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As a kid I remember hearing the old adage, "waste not, want not"- and it's true to this day, but often easier said than done. Fresh produce doesn't last long in the fridge and sometimes, when the deals are good, those "great buys" end up wilting in the fridge before they can be consumed. Here are a few of our favorite money saving tips for prolonging the freshness . . .
At the beginning of the week, prepare your fresh produce for quick meals and snacking. We generally eat salad almost every day of the week, but I don't mix all of the vegetables together. Here's why:
Not everyone likes the same veggies- one dislikes tomatoes, another isn't a fan of radishes, etc. Rather than having them pick the items out on their plates and throw them away (thereby Wasting them!), they aren't on the plate to begin with.
Mushy Veggies- some veggies become "Mushy" quickly- particularly bell peppers, sliced cucumbers, and tomatoes- putting them in the salad at the start results in wilted greens and slimy salad by midweek.
I've been accused in various blog posts and book reviews of being a "Gadget" hoarder of sorts. I suppose I am, I am a fan of anything that saves me both Time and Money. I'm a fan of doing things "The Easy Way". I suspect many of you are too, after all, you probably don't scrub clothes on a old washboard each week, do you? Of course not, you load up the washing machine, start it and move on to other, more important things!
One of my most dearly loved "Gadgets" is a Vacuum Sealer. It has saved me Thousands of dollars over the last 15 years. Here's how it "saves" our weekly produce:
Each week I cut up our salad vegetables and place them individually in canning jars. Fill each jar with your individual salad ingredients and then use the jar sealer attachment to remove the air from the jars. At mealtimes, simply pop the tops of the jars and let every fix their salads as they prefer them. At the end of the meal, reseal the jars and put them in the fridge. This takes less than 5 minutes to complete, but the vegetables remain fresh all week long, (if they last that long!).
Other benefits of this include "smell prevention"- anyone whose ever left a head of poorly wrapped broccoli in the fridge knows that it doesn't take long for the Smell to take over the refrigerator!
If you want the benefits of a vacuum sealer to use on just your fresh fruit and veggies, you can now get a handheld Vacuum sealer. This little sweetheart gadget gives you the benefits of a vacuum sealer but at a much more affordable price. It literally paid for itself in produce savings in less than a month.
Now, onto a second issue that plagues most families- What to do if they aren't getting eaten fast enough!
Yes, it's another gadget, sorry- as I said, I am a fan of a few necessary kitchen items to save time and money. This one I happened to receive as a gift one year and I LOVE it, it's a Nesco Food Dehydrator. Since all of your fruits and vegetables are already cut and ready to serve in the fridge, this next tip is even easier than the first.
If you know that you're not going to finish a jar of the fresh veggies, pour them out onto a food dehydrator tray and dry them. They can used later in seasoning mix recipes, homemade soup mixes, ground into fruit powder or vegetable powder to add (hidden) nutrition in baked goods.
If the veggies are prepared ahead of time this step takes a couple seconds of your time and energy and the rewards are endless.
Learn food Drying Basics- such as how long to dry fruits, how long to dry veggies, how long to dry fresh herbs, meats, poultry and more
This method saves hundreds of dollars on otherwise "lost" produce that would be tossed in the trash. If you want to take the savings a step further, you can save all of your fruit and vegetable peelings/scraps/cuttings while preparing them each week and toss them in a composter or a compost pile. We usually give our scraps to our chickens, which in turn, produce beautiful and delicious eggs.
A Couple Notes for Clarification:
This is NOT a substitute for "Canning".
This is NOT a substitute for Refrigeration- if an item is normally supposed to be refrigerated, then KEEP it in the fridge!
The Jars can be opened as needed, but they should be resealed (takes 20 seconds folks) to maintain freshness.
Make sure there isn't excess water or liquid in the bottom of the jars, this is what makes your veggies go bad quickly.
What are some of your favorite ways to reduce waste of fresh fruits & veggies?