Tuesday, February 14, 2012

THE REFRIGERATOR IS A TREASURE CHEST

Most people have a good deal of their paycheck each week ending up in their refrigerator, freezer or, pantry. Many people already believe that by shopping sales, using coupons, substituting store brands for name brands etc., they are already doing all that they can to save money on their food bill. But, saving money when you purchase your food is one way to save however, you can still save much more by simply managing your food better once you get it into your house. Just think about the price you pay for food items you have to throw out each week. If you could save $10 each week by better managing your food waste, you could save $520.00 per year. That is at least a small fortune in these hard times. Get use to saving on food waste and over a lifetime you will have saved a modest fortune. Therefore, just by better managing what you have, your refrigerator will become a treasure chest.

The first thing you need to do before you even go to the grocery store is to make a list of items you need. This should entail going through your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry and, wherever else you happen to store food. This way you purchase what you need rather than purchasing items which are not needed. Grocery items, even canned goods, are perishable and are generally dated with either “use by” or “sell by” dates. You should arrange like items so that close dated items are in the front and items with older dates (dates further out into the future) are behind those with close dates. A lot of money is wasted because people don’t pay attention to the dates on their groceries until they find that they have an entire gallon of spoiled milk in the refrigerator. Or, maybe their eggs have a funky smell when they go to make up a batch of cookies. Of course anything that I think might be spoiled I toss out to the garbage. Saving money is great but, getting sick is not worth saving fifty cents on some raunchy mayonnaise.

One way to combat having to throw close dated items out is to of course find ways to use the items quickly. Most meat items you can freeze and thus, prolong their usability for months. Most bake goods can also be frozen for future use. If you have a lot of eggs then perhaps you could make up some baked goods to freeze. You could also boil the eggs and pickle them in vinegar. I’ve often used up extra eggs by making up a large number of pancakes and then freezing them for future microwave breakfasts.

Produce items don’t usually have dates but, they usually will not last more than a few days in the refrigerator or on your counter. There are reasons to keep certain items like potatoes and tomatoes on you counter and not the refrigerator where they will keep longer however, I do have an idea or two on how you can keep potatoes in your refrigerator. I keep tomatoes inside my refrigerator. Inside or outside the refrigerator tomatoes keep for such a short time that I really do not notice much change in texture by keeping them refrigerated. It does add a few days of use if they are refrigerated. Potatoes can be kept in your crisper however; they will wither up over time. They wither because they are becoming dehydrated in the cold just like your house gets dry during cold winter months. You can at least partly replace the moisture in your potatoes or most vegetables by soaking them in water. Cutting off the end (butt) of your lettuce, soaking it in water and placing it back in the refrigerator, will crisp it up nicely.

Almost all fruits can be frozen and/or juiced. Even bananas can be frozen for later use in banana bread. You can even freeze them with the skins on. Just make sure your bananas are really ripe before you freeze them if you want really good banana bread.

Leftover meat, pasta, rice, vegetable, bread and, many desert dishes can be divided up into serving sized storage containers and frozen. You can even make up your own TV dinners. I save my old TV dinner and frozen entrée trays and reuse them this way. I just wrap them up in freezer wrap. The advantage of freezing leftover versus just leaving the dishes in the refrigerator is that many times people do not want to eat the same dish two or more days in a row. By the time they are ready or willing to eat the dish again it has spoiled while sitting in the refrigerator.

One way to save a little on items you throw out is to buy items you don’t use much of in smaller quantities. For example: if you only use a small amount of mayonnaise from a large jar before you have to throw the jar away, buy a bottle that approximates the size you will be using. Buying things in large quantity can save money only if you are not throwing the extra away. If you can only consume twelve eggs before the expiration date comes up then why would you spend extra money to buy three dozen?

Condiments can be a real source of waste in the refrigerator. Older condiments I like to try to use up as perhaps a glaze on some ribs, a ham or, even a roast. Older bottles of fruit juice can also be used to glaze and flavor meats. In order to get ketchup that is stuck in the bottom out, I will add just a little bit of vinegar to the bottle and then swoosh it around until the ketchup can be poured out. The point is when I see something is getting old but it is not yet spoiled, I will try to use it up as soon as possible. Overall, a few extra minutes each day can make an impact on the money you save. To misquote Ben Franklin: A penny saved is better than a penny earned because on the money you save you do not have to pay taxes.

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