Dear Sara:

I'm not an ethical vegan, but I have been eating vegan for health reasons. I don't currently stockpile, but I eventually need to start doing so. In the past, I went about stockpiling in a very haphazard manner and ended up stocking stuff I didn't want to eat. I'm just curious what is high on your list of must-haves. -- Tena, Nevada

Dear Tena:

You can freeze fresh fruits and vegetables, or even meals, for that matter. To start out, stock items such as pasta, oats, rice, lentils, tortillas, dried and canned beans, vegetables and fruit, soup, nuts and seeds, crackers, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing, salsa, baking supplies and cereal, to name a few.

Dear Sara:

Is a Dutch oven a good investment? Can the enamel ones be used over open flames, or is that just for the cast-iron ones? -- S.M., email

Dear S.M.:

I think it's only a good investment if you'll use it. I use mine often. I own a Le Creuset enamel-over-cast-iron one. It was pricey, but I use it a lot. The enamel type can't be used on an open fire. You can find them at yard sales, estate sales, auctions and thrift stores, so I would check there first. Ask family and friends that might have one, too. I was only able to come across the camping type secondhand, and I wanted one for the stovetop or oven. But you might have better luck.

Dear Sara:

When making double or triple batches of something (one to cook now and one or two to freeze for later), how do you wrap it so that it won't get freezer burn, without using zip-close bags or plastic wrap or leaving it in its original container? For example: meatloaf. I like to make three at a time; I cook one and freeze the other two in the original loaf pan, then I remove them and store them in zip-close bags. When I'm ready to use them, I can pop them right back into the loaf pan I originally froze them in, then I put the pan in the fridge to thaw. But this can be problematic,
because I use my loaf pans for breads, cakes, etc., so I don't want them all in the freezer. The only alternative that comes to mind is aluminum foil (which I would wash and reuse) or wax paper. I'm looking for ideas that might save on the cost. -- S.P., Louisiana

Dear S.P.:

You can buy reusable plastic storage containers. I use freezer storage bags or reusable containers. Sometimes I freeze them in a muffin tin, too. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag and then you can microwave them instead of baking in the oven. I like the smaller portions because my meatloaf doesn't dry out when reheated, but you could just as easily slice your meatloaf and freeze it, or freeze your meatloaf mixture raw. Some people line their pans with foil, lift the meatloaf out and wrap in another layer of foil, then freeze in a freezer storage bag. I wouldn't reuse the foil, though.

Dear Sara:

I was at the beach and left my cellphone in my car because I didn't want it to get sandy. Any ideas for keeping a phone safe at the beach? -- Amanda, Florida

Dear Amanda:

You can put your phone inside a zip-close bag. The less air and the smaller the bag, the easier it will be to use your phone through the bag.

photo by theseanandlaurenspectacular