Frugal Kitchen Tips and Tricks

Food and kitchen tools and supplies can be a major part of the family budget. This is a guide containing frugal kitchen tips and tricks.

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I am dependent on a small monthly check for all my outgoings. Recently, I realized that I had absolutely no money left AT ALL and ten days to go before that check arrived. At first I wondered how I would eat. Then I sorted out my cupboards and it was a revelation to me that I actually had plenty of food on hand. I just had to be more creative as to how I used it.

Canned tomatoes have been a great help. Fortunately I had quite a few of those and they have provided pasta sauces, soups, and even a stew (with a small amount of beef I found at the back of the freezer and my last remaining cloves of garlic). Instead of buying bread, I've been using up my stocks of rolled oats and having delicious porridge for breakfast, sprinkled with blackberries I picked last year and froze. Frozen peas have gone into pasta sauces and soup. With my last two eggs, I made a Spanish omelet with onion and potato.

Today for lunch I had red lentils simmered with a stock cube, a bit of the slightly withered leek at the bottom of the fridge, and half a tin of sweetcorn - and it was delicious, with some mint from the garden snipped on top. I've been stewing prunes too from the TWO bags I discovered I had bought at a discount months ago and had forgotten about. When my four year old nephew came round yesterday, we had hot chocolate made with powdered milk - even better than the fresh kind!

I now have three days to go and stores are running low. But I haven't spent one single penny for a week and I've discovered how much wonderful food I've already got and how a little bit of ingenuity is a useful challenge.

By Lucy from Oxford, UK

Do you have a frugal story to share with the ThriftyFun community? Submit your essay here: http://www.thriftyfun.com/post_myfrugallife.ldml

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Scattering of dried pinto beans with red peppers and cilantro. Cooking Dried BeansMy mom grew up in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains with six brothers and sisters. Her father died before she was a teenager, leaving her mother with no income to feed a large family. Meat was a rare and precious commodity in their home - they mostly ate meals made from their garden harvest. When they had meat, they made it last for as many meals as possible.

When I grew up, my mom knew how to cook these types of meals. At least once a week, she would cook one of her Southern make-ends meet dinners; and we loved them for the taste. Now that I have my own family I realize the true value of those meals - for their nutritional value as well as their pocketbook friendliness.

There are a couple of dishes my family requests frequently. When you take into account that they are or can be entirely made of vegetables, you begin to realize the health benefits from these meals.

My favorite dinner was green beans. Yes, a big pot of fresh green beans, slowly simmered and cooked down for hours. To truly appreciate this meal, you've got to taste it. Fresh, cooked down green beans are extraordinary - there is absolutely no comparison to canned green beans. For additional flavor, just add a couple pieces of bacon, a ham bone left over from another meal, or chopped onion. On the side, we have hot cornbread (which is so much healthier and flavorful than white bread). This is a true southern depression era meal. Sometimes, we'll turn the cornbread into Mexican cornbread by adding cream corn and chopped peppers into the batter. The prep time for the meal is minimal, the fat content is low, and the nutritional value is high.

Another family favorite that makes a ham go further is a pot of pinto or northern beans cooked with a ham bone. I always use a bag of dried beans - they are much cheaper, their nutritional content is higher because they haven't been processed, and they don't taste canned. Also, the economic waste from the bag is insignificant compared to the jars of cooked beans you can buy. I add onions, diced carrots, and celery for a great bean soup. Once again, this meal goes well with fresh baked cornbread.

These are meals which can be easily thrown in the crock pot or slow cooker in the morning, and all you have to do at night is mix and bake the cornbread. When I think about how cheaply my mom's family ate due to necessity and the amount of prepared foods people now buy at the grocery store, I realize the high costs of convenience. Yet, most people don't realize that these inexpensive dishes take no more prep time than a box of Hamburger Helper. Better yet, they are loaded with natural nutrients and fiber, and eliminate red meat, fat, and the sodium and salt which gives packaged food its flavor.

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If you are in a hurry and need a funnel just double a sheet of aluminum foil and then roll in a funnel shape. It works for me!

You can also cut off the corner of a envelope and that will also work.

By Dorothy from New Creek, WV

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When I make beef stew, I will freeze 1/4 of the stew. I later use this to make a pot pie to have with a salad. Also, I will take left over chili, roll out biscuits, and make individual pies. I also fill the pies with cheese.

A large pot of beef stew.

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This might seem like a little thing, but I was tired of not being able to get the last of the chocolate syrup out of the squeeze container, frugalista that I am. You know that awful spitting that it does at the end and it splatters all over your clothes and the kitchen walls? Aggravating, right?

Next time you think no more will come out without the awful spitting, unscrew the top and pour some milk in, then put the top back on - tightly. Now shake like crazy (the container that is) and pour into a glass. Fill the rest of the glass with milk and enjoy.

By Gloria from western NY

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A corner cut from an envelope and pierced at the point makes a good funnel for filling salt and pepper shakers.

By JodiT from Aurora, CO

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I love a certain mug for just about everything from soup to stew, ramen and hot beverages. But sometimes, I have to wait for a toasted sandwich, toast, etc.

I always was impressed with the hospital lids that kept coffee and tea warm. So, I opened the plastics drawer and voila! There was a bottom to a plastic food container that fit on my cup just perfectly. My hot meal stayed hot while I was fixing the rest.

Hope that helps!

Seal a Soup Mug

    Source: Just needed something that didn't slide off like saucers can do.

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    Using my favorite and best cooking pot, I put some green beans on to cook and went to the computer to check the weather while the strings beans were coming to a boil. Next thing I knew, the smoke alarm was blaring...

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    It is easier and more efficient to plan your menus rather than cook whatever comes to mind. When you plan your menu out, it is easier to keep your meals balanced and healthy, and to plan for variety.

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    These might be well known to some of us "sage" cooks, but here's hoping they help those new to the wonderful world of cooking!

    Eggs with marks to show the oldest ones.

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    Today, I tried the spaghetti server to take the cabbage from the steamer. It works better than anything else I have tried because of the longer handle.

    Using a spaghetti server for cooked cabbage

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    If you're in a bind, you can make a quick, disposable colander by punching holes in an aluminum pie plate and bending it a bit to the shape you need. This is especially useful for picnics and camping.

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    I had a pasta sauce jar that wouldn't open, no matter what I did. Out of desperation, I tapped it lightly with a rubber mallet. It worked!

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    When I make dressing, it's usually in a round bowl like this. Once it's down to just enough for a smaller salad, I don't bother trying to scrape enough out and messy up another bowl.

    A bowl with surimi, cauliflower and dehydrated cranberries.

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    My elderly friend pierces 3 small holes at the other end of the carton, away from the opening. He says that this will stop that awful splutter of liquid from going everywhere when you open these types of cartons.

    Piercing Cartons for Easy Pouring

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    One of the most frugal tools in your kitchen is the rubber spatula. I use it when I have gravies, pasta sauce, etc. You would be shocked at the amounts of sauce, etc are left in the jar after pouring it out By using the rubber spatula you can clean out all the excess clinging to the can or jar. My husband even got him a set of rubber spatulas to clean out paint cans.

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    Need a funnel in a pinch? Cut off the bottom of a 2 liter or 1/2 liter bottle. You can make it as tall or short as you want.

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    1. When using the vacuum sealer to keep meat fresh that I buy on sale, I often find that I need to stack things in the bag like hamburgers. Instead of using wax paper, I use the leftover small parts of vacuum sealer bag to separate the layers of meat.

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    Food and Recipes Food Tips Helpful HintsApril 20, 2012
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