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Save Money By Keeping The Food You Buy Fresh Longer
Saving money is on everyone’s mind these days. Yet the average family of four throws out nearly $1500.00 worth of food a year. We certainly don’t intend to be wasteful, so there must be another reason for it. If you’re like me, there are a couple of reasons. I may have decided to buy something on sale that doesn’t keep well, or on that same note, bought too much of something because the price was right. I know my buying habits will not change (always looking for that bargain), so I need ways to make the food that I buy stay fresh longer.
There are ways to keep ordinary foods fresh longer that may help save money instead of throwing it out with the trash.
Vegetables can be a problem. I buy them on sale and always end up with too much. The reason vegetables wilt is because they lose water. You can get them crispy again by soaking them in a bowl of ice water for as long as half an hour. The ice water restores their crunch by penetrating their cells.
You can buy butter in bulk with a clear conscience because it will store in your freezer for up to six months. You want to store it in an air tight container so it doesn’t take on the flavor of other things in the freezer.
Eggs are something I am always nervous about. I never know how long they’ve been in the refrigerator and I don’t want to mess around with eggs, for sure. An easy way to test them to see if they are fresh is to place the eggs in a bowl of water. Fresh eggs will sink, while bad eggs will float. They will also float if they’re old, but not necessarily spoiled. The best way to verify that an egg is still usable is to crack it open (raw or cooked) and check the look and smell of it. If you check an egg and it has a bad odor, or weird look to it, it is spoiled and you shouldn’t use it. Personally, I just stick with the float test.
Dry goods like pasta, rice and flour will stay a long time on the pantry shelf. Pasta up to two years, flour’s good 6-12 months. The problem is they tend to get those little bugs in them called weevils. Try this to stop that. Put a bay leaf in your storage container. This will work with most dry goods including not only pasta, rice and flour, but also cereal, oats, pancake mix, etc. Amazingly, the scent of the bay leaf keeps the weevils at bay, yet doesn’t penetrate into the food so there is no taste of bay leaf when you eat it. And if you place some leaves on your pantry shelves they will also repel roaches, moths and mice.
I like to use fresh herbs for cooking, but they are expensive and I always have to buy more than I need for one dish. You can wash the herbs, seal them in a storage bag and freeze them for up to a month (about twice as long as in the fridge). They stay fresh, you can chop them while they’re still frozen, and they defrost quickly when thrown into a hot pan.
Here’s a tip for cottage cheese and sour cream. Bacteria are what cause cottage cheese and sour cream to go bad. If you store these upside down in the fridge it creates a vacuum in the container which stifles the growth of bacteria and they last much longer than storing them right side up.
I usually use sea salt in a grinder, but when I do use regular salt in a shaker I notice it has a tendency to clump. To stop the clumping, add some rice to the shaker. It absorbs the condensation that causes the clumps.
Do you know the only food that doesn’t spoil? It’s honey. It will crystallize, but doesn’t go bad. The sugar in honey is a preservative and honey is also acidic. The acidity keeps bacteria out. If your honey has crystallized just zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time on medium heat. That will clear it up so it’s just like new.
Lastly, one of the best investments I’ve ever made was for a Food Saver vacuum sealer. It’s amazing how long food will store in the fridge and freezer when the air is vacuumed out of it. Instead of meat and fish keeping for a month or so, I literally have had meat and fish in the freezer up to a year and it’s still good. It affords me the opportunity to buy meat in bulk at the lowest possible price and I don’t need to worry about using it up in a hurry. I also use it to vacuum pack lunch meat, cheese, leftovers like chicken, meat, veggies, and even soup. The food lasts so long being vacuum packed that I never have had any go bad before we could finish it. And sometimes that can take a long while.