Years ago I made a terrible mistake. I froze ten pounds ground beef. That big block of frozen hamburger languished in my freezer for years. What was I thinking? I should have browned it first then frozen it in usable portions. But browning beef in a skillet can be so messy!
A few weeks ago I came upon another cheap ground beef opportunity. The expiration date was nearing and my supermarket needed to get rid of—you guessed it—ground beef. Ten pounds. I almost walked by. Then I decided to try something different, albeit a little weird.
I put the entire ten pounds of raw ground beef into my big stock pot, added enough water to cover and set it over high heat to come to a boil, no cover, no salt. After about 5 minutes I gave it a stir to break up the big clumps, which were few. The hot water was doing all of my work for me—no splatters, no mess. When all of the pink color disappeared I knew it was done, even though it had not started to boil.
If the high cost of restaurant meals is eating up your cash, here are some great ways to keep your tab lean!
DISCOUNTS. Many restaurants offer a reduced-price menu for seniors and children. If you or someone in your party qualifies be sure to inquire if this doesn’t show up on the regular menu. Typically these discounted menus offer smaller portions at significantly reduced prices.
SKIP THE SODAS. Skip the pricey drinks and dubious “free refills” altogether and you’ll save at least $2 a person. Lisa B. rewards herself whenever she opts for water by stuffing two bucks into her savings account.
SHARE. Splitting a meal these days is socially acceptable and economically savvy. While some restaurants charge a minimal charge for splitting, most are very accommodating. Even if you have to pay a buck or two to split, it’s still better than paying for two meals you cannot eat completely. If you’re embarrassed about sharing, don’t be. If you must explain, say you are a light eater or that you’re doing your duty to the earth by not over-consuming. Many restaurants are so accommodating they’ll split the meal in the kitchen rather than handing you an extra plate.
School time means new shoes and an unspoiled 64-pak of crayons. It also means getting back to a morning routine. This year, make breakfast a required subject in your house. All you need is fifteen minutes and tips, tricks and hurry-up secrets.
FRUIT SHAKES. Start with the basic recipe and then customize with what’s in the refrigerator: Pour 1 cup juice, 1 cup water, 1 egg (optional), 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 cup crushed ice in the blender and blend until smooth. Customize your smoothies by adding fresh fruit, yogurt, protein powder, leftover pudding, applesauce—even left-over Jell-O.
FROZEN BANANA SLICES. Keep peeled banana slices in plastic bags in the freezer. Add them to any fruit shake or just plain milk.
Eggs. They’re nutritious, delicious and cheap! Cooking them properly is quite simple, provided you know the secrets.
A perfectly boiled egg has a yolk that is set all the way to the center and it is clean, a beautiful yellow color with no hint of ugly green where the yolk and white meet. A perfectly boiled egg slides smoothly away from the cracked shell.
Prick the shell. Us a push-pin or needle, push it right into the large end of the uncooked egg, in about 1/4 inch, and into the egg itself. This will pierce the tiny air bubble (present in every egg) that in an un-pricked egg expands as the egg is heated and cracks the shell. This tiny hole allows an escape route for the air.
In the modern day supermarket, an apple is something that never disappears. No matter what time of year it is there will be apples. But does that mean there is still a season for apples? You bet there is and that would be from about August until the start of spring.
Apple season isn’t that difficult to spot. I mean have you been to the market lately? Apples happen to be a great bargain right now. And variety? For snacking you’ve got your Gala, Fuji and Pink Lady, your Red and Green Delicious to name a few. And don’t forget the more tart Rome and Granny Smith, which are ideal for baking.
When you load up on apples starting now but especially come October, which is National Apple Month, you are going to save some dough, and you’re going to save something else, too. Calories! Researchers have compelling proof that three apples a day will get rid of fat. It’s so simple, they say: Three apples, one 30-minutes before each meal. That’s it. Sound too good to be true? There is a medical explanation for why the most common of all fruits can make such a big impact.
For starters, three apples will add 15 grams of dietary fiber to your diet. Researchers at Tufts University say that alone will reduce your calorie consumption by ten percent. But wait! There’s more.
I was shocked out of my mind when I learned the origin of two of my all-time favorite comfort foods—rice pudding and bread pudding. Can you believe it, both were born out of, well—let’s just be straight up about it—poverty.
It was during the Great Depression that clever cooks who preferred to feed their families than let them starve, came up with the idea of making a special treat from the lowliest of ingredients—leftover rice and dry, stale bread. How clever.
But even more amazing to me, both have become respectable—even gourmet—food items. Take the White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Orange Cognac Sauce at Ruth’s Chris Steak House or Rice Pudding with Caramel Sauce at L’Ami Jean in Paris. Oh my, both are to die for. Certainly not offerings that comes from anything close to poverty but inspiration to make gourmet versions of both—at home!
That’s right. Watermelon is a vegetable, not fruit. But don’t tell the kids. Watermelon contains many important vitamins and minerals also lycopene, an important antioxidant. Healthy and delicious, watermelon is at the peak of its season now and that means it is also cheap.
Here’s a reliable way to pick out the best melon: Choose a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free of bruises, cuts and dents. Lift it up. The watermelon should be heavy for its size. Turn it over. On the underside there should be a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun. A spot that is white or pale green signals an unripe melon.
Once you get the perfect melon home, you could simply carve it into wedges and serve. But that may get boring after a few melons. Keep these recipes handy and you’ll enjoy watermelon right through summer … and all through winter, too, if you decide to make Watermelon Pickles. Come on, you can do it!
On those super busy days when you just don’t have time to cook at home but it’s just too expensive to eat out, “semi fast food”―combining quick-service food with home cooking—is a great way to combine the best of those two worlds.
The take-out pizza store in my neighborhood sells ready-to-roll pizza dough. I can buy a large ball of dough for $2.50, which makes a sixteen-inch pizza. That’s more than it costs to make dough from scratch. But when time is of the essence, this is a fast, cheap, reliable alternative.
Using my own sauce and toppings, I can have really great pizza on the table in no time at all. I do rely on this option quite often, particularly when we have last-minute guests. It is impressive to turn out a high-quality delicious pizza so quickly. It’s my little secret.
Not all pizza stores sell their dough (the national chains in my area look at me as if I have three eyes when I inquire), but independents are typically more than happy for the business—any business. In fact, one store near me even lists this on their menu board. Hint: You can freeze the dough and use it to make breadsticks and calzones, too.