A recent column on the proper storage for fresh fruits and vegetables generated a lot of great reader feedback—plus dozens of new tips and tricks to make all grocery items last longer. I love this stuff so much I must admit to being slightly compulsive–gathering, testing and assessing techniques. Here are a few of my new favorites:
BERRIES: Are you familiar with that sick feeling that comes when you notice that the berries you bought yesterday are already showing signs of mold and turning brown? Here’s the remedy: As soon as you bring them into the kitchen prepare a mixture of one part vinegar (white or apple cider) and ten parts water. Give berries a bath in the mixture. Swirl them around a bit the gently drain, rinse, and place in the refrigerator. Don’t worry. The solution is so weak you will not taste the vinegar. This treatment should give your strawberries an additional two weeks of useful life and raspberries a week or more. Vinegar retards the grow of bacteria that causes berries to spoil so quickly.
POTATOES: To keep potatoes from growing big ugly sprouts before you have time to use them up, store them with a couple of apples. For some reason, that really works to halt the sprouting.
Not long ago, as I was preparing one of my favorite dishes, I got to thinking about you. No kidding, I really did. As I was mulling over my short list of quick and easy recipes that make me look good, I made a mental note that I need to share these recipes with you. They’re quick, easy, very inexpensive and sure to make you look good.
Three-Packets and a Roast
This recipe makes me look like a much better cook than I really am. Give it a try soon, and you’ll know what I mean. You can use any cut of meat for this one, the tougher, the better, as that’s the one that will have the most flavor. Get ready to be amazed because this it makes its own gravy. Seriously.
- 1 packet dry ranch dressing mix
- 1 packet dry Italian dressing mix
- 1 packet dry brown gravy mix
- 1 beef roast, any cut
Place the roast in the slow cooker. In a small bowl combine the contents of all three packets with 1 cup water. Mix to combine. Pour over the roast. Cover. Cook on Low for 7 to 8 hours depending on just how cheap that cut of meat is.
Dear Mary: A friend repaid a personal loan of $900 with a personal check, drawn on Bank of America. I took it to a local branch. They charged me $6 to cash it. It this fee legal? Would it have been less had the check been for a smaller amount? –James, California
Dear James: It is both legal and fairly common for non-account holders to be charged a check-cashing fee. It’s a lot like using an ATM that belongs to a bank where you don’t have an account. Not all banks or credit unions have such a charge, however. Some apply it differently depending on whether the check is drawn on a business or personal account, while others have a fee if the amount of the check exceeds say $150. It’s random. I think we will see fees like these increase as banks look for more ways to enhance their profits margins.
Have I told you lately how much I love opening my mail to find so many great reader tips? Every day I learn something new and that just makes me happy. I had no idea I could throw a leather bag into the laundry or roast a frozen turkey. Seriously? Yep, that’s exactly what a couple of today’s readers suggest.
QUICK CHICKEN SOUP. Whenever I feel like I may be coming down with a cold, I go to the store, pick up a rotisserie chicken, chicken stock and frozen egg noodles. Sounds expensive, but I can make a large pot of soup for very little money. I just take most of the meat off the bones and add the carcass to the stock. When the stock is boiling, remove the bones, add the frozen noodles and diced chicken, and cut up veggies (or the usual bag of frozen stew vegetables) and wow! Delicious, fresh, homemade chicken noodle soup is ready in 20 minutes. When you’re trying to fight off a cold or flu, there is nothing better or more homey. Feels like grandma is still there to watch over you. –Mel, email
ROUTINE REMINDERS. I clean my AC filters, put vinegar in my AC condensation line and other monthly maintenance items when I pay my mortgage. This is a convenient way to remember reoccurring functions. Today was the first cool day of the year here in central Florida and that was my cue to get up early and turn on the auto-clean feature on my oven As this process takes three (3) hours and really heats up the kitchen, the combination of starting early, open windows and a cool day makes for a perfect opportunity for this once-a-year-cleaning! –Kim, Florida
Women are most vulnerable to poverty in retirement because they generally live longer and earn less than men over the course of their lives all the while caring for the needs of children and elderly parents around them.
The problem is that women see planning for retirement as optional–something we can be put off until later because right now there are children to raise, homes to furnish, careers to nurture and bills to pay. There never seems to be enough to do it all so we scuttle retirement planning under the rug to deal with later.
Well, guess what? It’s time! We have to start this conversation. We must stop procrastinating long enough to take care of our own future planning before we take care of everyone else around us.
TODAY is launch day for my new book, “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Saving for Retirement.” Writing this book has had such a huge impact on my life and I can’t wait to tell you more about that in the days and weeks ahead.
TODAY, through Monday November 4th preorder the Nook edition of “The Smart Woman’s Guide to Planning for Retirement” for half off. Then enter This Contest!
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.
Dear Mary: Several years ago, I visited a friend and was introduced to an item that allows you to keep butter out of the refrigerator and on the counter to be nice and soft and fresh until consumed.
The butter somehow stayed in a top container that was then suspended over a container of water. I don’t know the name of this thing nor where to buy one. I want to get one as a gift, however, I have never seen one since my visit. Can you tell me what it is? –Lyn, Pennsylvania
Dear Lyn: You are describing the Original Butter Bell Crock by L. Tremain. I have one and you are right to recall it as being quite ingenious.
Modeled after the original French butter crock, a Butter Bell keeps butter fresh and spreadable for up to 30 days without refrigeration; no odors or spoilage. Here’s how it works: You pack softened butter into the lid. Fill the base with cold water and place the lid upside down into the base. The unique design keeps butter soft and fresh using water as an insulator. The key is that you must change the water often, like every day or two at the most.
Other manufacturers have produced their own knock-off versions of the Butter Bell based on the same principal, some of which are cheaper, and I should add, to mixed reviews.