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Frugal Cooking Tips

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Cooking Basics

 

Appliances

Always use the smallest appliance you can to accomplish your task. Microwaves, toaster ovens, crock pots, electric skillets and pressure cookers all use less electricity than heating up your oven.


Baking

Keep the glass door on your oven clean so that you can see through it. When you have to open the oven door to check on your food, you lose a lot of heat. You will need to bake your items longer, which costs more money, and depending on what you are cooking, the quality of your baked items may suffer.


Baking and Greasing Pans

Be sure and save the paper wrappers from your cubes of butter when you unwrap them. Just fold them up, put them in a baggie, and place them in the refrigerator. Next time you go to make cookies or cake, use them to grease your baking sheets or pans.


Baking and Leftover Heat

There are many ways to use the heat that remains when you are through cooking your food. One of the easiest things to do is to put in a few potatoes. When the potatoes cool off, you can grate them for quick hash browns.


Baking Spray Oil

Spray oil for cooking and baking is a great convenience, but expensive. However, it is very easy to make you own. Just taking your favorite cooking oil, and put it in a clear, plastic spray bottle, like you find at the dollar store.


Bread

When times were tough, and people made their own bread, they would always eat bread that was a day old because it would slice thinner. If you bake bread, or buy it unsliced, and you want to make thinner pieces, use an electric knife. It will cut smoothly right through it, and produce a much better looking slice of bread. If you don't have an electric knife, the next best thing is a knife with a serrated blade.

If there is one thing that drives me nuts, it is smelling bread baking all morning, only to have the loaf fail to rise. Not only am I disappointed in not getting to eat the fresh bread, but the money wasted on the ingredients is very upsetting. Always test your yeast before baking with it by putting it in a little warm water with a little sugar to see if it bubbles after about 5 minutes. I have started putting my yeast in the freezer. I was skeptical when I first heard about it, but it really does work. Whatever you do, remember to check your yeast before you use it.


Bread Crumbs

The easiest way to make bread crumbs with bread that is getting old is to first freeze the bread until it is lightly frozen, and then put it in your food processor and chop it up. Remember you don't have to limit your bread crumbs to just crumbs from bread. Be sure and keep all the crumbs from other things like crackers and cereals.


Cakes

When you make a cake from a box, (or from scratch), you are told to grease and flour the cake pan/pans before you add the batter. If you are using a cake mix, instead of using white flour, use a just a little of the cake mix to "flour" the pan. If you are baking a chocolate cake, use cocoa. When you use white flour, (except with a white cake), it can show when the pieces are cut, and the cake will not look as attractive.

Also, When you bake a cake, don't waste any by leaving some of the baked cake batter stuck to the pan. When you take the cake out of the oven to cool, put it on a cake rack, but first lay a wet towel on top of the cake rack. The cake should remove smoothly from the pan when cool.


Cake Decorating

You don't need a cake decorating set to write on a birthday or other special occasion cake. Use a rolled up piece of paper, with a point at one end. Put the frosting in at the wide end, and then squeeze it through the point to write. Another alternative is to use a recycled plastic jar with a point. Frosting can be kept for several weeks. If you have a lot of birthdays close together, you can make up a full jar and have it ready to go.


Casserole Dishes

Use ceramic or glass casserole dishes.  Metal pans may give a metallic flavor to the food.


Casserole Toppings

Use an empty cereal box to store casserole topping in them. Add leftover crumbs from crackers, dried bread, potato chips, cereal, cookies, etc. to them. When the bag is full, take a rolling pin and crush them all together. You should get a good blend of crumbs that will make a flavorful casserole topping.


Cinnamon Butter

For cinnamon butter, combine equal parts of butter/margarine and powdered sugar, and add cinnamon per taste. Mix it well and keep it in the refrigerator.


Cookies

Use every bit of those expensive store bought cookies and sugary cereals you succumb to buying. If you have crumbs left in the packaging, crush them up and use them as an added ingredient when you make homemade cookies. Or you can add them to a cake topping.

 

Also, want to make a plain peanut butter cookie into a gourmet cookie? Just take a few extra steps. First of all, make them larger. Then, after you make them into balls and set them on your baking sheet, dip your fork into a mixture of cinnamon, white sugar and allspice before your press them flat.

 

If you like to make homemade sugar cookies, here is a way to decorate them for less. Make your own colorful topping out of sugar and food dye instead of buying the more expensive sprinkles. Just add a few drops of food coloring to granulated sugar. Mix well. Be sure mixture is dry, and then sprinkle on your cookies. If you don't  have a rolling pin, use a plastic or glass jar filled with water. Just be sure the lid is screwed on tight.


Cookies from a Cake Mix

You can make cookies fast with the use of a cake mix. Use any flavor mix, and add a couple eggs and 1/2 cup of oil. Mix well, and then place batter on an ungreased cookie sheet with a spoon. Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. You can also can chips, nuts, coconut, etc. This is also a good way to use up cake mixes that are getting older.  Cookies freeze better than cake.


Corn on the Cob

If you want to  remove corn from the cob, and are afraid to use a knife for fear of cutting yourself, try this. Use a shoehorn. It should remove the kernels, and if your hand should slip, it won't hurt you.


Dishes

If you look at the plates at a store like Goodwill, you can easily see why some are discarded. Many are badly scratched. This is the reason most people only use their good china on special occasions. While you can't help the normal wear that your plates receive during dinner, be extra careful with them when you clean up. Don't use a metal utensil to scrap off food. Keep a rubber spatula nearby and use it to remove food. You will save some of the wear and tear on your dishes, and they will nicer longer.


