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Shortcuts save time and money

By on July 6, 2008

photo by span
frozen fruit

The first frugal tip I’m sharing is a new one for me. I usually let my frozen fruit thaw in the bag, or I use it frozen. I hope there’s a new one today for you, too.

FLAVORED WATER: I buy a lot of frozen fruit to use for smoothies, cobblers or to cook as a compote. I found that if I thaw the fruit in a sieve over a bowl, I can use the water/juice from the defrosted berries to add flavor to drinking water. I make up a pitcher of drinking water and add the fruit juice, and it tastes much like the flavored water sold in bottles for a $1.50. Plus, it’s all-natural and low in sugar. — Nantahala, North Carolina

BROWNED MEAT: I usually buy at least five pounds of ground beef. When I get home, I brown it and put it in the freezer. Even if you forget to lay it out to thaw, you can put it in the skillet, and it’ll break up fast. It doesn’t get freezer burned as badly, either. — Gail, Ohio

EASY CLEANUP: Use a “garbage bowl.” Put a large bowl on the counter next to you when you’re preparing food. Put trash, veggie peels, etc., in it. When you’re done cooking for the night, dump it into the garbage. This will save you from running back and forth to the trash can. Or, before you peel veggies, put a sheet of paper towel or wax paper on the counter. Peel over the sheet of paper. When you’re done, just fold the whole thing up and dump it in the trash. No mess. If you’re grating cheese and it’s sticking to the grater, pop the cheese into the freezer for a few minutes. This firms it up and makes it easier to grate. — hwmabire3, Florida
Note from Sara: Consider using the contents of the garbage bowl as compost, or instead of using paper towel or wax paper, reuse newspaper.

LETTUCE SAVER: I buy whole heads of lettuce, then tear and wash them as soon as I get home. I store them in zipper baggies lined with damp paper towels, and they stay fresh all week. After I do my menu planning and shopping, I prep all of the ingredients I’ll need for the week. If I get out of work late or hit traffic, I don’t have to spend time chopping and slicing. I can start cooking straight away when I get home. I think of it as the frugal alternative to those places where you go to prepackage your meals at ridiculous prices. — The Muse, e-mail
Note from Cheryl in Massachusetts: Consider spinning it, using dry paper towels, and remove as much air as possible from the zipper baggie.

SAVE THAT MEAT: We have a “meat bucket” in the freezer. Whenever we have leftover meat, I cut it into chunks, and we toss it into the freezer container. Then, when it’s full, we make chili with the meat. Because the meat is already cooked, you just have to heat it up and let the flavors mingle. I never have breadcrumbs when the recipe calls for them, so I now take the heels off the store-bought bread (which no one in our house will eat), and I put them in a bread bag in the freezer. Then, when I am making something that needs breadcrumbs, I take out what I need and crumble it. Bread crumbles easily when it is frozen. — Sarah, Illinois

FOREMAN GRILL STAYS CLEAN: After using my Foreman grill, I unplug it, take wet paper towels, lay them on the grill and close it. When I get a minute to clean it up, it’s just a wipe away. — Louise, Georgia

BISCUITS AT THE READY: Whenever I make biscuits, I make at least a double batch. I roll them and cut them and bake only what I need. I freeze the rest and pull them out when they’re needed. — thriftstorequeen, New Jersey

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