Monday, October 28, 2013

Good Food on a Budget...Waste Not, Want Not

Food is stinkin' expensive.  In an ideal world, we'd all have be gathering the bounty from our backyard gardens to feed our families. Unfortunately, that's not the case for most. Our family recently made a 2000 mile move from Montana to Texas, making gardening an impossibility at the moment. I really, really miss my garden, but life goes on...and you go to the grocery store.  Months ago, I'd promised to do a few posts on keeping costs down while feeding a family whole, live, organic (mostly) foods.  Since our move has happened and we are somewhat settled, this is the first of said posts. Hopefully you will find it helpful.

It is, as we all know, more budget-friendly to buy in bulk and larger quantities. The downside to this is sometimes having food go bad before it gets used. Oh my goodness, I really hate that!  It makes me quite upset with myself when I bring home lovely bunches of greens or carrots, only to let them get limp and slimy in the fridge.  Unacceptable. Here are a few solutions I've found to work nicely.

Fresh is best when it comes to fruits and veggies, so I always leave out an amount that I know we will use up before they can go bad. The rest is usually either juiced or frozen.  Onions and peppers, for example, freeze nicely if you just cut them up and put them in freezer bags.  I once bought an entire basket of peppers at farmer's market, which I cut up and put in the freezer, giving us yummy peppers to enjoy all winter. You can do this with many veggies--celery, carrots, kale, chard, etc. If it is more than you can use fairly quickly, I recommend blanching, as some things, greens in particular, can get bitter if in the freezer for an extended amount of time.  While frozen produce isn't always ideal for some dishes, it is great for things like soups, smoothies, etc. Simply take out what you need, putting the remainder back in the freezer.

If you have a juicer, use it to juice foods likes apples, pear, carrots, celery, or cucumbers.  Simply freeze in ice cube trays and pop them into a freezer bag or mason jar.  Fruit and veggie juice cubes are great in smoothies!  Citrus fruits, like lemons and limes, can also be juiced and frozen. Be sure to zest them first and freeze that as well.    *(Sprinkle baking soda and salt in your sink and give it a little scrub with the leftover lemon rind or put the rinds in a jar of vinegar.  Let the jar sit for a few weeks, adding rinds as you have them, making a great citrus cleaner for around the house.)

Fresh herbs don't last long, even in the fridge.  Use ice cube trays filled with sprigs of herbs and olive oil to freeze them.  As with other things, just pop the cubes out and into a jar or freezer bag.  It's really easy to grab a cube or two out of the freezer to use in a broth or skillet.

Life can get crazy busy, I know, and sometimes doing things like blanching, chopping and freezing may sound like more than you have time for.  In the long run, however, it makes things easier and has the added benefit of saving your family some money on groceries!  Good luck!

Next up:
Just Say No! to Canned Beans :-)

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