Favorite Kitchen Tools: Reusable Sandwich & Snack Bags

I’m not perfect by any means, but I do like to try to tread somewhat lightly on this Earth. I am learning new ways to do this often enough to feel like I’m making a little bit of a difference. Being eco-friendly is important. I’m happy as can be that come April here in Maine everyone will be expected to bring reusable bags with them to the store, I now have stainless steal straws at my house, and I signed up for a monthly MightyFix by Mighty Nest more than a year ago. (Yes, that is an affiliate link, because I use their products and love them! I will be compensated if you click on the link and sign up.)

Because I signed up for this service ($11.00 per month at the time of this posting.), I’ve been introduced to some great products. Many times the item they have sent has even been worth more than that $11.00 and, because I am a member, I get discounts on anything else I buy from them.

I don’t like to spend all kinds of money on cheaply made things, but I don’t mind paying for things of good quality – especially when a discount is offered.

These baggies are two of my top favorite things in my kitchen right now, and I use them when packing my meals for work. I pack for four meals during my weekend shifts, and find these super helpful. I don’t make sandwiches, so the larger bag is used for other foods. The snack baggie is the perfect size for trail mix.

You could also use them for sweet potato chips, Paleo crackers,  throat lozenges when you are sick, Paleo cookies, and more. I have used the snack baggie for my vitamin C tablets during the winter months, and kept them in by tote bag so I always had some near.

Once I learn how to make Paleo sandwich bread, I will be using the bigger baggie for that purpose. These come in handy for school/work lunches, hikes, day trips, and more.

Sign up for MightyFix and get a surprise in your mailbox. (Again, this is an affiliate link. See above note.) It’s like a present every single month.

Do you use these types of baggies? What are your experiences with them? And, if you shop through MightyNest, let us know your experiences with that.

~ Shannon

Quick Tip: Freezing Zucchini

Buying zucchini when it’s on sale or cheap at farmers’ markets or stands, or growing your own and harvesting them at the end of summer and into autumn, can save a lot of money on your grocery bill. If you stock up when it’s cheap (or free), then you’ll save money throughout the year. This is a frugal way to add to your freezer stock.

This is how I freeze zucchini. I only use it shredded, and in things like breads, muffins and cakes, so I do this quickly and easily.

Rinse the zucchini well and cut off the ends. Do not peal it. Grate the zucchini, then put it into quart size freezer bags/containers in one cup measures. This makes it easier to take out only what I need.

Shannon

Quick Tip: Keep a Few Homemade Single-Serve Meals on Hand

You never know when you may need one. In a hurry and need a meal for work? Grab a container of chili-topped squash or sweet potato from the freezer? Not feeling good and don’t want to cook? Take out a container of chicken noodle soup and heat it in the microwave.

It’s easy to prepare these extra meals without too much extra effort. Simply make a little more than you need at each meal, and freeze a meal or two from that. Here are some recipes that lend themselves well to freezer storage.

Label each container with the meal name and the date it should be eaten by.

Shannon

Invest in Containers for Meal Prep

And don’t worry about spending all outdoors on them. I found the containers I mention in this article at Walmart at reasonable cost. They are BPA free, and will be perfect for my work meals. These containers can go into the freezer, on the top shelf of the dishwasher, and even into the microwave if you have one, and are reusable. There is a place on the covers where you can write the date by which the meal or food items should be used; nifty for freezing. And these containers even have stay-cool handles.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.

These little containers come six to a package, and are each 4 fluid ounces. They’ll hold dips and sauces, as well as small bits of leftovers. You could also use them for pudding cups or trail mixes. The cost for these was $2.47.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.

I bought a variety pack as well, which includes two snack size (9.5 fl oz) containers, five entrée (25 fl oz) containers, and five soup and salad (24 fl oz) containers.  The cost for these was $4.47.

Photograph copyright January 2017 by Shannon L. Buck.

I also bought these round containers. They are bigger than the 4 fluid ounce ones, but I cannot seem to find the information for the exact size. They came in a four-pack, and cost $2.17.

I paid just under $10.00 for all of these, and they are going to be perfect for bringing my meals to work with me. I work 40 hours in 4 days every week, and I like to prepare my meals the day before my first shift. When I get everything to work I can put a couple of meals in the freezer to be moved to the refrigerator Saturday morning, put the snacks in the office, and put the other containers straight into the refrigerator. Easy-peasy!

NOTE: For items that may stain plastic container, such as my chili, I use glass canning jars or glass bowls with covers. Glass items are easier to keep clean under these circumstances.

What do you use for meal prepping?

Shannon

Review: Beetology Juices + How to Reuse the Bottles

When I was contacted about trying the Beetology juices by Kayco, I was skeptical at best. The thought of beets as a juice base just did not seem appealing. But I had them send me a few juices to try, because I’m all into trying more and more healthy things, and I’m so glad I did.

