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.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

CHANGE DIET: SAVE MONEY AND MAYBE LOOSE WEIGHT

There are several ways that minor changes in diet can help you cut your calories and also increase your savings. However, no one should make any drastic changes to their diet without consulting their doctor. What is suggested in this blog are just a few ways you can save money on your grocery bill while at the same time cutting back on some general items which might help fight the “battle of the bulge”. These ideas are ones that I and people I know have tried in order to increase savings and decrease spending.

Cutting back on portions and substituting food items are the two main ways of saving money. Starting with breakfast it is easy to see where grocery bills could be brought down. Perhaps instead of eating two eggs, two slices of toast and, two slices of bacon you might try having just one egg, one slice of toast and one slice of bacon. The same goes for your consumption of coffee or other beverage. Perhaps eating dry toast once in a while or poached instead of fried eggs might be a way of cutting back on fat consumption which in turn cuts back on what you spend at the grocery store. Dry toast does not have to plain toast since you can try a bit of cinnamon on it for flavor. If you’re a cereal eater try eating a bowl of oat meal once in a while in the place of a perhaps very sugary and costly cereal.

For a snack break you might try eating some crackers with jelly or jam on them. I have found this to be a good way of curbing the mid-morning desire for a pastry. The crackers I liked to use when I worked out were just plain saltines and the jam was homemade and the fruit came from my garden or my fruit trees. The saltines and jam snacks cost just a fraction of a deep fried jelly or creamed filled doughnut and I would say the calories, at least the ones from fat were much less. Crackers with cheese or crackers with peanut butter might be another way to go if you don’t like jelly.

Taking your lunch to work really will save you at least a small fortune over time. I liked peanut butter and/or jelly but certainly tuna, chicken, ham and other meats and vegetables always made for a nice meal at work. You can also eat much leaner meats and in proper portions by making your own sandwich and taking it to work. Usually, restaurant and deli sandwiches have huge buns stacked with some very fatty meats. You might also try bringing in some fresh veggies or fruit to spice up your lunch. Soup or homemade chili from home might be just the type of lunch that keeps your calories low, your food cost low and, maybe you might just be getting food with a bit more nutrition in it.

I remember for years that my mom would carve up the turkey, chicken or, roast beef from our traditional Sunday dinner and make up sandwiches for my dads lunch. She would freeze the sandwiches so they would keep for at least the next week. My dad would usually get some vegetable or fruit in his lunch which would come out of the garden or off the fruit trees.

Supper is the last meal of the day and can be one where you find a great deal of savings simply by cutting back the portions you eat. My sister and brother-in-law lost a tremendous amount of weight simply by eating foods in portions which are recommended. Every recipe and every frozen food will have suggested serving sizes. Unfortunately, for most of us we ignore the suggested serving sizes and simply eat until our stomachs can hold no more. For myself I know that overeating at supper time was a way of finding comfort from a very stressful day at work. Most of us should go for a walk to get rid of stress rather than overeating.

Well, my sister battled the temptation of overeating at supper time by fixing up dinners in plastic containers which contained foods in their proper proportions. By having foods measured out in their proper proportions it is harder to overeat the main course and then skip out on the very nutritional courses of fruits and vegetables. The main course is usually a meat and with the fantastic prices of meat today it can save a lot of money by not filling up on it and skipping the rest of your meal.

Finally, you have night time snacks to deal with. You can try serving your favorite snack in small bowls, bags or, sacks. Like with supper, serving corn chips, potato chips and other snacks in proportions that are closer to serving and nutritional size might be a way to curb consumption. Curbing consumption curbs costs, calories and all the other nasty things like fats and salts. Also, try substituting popcorn for fatty snacks. Everyone wants butter and salt on their popcorn but, at least if you pop the popcorn the old fashioned way you can curb the intakes of the bad stuff. I’d suggest substituting vegetables from the garden for snacks when you can but, most people want high carbohydrate snacks at night so, popcorn or perhaps cheese and crackers might be cheaper and healthier than any kind of deep fried snack.

Remember, the above a re just suggestions and you should consult your doctor before you make any drastic changes to your diet however, eating healthier while eating foods that are more wallet friendly will save you a fortune over time.

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