pie :-)

Another item that freezes well is soup.  We love soup – beef, chicken, pork or just plain vegetable soup.  And it’s so easy to cook in the crock pot or the pressure cooker.  Let your 2nd batch cook well and then place in the freezer in a large ziplock plastic container.  When you’re ready to re-heat it, let it thaw for about an hour or so and then just heat and serve with some cornbread or garlic toast.

So where’s the ‘SAVING MONEY’ for this post?  There are several money saving tips – first, when you cook the meal it usually takes the same amount of electricity to cook one batch as it does two.  Second, instead of coming home and ordering pizza delivery, you’re saving money because you already have a home-cooked meal right inside your freezer than can be microwaved :-)

I’d love to hear from some of you – what meals have you had success freezing that would work well for double cooking?

 


Day 7 of the Organize Your Pantry Challenge (continued)

Filed under :Organize Your Pantry, Pantry, ZIPLOCK Bags and Containers

I decided to take this post and go a little further into detail on food “packaging”.  Like I said in my last post, some foods were just not meant to be stored in the packaging that we purchase them in.  Some of this food packaging doesn’t hardly even stand up to the handling it receives in shipment to your local grocery store.

One item in particular that comes to mind is dried beans…. I don’t know how many of you include at least one meal of dried beans for your family per week, but it’s a staple at our dinner table.  Beans are good for you and they are loaded with protein.  For those who feel like you need to have a “meat” – easy, just add some sausage and you’re good to go.   But back to the subject of the packaging that dried beans are in… this plastic just doesn’t stand up well at all.  And, beans are NOT something that you should put into your pantry without re-packaging first.

Let’s take an example — these are a package of dried red kidney beans that I recently purchased at the grocery store.  I always check the beans WELL at the store before I put them into my buggy.  I am checking for worms or weevils.    Your first line of defense is to make sure that you do not bring bugs home in the food you purchase from the grocery store.   The packaging for these beans is a thin, plastic bag.  It’s not open anywhere (how many times have you seen open bags of beans in the grocery store along with dried beans all over the floor?)     It doesn’t have any visible bugs in the bag either so I place it in my buggy along with my other grocery purchases.   This type of packaging used on dried beans is NOT sufficient for long-term storage in your pantry.  Why?

First, it is easy enough to tell that the packaging is not “air tight”…. and, if you look very closely at this closeup pic, you’ll see that there is a tiny hole in the bag.   Anytime a package isn’t sealed and air can get out, bugs can also get in!  Dried beans are #1 on my list to re-package before they go into my pantry!!   Also, while I’m re-packaging them, it gives me a chance to give them the “once over” just to double check and make sure there are not any bugs that I missed when I inspected them at the store prior to purchase.   So, just how do I “re-package” them for my pantry?  Remember those ZipLocks I told you about?

I love using ZipLocks for food storage in my pantry.  They are airtight, keep my food fresh and keep bugs out.  Sometimes they also keep bugs IN…. I’ll explain.  Remember what I said, it’s important to protect your foods even if you are “bug free” because you could very easily bring some home with you on your next grocery trip!   As I transferred the beans from the original package and into the ZipLock, I tried to check them well to make sure there were not any bugs in them.  They could have easily have picked up bugs in bulk storage bins, at the packaging facility, in transit or even at the grocery store.    Everything looked fine with the beans :-)    But, just in case I did miss something, these beans are now sealed up, air-tight in this ZipLock.  If there were a weevil that I might have missed, he’s in this ZipLock and he can’t get out!  So, I’m doing 2 things here – I’m protecting these beans from bugs and, I’m protecting all of the other foods in my pantry from bugs just in case these beans had bugs in them when I purchased the package at the grocery store.  If I would have left the beans in the original packaging, and…. if these beans had bugs in them, then the bugs could have migrated and infested other foods in my pantry.

Now, storing beans in ZipLocks in your pantry could be hard to organize and keep in order.  Those ZipLocks can sure be slippery when you’re trying to stack them up.  So, here’s a solution that I found (and love!) for organizing items in my pantry.  They are plastic “shoe boxes” that I found at Wally World.  They are 97 cents each and they do come with a lid as well.   These are great containers to store food items in.  They hold a good bit of items (in this case, I have 6 bags of beans).  Also, because of the shape of the lid, these plastic storage containers are great to stack!

I purchase dried pinto beans in bulk at Sams Club.  But, we only eat about 2 cups for a meal.  What I like to do is measure out 2 cups of beans into a ZipLock bag, write the date on the bag, and place them  into these plastic shoe boxes for pantry storage.  Writing the date on the front of the ZipLock helps me to use the oldest items first :-)

Another item I repackage is Jello…. the outside box is fine but the thin paper “bag” inside would be just too easy for a bug to get into in my opinion LOL.    So,  I remove the paper bag from the box, write the expiration date at the top, and place all of the same flavor of Jello into one large ZipLock.   By taking the package out of the box, it gives me a chance to inspect it to make sure that there are no holes or bugs in the product.   You do not have to do this if you do not want to – you could just place the boxes directly into the gallon-sized ZipLock.  I find this brand on sale quite often at Walgreens and I like to stock up when it is cheap.   I place these ZipLocks into one of the plastic shoe box storage containers – I have one labeled “Jello Dessert” in my pantry.

