Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Works for Me Wednesday: Time and Money Saving Kitchen Tips
I recently saw on a daytime TV show that you can save yourself time in the kitchen if you buy pre-prepped kitchen staples from the grocery store. Things like pre-chopped onions, celery, and carrots and pre-peeled garlic. Sure that's handy, but do you enjoy paying more for something you can easily do yourself? I sure don't.
Here are a few tricks I use in the kitchen to not only simplify but to make sure that I don't unnecessarily waste food!
The key: Utilize your freezer!
Our freezer used to be stocked with all sorts of processeds food until we discovered why real food is so much better for you. So now, where those frozen pizzas, chicken fingers, and garlic bread slices from a box used to live, I keep all sorts of handy things:
If you only need a small amount of a vegetable chop the whole thing!
For example, when I buy onions from the grocery store they are HUGE! Like softball-sized huge! When a recipe calls for a medium onion they are talking about an onion about 3 inches in diameter, about the size of a tennis ball. Or better yet, I have many recipes which call for just 1/4 or 1/2-cup of onion, which isn't anywhere near a full onion.
So, what I do is the first time that I need an onion I go ahead and cut up the whole thing. I note the recipes that are coming up later in the week to see if I need onion within the next few days. If so, I'll cut the needed amount of onion to specifications and then put it in a container in the fridge so I can pull it out later in the week. If I don't need anymore onion that week, or I still have extra left over I just chop it up and put it in a sandwich baggie and toss it into the freezer. It's so handy to have there because so many recipes call for onion!
When I need it I just dump it straight from the bag in the freezer into a hot waiting pan to saute. It's already chopped so it defrosts quickly during the cooking process! I use this same method for celery, carrots, and green peppers as well.
To save even more money, think ahead and buy things on sale and then prep them and put them in the freezer so they're still good when you need them! I did this with peppers at the end of last summer because they were $0.50 each at the farmer's market, while they can be found at the grocery store for as much as $2-$3 each over the Winter!
Ginger is something else that freezes really well! Usually you buy a large piece of ginger root and a little freshly grated ginger goes a long way. Just toss the remaining root into the freezer in a baggie, peel and all, and it'll still be fresh when you need it again!
A few other freezer tips to save money, food, and time:
Make ahead freezer meals: There are TONS of recipes floating around the interwebz that are specifically suggested to make ahead and freeze, but my favorite thing to do is package large recipes (or doubled small recipes) into two pans (one to eat the night of, one to pop in the freezer for a later time). This way, it's no extra work, but I save money by making sure that all the food gets eaten and I have backup reserves in my freezer for days that I need food ready fast which keeps us from the temptation of ordering in!
Freezer foods that have worked out really well for us:
Pizza Sauce (I've also heard you can do pizza crust/dough, but I haven't tried this yet, although I'm planning to!)
I'm just using up the last of a big batch of Pesto that I made with fresh basil purchased at the farmer's market last summer.
Most soups, lasagna/casserole type dishes, and breads freeze well. Homemade bread whether it's a typical sandwich loaf, quick bread, waffles, pancakes or muffins all need to be eaten within a few days, which is sometimes hard to do with only 2 adults in the house so I always freeze whatever I know we won't get to within a day or 2 so that it stays fresh.
Cheese and butter are also good options for freezing and obviously all varieties of meat freeze well.
Broths/Stocks are another good idea to keep in your freezer. If I have leftover store bought broth I'll just pour it into a container and mark how much is in there so I can use it up next time. Likewise, you can make your own broth/stock at your convenience and then freeze it into 1-2 cup portions.
I'm planning to try to cook some dried beans and package them into can-sized servings for when I need them. I also know that some people like to keep cooked ground beef, shredded chicken, and taco meat on hand in the freezer so it's ready to go when they need it for something!
I'm linking up with We are THAT Family for Works for Me Wednesday!