Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saving Time & Money

Saving Money

In The Market
  • One of the first rules of thumb for saving money when it comes to buying your groceries is to shop from your own cupboards first.  So before you make that final grocery list, check your pantry for what you have to eliminate buying an item unnecessarily.
  • Once at the market, try your hardest to stick to your list and not let any items randomly jump into your cart.  The exception being shelf-stable items that you find on sale, like canned goods or pastas, that you know you will use in the future.  Remember, though, no deal is a good deal unless you’ll use it!
  • Also, don’t be rigid with your list.  If you want to have fresh fruit in your house, just write “fruit” on your list instead of strawberries and melons.  Buy what’s in season because it will most likely be less expensive.

At Home
  • Once home, there is a lot you can do to save yourself money when it comes to food items.   For starters, when you meal plan, try to make sure that for every more expensive meal you have on the list, you also have an inexpensive meal to balance it out.
  • Every week or two, try to make a dish that is either big enough or doubles easily, and freeze half for later use.  Also, make sure to use a meal stashed in the freezer every week or so.
  • Pay attention to your food and don’t let it go to waste.  A short list of some things you can do is at the bottom of this post.
  • Utilize your freezer for all it’s worth, which is a lot.  A chart of items to be frozen can be found here.
  • Make items you regularly use yourself.  If you eat a lot of pizza, consider making the dough yourself.  If you eat a lot of salad, make your own dressings.  Pop your own popcorn instead of buying the bagged variety.  Not only will these changes save you money, but they are healthier, too.
  • Buy items you use often, if possible, in bulk.   Some grocery stores have bulk bins for spices, too, and that’s a great way to save money!

Saving Time
  • Keep your work space (your kitchen) organized.  Make sure that, if possible, baking tools are near the counter you bake on.  Have your spoons and spatulas and spices near your stove top.  If your kitchen is well organized, then in the midst of cooking or baking you won’t find yourself at a loss to where something is when you need it.  The same goes for your pantry and fridge, it will make retrieving a necessary item all the easier if you know where to look for it.
  • Keep your knives sharp!  A dull knife is not only dangerous, but it’s slow going if you’re trying to use it to cut something.  Most kitchen stores and hardware store will sharpen knives for you and it’s best to keep them sharp to aid in a speedy prep-time.
  • Clean as you cook.  Some people like to clean at the end, but I have found this actually takes longer.  When you’re just sitting sitting for something to cook, or you’re sautéing onions, wipe the counters, rinse some bowls, chop more vegetables if you need to.  Just don’t sit idle when something could be done.
  • Only peel what you must.  Most vegetables are just fine with their skins left on them, and not only will not peeling them save you time, you’ll gain nutrients, too.  Items normally peeled that we suggest leaving whole: summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, sweet potatoes, ECT - just make sure to wash them well.
  • Chop and prep ingredients, if possible, ahead of time.  A lot of recipes can take very little time when it comes right down to it if a little time has been taken before hand to chop and prep the ingredients.  If you don’t have time earlier in the day, consider the night before.  We’ve even heard of people prepping for their meals the weekend before.  Just find what works for you.
  • Some meals can be made in stages.  These meals are great on nights where very little time is available to cook.  Rice and other grains can all be made a day or two ahead of time.  Lots of time sauces or casseroles can even be made ahead of time with only the cooking or warming of dishes necessary.  Some meals are even better after they’ve had time to sit and have all their flavors mingle together for a day or so.
  • Make a big batch of something you know you use a lot of.  Pancake mix stores great in an old oatmeal canister or bag.  If you know you’ll  be eating two meals in one week that require rice, make it all at once.  If you eat a lot of beans, make a large batch from scratch and them freeze them in 1 ½ cup portions in bags for easy use and a savings of money.

How to store veggies so they won’t spoil:
·         Lettuce: Take it apart leaf by leaf instead of chopping the end off.
·         Asparagus and Celery: Place in a container, bottoms down, in a little water
·         Scallions:  Thinly slice the whole bunch and keep in a plastic container/water bottle in the freezer.  Shake out what you need when you need it.
·         Mushrooms:  Store uncovered in the fridge in a loose paper bag
·         Onion and Potatoes: Store in a cool, dark place, away from each other, with good ventilation
How to store fruits so they won’t spoil:
·         Berries:  Soak in a 1:10 vinegar and water solution for a few minutes.  Let dry in a colander and store in the fridge uncovered.
·         Bananas: Separate to slow their yellowing (in the summer), or put in a brown paper bag to speed it up
·         Mangos, Pears, Peaches, Kiwi, other “hard fruit”:  Refrigerate. Put in a paper bag on the counter to ripen faster (and with a banana to speed it up even more)
·         Tomatoes: Do not refrigerate until ripe.  Keep on the counter, stem up, to ripen.
Misc items to keep fresh:
·         Store your bread in the fridge to make it last longer.  Make breadcrumbs out of the old ends.
·         Store ginger root in the freezer and cut as much as you need when needed.  Will last months.
·         When honey crystallizes, don’t throw it out.  Scoop into an oven-safe glass dish and heat at 250 for about 10 minutes until it liquefies.  You can also do this in the microwave.
·         Store herbs the way you would cut flowers, standing up in some water in a cool place with a little light.
Money/Time Saving Tips:
·         Save large yogurt containers for freezing soups/sauces.  This is perfect for crazy nights, you can literally “pop” the soup out of the container and heat it up in a pot on the stove or crockpot.
·         Make your own foaming soap (1/3 of the container full of liquid soup, 2-3 drops essential oil, water rest of the way.)
·         Buy spices in bulk at Whole Foods or other spice stores
·         Make your beans from their dry form.  It just takes a little planning.
·         Candle Tarts – take the remnants from your favorite candle and put it in a candle tart.  Light a tea light and enjoy the delicious smell!
·         If you like tea in the morning and afternoon, make a full (12 cup) pot of tea in a coffee maker and let it last a few days!  All you need is 2 good tea bags and you can get 10 mugs out of it!
·         Make your own popcorn with just kernels and a brown paper bag
·         Make your own breadcrumbs from old/stale bread “butts”
·         Use clean glass jars (from large apple sauce) to store dry beans or grains
·         When cooking frozen fish, don’t thaw, just add a little extra cooking time
·         Keep eggs cold if you need to separate the egg whites off, it’ll be so much easier
·         When needing to “snap” fresh green beans, just line them all up and slice the ends off at once. You can do this with carrots and celery (stack them on top of each other), too!

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