These juices are organic, 100% cold pressed. I’m looking more toward organic as I move forward with my nutrition goals (as my budget allows), so this pleased me right off the bat. I also like that they are not from concentrate, something else I look for when I want juice. They are non-GMO project verified as well, which is also plus.

Another benefit is the lack of preservatives and additives. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want those types of things in my fruit servings. And there are no artificial flavorings or colors.

It really is the color of beets.

Beetology juices are certified fair trade.

I tried these five flavors:

  • beet + cherry
  • beet + berry
  • beet + veggie
  • beet + lemon + ginger
  • beet + tropical fruit

While I enjoyed them all, my favorites were the beet + cherry and the beet + berry. They really pleased my taste buds!

Sadly, this product is not yet sold near me. However it is sold in Portland, I will have to buy a few bottles the next time I visit Zowie’s family. I don’t drink a lot of juice, so one bottle would last me three servings – about what I would drink in a week’s time.

Now, the suggested retail price for this juice is $3.99 per 8.45 fluid ounce bottle, but I consider this a good price for me for a few reasons:

  1. I don’t drink juice often enough for the price to make a huge dent in my budget, and I know I’ll get three servings from each bottle.
  2. They are a source of nutrients my body needs.
  3. I can reuse the bottles for short-term food storage.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright August 2017.

Check out the bottles in the picture above. They are made of sturdy, thick glass, and can be used for short-term storage of food items and liquids. I removed the labels (an easy task that took little time) and washed the bottles and covers well, then allowed them to air dry.

I had bags of partially used food items that I decided would look better if they were in these cute little bottles. The bags look so messy, I wanted a better look in there because I’ve been organizing the small closet in my room to serve as a pantry.

Photograph by Shannon L. Buck, copyright August 2017.

Here you can see where I put unsweetened coconut flakes in one bottle, dried cranberries in the second, and dried berries in the third. These are going to work just fine to store smaller portions of foods and liquids, and look much better in my little pantry space than those bags of food did.

Because I now have five of these bottles, I no longer need to go out and buy containers for this specific purpose.

How would you reuse the bottles?

Shannon

 

Freezer: Using up the Winter Stocks

Since it is the time of the year when we spring clean, I thought it would be nice if we all considered our freezers for a few minutes. Do you have any leftover produce in the freezer? I know that I still have some frozen smoothie packs and berries in the freezer that need to be used. Here are some pointers for using up your winter stores:

* The eggs you purchased on sale and froze will need to be used. Since the yolks had to be broken to freeze, you cannot make boiled or fried eggs with them. You could make other things, though:

  • scrambled eggs
  • french toast with a hearty paleo bread
  • use them when baking

These can be frozen in snack size baggies, then put all the baggies into a quart or gallon size freezer baggie until needed. Freeze them one egg to a snack size baggie, or use bigger bags and freeze more than one  in each.  Take the eggs out of the night before  you need them.

* Use grated zucchini  to make:

  • muffins
  • breads
  • omelets
  • cookies
  • brownies
  • cakes

* Diced apples are great for breads and muffins, brownies, cookies and cakes.

* Sliced apples make great crisps, pies, sauces, and cobblers.

* You can make a great soup from (saved) leftover vegetables, meats, and liquids from cooking the veggies.

* Make smoothies using the smoothie packs you froze during the winter.

Happy eating!

Shannon

Freezer Mix-Ups

What are mix-ups?  Well, to make a mix-up, all you do slice or chop fruits and/or vegetables for freezing. These will likely be different each time you freeze, depending on the available produce and the amounts. They are easy to throw together and place in the freezer for later use.

This is a good way to use up produce that may be a little less than fresh, and to use those odd pieces not used in recipes or eaten with meals.

Here is how I make a vegetable mix-up:

  • Take out a large mixing bowl, and a cooking spoon for mixing.
  • Get out your cutting board and a sharp knife.
  • Take the vegetables you are worrying about going to waste out of your refrigerator. Produce that may not be the freshest, but could be used in a stew or something else.
  • Look at the counter produce to see if any of it needs to be used.
  • Rinse everything and wipe dry with a towel.
  • Chop all the vegetables and throw them into the bowl.
  • Throw out the trash (or compost it!), and then mix up what is in the bowl.
  • Judge how many freezer containers you will need, get them ready, and label them veggie mix-up and put a use-by date on the label. (Six months would work)
  • Spoon the vegetables into the container(s), cover, and freeze.

Use these mix-ups for:

To make fruit mix-ups, take the same steps above and use the fruit mix-ups for smoothies or homemade ice cream.

These are great ways to help you save money. It is frugal to also use leftovers in the same manner, adding even as little as a teaspoon of corn or pees to a freezer mix-up will allow you to save money in the long run.

How do you save money in the kitchen? Get a copy of my eBook Frugal Ways to Save Money in the Kitchen + Frugal Recipes for the Health Conscious. It is FREE!