One food item that I’m always paranoid about having bugs in is CEREAL.  I think it has to do with the time when I was a child that I was eating cereal out of the box for a snack.  First of all, let me say that my mom has the cleanest house of anyone I know!!  Got to get that said LOL   Well, a huge wood roach ran out of the box just as I put my hand in about the 4th time.  Still to this day, it makes me sick if I think about it too long LOL   Now, when I purchase cereal at the grocery store, when I get home, I like to open the box up and check to make sure that the inside package is air tight.  That’s my assurance that the cereal is fresh and hopefully has no bugs in it.  I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment to take a box of cereal back to the grocery store if the inside bag wasn’t air tight LOL!   Once I open the package though, I like to transfer the cereal into a freezer ZipLock gallon-size bag if it will be going back into the pantry.   Then the ZipLock bag goes back into the original cereal box.

But, sometimes, instead of returning the opened cereal to the pantry (maybe because I’m out of gallon sized ZipLocks LOL), I will fold the cereal bag over a few times, place a clip on it and put it in the refrigerator.  But I would never place a “clipped” cereal bag back into the pantry….   As a matter of fact, there are quite a few items that I do store in the refrigerator in ZipLock freezer bags:

On my bottom shelf, I have two boxes of cereal, a box of grits and a box of pancake mix.   ZipLocks work really great inside of the refrigerator for items like pancake batter or grits because they keep the foods inside the boxes from becoming “stale” or tasting like the refrigerator.  And one thing that is SO IMPORTANT….. YOU CAN RE-USE THESE ZIPLOCKS over and over again!  For me, they are a necessary and important expense in helping me to keep my food safe, fresh and bug free.

Now there are quite a few items that I have in my pantry that I do not transfer over into ZipLocks.  These are items that I feel like the packaging is adequate for storage in the pantry until we consume them.  Take a look at the photo and you’ll get an idea of the items I’m talking about.     But since it is hard to keep these items organized in the pantry (because of their packaging), I like to store them in the plastic shoe boxes.  You can really fit a good many of these type sauces and gravy mixes in just one of the plastic shoe boxes.

I hope that this information helps you to store food in your pantry so that it is protected and will stay fresh for a long time.


Are Your Throwing Away Spoiled Food?

Filed under :Food Storage, ZIPLOCK Bags and Containers

One of my favorite commercials that I’m seeing on TV right now is the ZIPLOCK commercial.

It points out that average Americans are throwing away over $500 in food each year.  Do I believe it?  You bet!  Just this morning, I microwaved a waffle, put syrup and butter on it and then tried to eat it.  Guess what?  It had freezer burn!  YUCK!  So into the trash it went.  Then while scouting the refrig, I saw a plastic clam shell pack of raspberries that I got on sale at Target 2 weeks ago!  Well,  these were beyond saving…. they were covered in mold.  Into the trash can these were thrown.  So I definitely do believe that we throw away alot of food each year.  How could I have saved this food?  Well, I c0uld have frozen them in protective ZIPLOCK bags and I would not have had to throw away spoiled food.

One of the most important things we can do to be frugal and save money is to store and make use of food wisely.  I have to admit that I am a ZIPLOCK fan… I purchase them in bulk packs at Sam’s Club.   These bags and the containers that ZIPLOCK have available do help me alot.  I just need to make a more conscious effort to preserve and use food wisely.

Back to the ZIPLOCK bags… did you know that you can wash, dry and reuse them?  Not only is this good for your pocketbook, it’s also great for the environment.  I found a drying rack on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Countertop-Bag-Dryer-Reuse-Plastic/dp/B0009L8DG8

But since this rack is showing a price of over $18, I am going to see if I can make one myself from some scrap wood and some cheap dowels from Lowes or Hobby Lobby.  I’ll post my creation (and instructions) later.

How do you clean your used ZIPLOCK bags?  It’s really quite easy.  Turn the bag inside out while holding it over the garbage can — make sure that you have emptied all of the crumbs, etc from the bag.  Then place it (along with your other used bags) into a sink filled with a couple of inches of warm, soapy water.  Let the bags soak for about 5 minutes and then use your dishrag or sponge (whatever you use to hand wash your dishes) and carefully wash the bags paying particular attention to the corners.  Then rinse them in your side sink that you have filled with a couple inches of warm, clean water.  Hang the bags to dry – and after they are dried, flip them back with the right side out, fold and store in a kitchen drawer until you need to use them again.

Then use the dishwater and rinse water to wash your other dishes :-)    Always make sure to wash your ZIPLOCK bags in the dishwater prior to washing any other dishes.

There are so many uses for ZIPLOCK bags… I will make another posts soon on that topic.