Eggs

Although egg shells look solid, they are porous.  Left uncovered, eggs can pick up bad odors in the refrigerator and dry out quickly.  They will last longer if you keep them in their original cartoon.


Ice Cubes

You can make ice cubes without ice cube trays. Try using muffin tins. The ice cubes will be larger and last longer.


Jello Molds

Here is a tip to remove jello from a mold. If it doesn't want to come out smoothly, place a hot towel around the base of the pan for a few minutes. Hopefully that will loosen it from the pan so that it will slip out of the mold, and you won't waste any of it.


Muffins

If you use the paper liners when making muffins, be sure to also spray them with a vegetable spray. Your family will eat the whole thing instead of leaving a large portion on the paper cup.


Oranges

When you eat an orange, or squeeze the juice out, do you throw away the peel? Think about saving it. Grated orange peel adds a wonderful flavor to many baked goods. Check out the recipes in your cookbook for candied orange peel also.


Pasta

When you cook pasta, always add a little oil to the water so that it doesn't stick together. Then, as soon as it comes off the burner, run it under cold water. This will keep it from continuing to cook and getting mushy. It will be in much better condition for leftovers.


Pies

When making a pie like pumpkin pie, be sure and put the tins in the oven before you add the final filling. If you try and fill them to the top before putting them in the oven, you will spill some of the filling. You can usually get in all the filling by adding it after the pie pans are on the oven shelves- and then carefully pushing the shelves all the way into the oven.


Pizza

Everyone loves pizza. You know how expensive it is to order pizza, even if you pick it up yourself. Your can save a lot of money if you can come up with a good homemade pizza. You don't have to make it from scratch. Try several alternatives. Try buying it fresh from your grocery store deli, and adding your own ingredients to it. Or take an inexpensive frozen pizza, and add your own toppings. You can also buy the crust already baked in the bakery section of the store, or use French bread or muffins for the crust. Find one you like and save the money.


Potatoes

To cook potatoes fast, cube them before boiling them. The smaller the cubes, the faster they will cook. Take the extra time to cut them into small pieces, and use a burner that fits the pan.
Also, when you boil potatoes, always save the water. If you throw it out, you are throwing away vitamins. Keep it and use it when you need water for soups, stews, sauces, pancakes, etc.


Raisins

Save money with raisins by using less of them when you bake. A few raisins go a lot further if they don't all fall to the bottom of your baked goods. Prevent that by coating the raisins in flour before adding them to the batter.


Rice Krispie Treats

Like to make Rice Crispy Treats, but find that you waste a lot of the mixture because it sticks to your hands? Before you pat out the mixture in the pan, either spray your hands with vegetable oil, or run them under cold water.


Shortening

Save money on shortening (and peanut butter) when baking by following good baking techniques. Many people just add their shortening to a measuring cup. When it is scooped out, a lot is left behind. The correct way to measure shortening is to do it in water. Fill your glass measuring cup with 3 cups water. If you need a cup of shortening, add shortening to the water until the water rises to the 4 cup level. You can then remove the shortening without waste.


Tomato Soup

Always keep your pantry well-stocked with tomato soup. It is so useful. It can substitute in recipes for other tomato products, such as tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, or tomato paste, by adjusting the liquid in the recipe. It is also a good base to make soup. Add leftover pasta, vegetables, and perhaps meat, and you have a hearty soup.
 

Cooking Foods

 

Aluminum Foil

Don't keep buying Aluminum Foil for cooking over and over.  It is not that hard to clean.  Just flatten it out, wash it with soap and water, and lay it out to dry.  You can also put it in the oven after baking to dry it out with the residual oven heat.


Eggs

Here is the correct way to boil eggs so that you don't lose any of the egg trying to peel it. Put the eggs in cold water and then place them on your burner. Bring them to a boil, and then turn the heat down and let them simmer for 15 minutes. Take them off the burner, and put ice cubes in the water to cool them off. When the water is cool, you should be able to peel them, and the eggshell should almost fall off.

 


Enchiladas

When you make enchiladas, you usually fry the tortillas in hot oil for a few seconds on each side before you fill them and roll them up. This is done to soften them. Save the cost of the oil. Trying using boiling water to soften them instead. Use the same procedure. Just use the free water instead of the oil.


Meatloaf Muffins

Here is another thing you can do to make life easier and save money when hamburger goes on sale. Make up some meatloaf and then freeze it in cupcake tins. When the meat is frozen, remove it and place the mini-meat loafs in a plastic bag. On a busy day, all you have to do is remove the meat from the freezer and cook it. No messy hands or bowls. This is great if you also have a lot of other leftovers to add to the meal.


Stir fry

When you add meat to stir fry, you want it to be cut as thin as possible so that it will both cook quickly and you can use less meat. In order to cut the slices as thin as possible, put it in the freezer for a couple hours before you slice it.


Vegetables

You always save nutrients, and thereby money, by steaming your vegetables instead of boiling them. If you are looking for a way to make them more tasty when steaming, do not boil plain water underneath them to make the steam. Trying adding some flavor by adding chicken or beef bouillon to the water.


Water

Always heat up your water in the microwave, rather than on the stove. If you are worried about a rare explosion, just place a wooden spoon or dowel in the water. The imperfections in the wood will activate the water when it starts to boil, preventing any potential problems.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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