Frugal Tips for the Home Cook

As far as I'm concerned, throwing away food is like throwing away money. Since almost none of us can afford to do that right now, I'd like to share some tips I've been using lately as I'm cooking for myself more, eating out less, and trying hard to not throw anything away.
Grow your own herbs. Buying fresh herbs at the store when you need them is often expensive. Most of the stores in my area primarily sell fresh herbs in small plastic containers that cost $2.00 a pop. You can buy a packet of seeds that will grow an incredible amount of herbs for just $1 to $2, or you can buy a starter plant for $2 to $3. Either way, you'll get more bang for your buck than buying cut herbs at the store.
Make herbal ice cubes. Whether you buy fresh herbs at the store or grow them in your yard, you'll probably end up with more than you need at some point. Instead of letting them go to waste, save the ones you can use in soups, stews, and curries by chopping them up, putting them in an ice cube tray (fill each cube 3/4 full of herbs) then covering them with water and freezing. When you're ready to use them, just throw an herbal ice cube into your stew and let it melt. What's more, having a stash of extra herbs in your freezer might save you a trip to the store.
Reuse frying oil. I used to think that you could only use oil once and that was it, but when you use oil for deep frying, you can save it and reuse it again and again as long as it doesn't go rancid. I've used the same oil to fry toasted ravioli and tofu and then used it in a brownie recipe. Visit Go Ask Alice! to learn about the proper way to reuse frying oil.
Keep your fridge extra cold so items don’t spoil. I keep my fridge so cold that the things in the back occasionally get frozen by accident, and I'm sure it increases my energy bill, though I couldn't tell you by how much. However, I used to throw out a lot of food that I couldn't eat before it spoiled, and since I lowered the temperature of my fridge, I rarely find myself throwing out spoiled food. Recently, I was able to use a carton of half and half for a good month after the expiration date. If I'd had to throw it out on the use-by date, I would have wasted half the carton.
Use leftover wine to make sangria, mulled wine, or vinegar. If you find yourself dumping lots of half-used bottles of wine down the drain, try making sangria or mulled wine with it to extend its shelf life. You could also turn it into homemade vinegar (but you'll need to get some mother first).
Save extra brewed coffee in the fridge and drink it as iced coffee later. How many times have you brewed a large pot of coffee, only to end up pouring half of it out? Store it in an airtight container in your fridge instead and make iced coffee with it in the afternoon. Better yet, if you have a blender that's good at pulverizing ice, you can use this leftover coffee to make your own Starbucks-esque frozen coffee drinks and save yourself the $3 to $4 they normally cost.
Squeeze it. If you have a bunch of lemons, limes, or oranges that you suspect will dry out before you get around to using them, squeeze the juice out of them then store it in the fridge. You can also use the ice cube trick here and thaw the juice as you need it.
Freeze it. If I have some food that I can tell will go bad before I can eat it, I freeze it whenever possible. If I buy too many bananas, I freeze them and use them later in banana bread. If I make a huge pot of soup that I get sick of before I can eat it all, I'll freeze the rest. If that loaf of bread is languishing on my counter, it goes in the freezer. Bell peppers that are starting to go soft get chopped and frozen for use in pasta dishes. Once some items have been frozen, they won't be quite as good, but you can usually still find a way to use them. If the frozen bread isn't quite as fluffy as you'd like, try making grilled cheese with it instead of using it for PBJ.
Photo by WordRidden

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Frozen bread can always be thawed in the micro for 20 sec and then toasted.