Shannon

Homemade Vegetable Stock

By not having to purchase canned vegetable stocks, you’ll save money on your grocery bill.  Use the peels and ends of the vegetables from your cooking ventures, along with some pieces of whole vegetables, if necessary.  Herbs may also be used. Nothing has to go to waste completely.

The finished product may be frozen in ice cube trays, and then placed in freezer bag and put back into the freezer. Use ice cubes in place of some of the water when cooking rice and pasta, or even when making casseroles.

You might also choose to pour the liquid directly into the containers and freeze like that. This can later be used when cooking soups and stews.

The process is simple, but will take some time. This is perfect to make when you will be home for a number of hours.

  1. Place these odds and ends into a large pot.
  2. Add fresh herbs if you’d like.
  3. Fill the pot about 2/3 of the way with water.
  4. Cook down to about half the liquid.
  5. Strain the liquid.
  6. Discard the non liquid ingredients at this point. (I add these to the stews that I make for my cats so that nothing goes to waste. Or you could compost them.)
  7. Reconstitute the liquid by 2/3 to 1/2 and cool.

That’s it! A simple task that does not take much hands on time.

Shannon

Homemade Chicken Stock

I use the skin and bones of the bird for this. After it has been roasted and most of the meat has been removed, I put what’s left into a large pot. (Leaving small pieces of meat on the bone is fine.)
The odds ends of vegetables can be used, including onion skins, celery and carrot tops, and beet ends. Parsley and other herb stems will also work.

The finished product may be frozen in ice cube trays, and then placed in freezer container and put back into the freezer. Use ice cubes in place of some of the water when cooking rice or pasta, or even casseroles. You can also freeze enough for soups in containers.

The process is simple, but will take some time. This is perfect to make when you will be home for a number of hours.

  1. Place the bones and skin into a large pot.
  2. Add any vegetable odds and ends to the pot.
  3. Fill the pot about 2/3 of the way with water.
  4. Cook down to about half the liquid.
  5. Strain the liquid.
  6. Discard the bones. (I used to give the skin and little pieces of meat to my cats. You can discard these as well.)
  7. Compost the vegetable ends.
  8. Reconstitute the liquid by 2/3 to 1/2 and cool.

That’s it! A simple task that does not take much hands on time.

Shannon

New Year Goal: Organize

Yesterday I posted a New Year goal about how I’m getting back to eating healthy after getting off track during the holidays. Today I want to let you know about another goal, and my theme word for the year.

ORGANIZE

Yup, by the end of the new year, I intend to be far more organized.

And not just in the kitchen or with cooking. I’m going to be organizing most aspects of my life. This is huge for me, as I’m not an organized person. But it is necessary, especially when living in such a small space.

You see, I rent a room. In that one room, I have sections: Bedroom, living room, office, pantry, kitchen. I’ve started the process, but still have a long way to go.

For the kitchen/cooking/pantry part of the organization goal, I’m looking to streamline some things, and to get things in order.

  • I’m turning my closet into a pantry. This closet is not huge, but it’ll hold cleaning products, personal hygiene needs, and food items.
  • I would also like to get a cabinet to put next to my door that will be a party of the pantry system.
  • I’m looking for a way to organize my spices and cooking/baking utensils so they don’t take up cupboard or counter space. Any ideas?
  • I want a couple of drawer units and a cupboard unit for dishes, cookware, etc. It can’t be too tall, because my toaster oven needs to sit atop the units. I’m thinking cube units will be the most efficient way to go.
  • I also want a new dorm-size fridge. One with a separate freezer. The little freezer in my current refrigerator holds next to nothing, and doesn’t keep food frozen well. The freezer in the fridge that I want is a little bigger. I’ve already learned I don’t need much refrigerator space. This will save me money in my future home. I wont need to buy a huge refrigerator, and a small one doesn’t use a much energy. I’ll keep a spare in the pantry for holiday use.
  • Putting together a system for tracking the recipes I want to try, and the recipes and tips I want to keep, is necessary. Any tips for these projects will be greatly appreciated!

Are you looking to organize your kitchen and recipes this year? What are your plans? Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Take inventory of the kinds of things you put in your kitchen and pantry. Is there a better way to organize things that will help to streamline your meal prep activities? What do you need to get to most often? And what do you need only occasionally? Make a list of how you might better organize these areas. Or draw a sketch.
  • Do you need organizers for the cupboards, drawers, pantry, and refrigerator? What might work in these areas? Make a list of things you can pick up to help get your space organized.
  • Print off a Master Inventory List.
  • Print off a Master Pantry Shopping List.
  • Go through all those loose recipes you have stashed here and there, and decide which ones you will really be trying. Organize them, and get rid of the rest.
  • Start organizing! Don’t wait, or you might not get to it. Plan to do something each week until you’re done, or plan a weekend to do everything.

Save money on organizers by:

  • Shopping yard and garage sales.
  • Utilizing clearance and other sales.
  • Checking out local thrift stores.
  • Shopping at the local dollar stores.

Happy New Year!

Shannon