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Frugal living tip #33. August 17, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, homesteading, wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here. It’s Monday, and that means it’s time for another Frugal Living Tip here at Poor Richard’s Almanac. Today, I’d like to talk about cheap, reusable devices that can help keep food and drinks fresh, because wasted food is wasted money. Who wants to eat a limp potato chip or drink a flat soda? Ugh. Here are some ways I keep food fresh until it’s all gone:

* Chip clips. Roll the top of a chip bag tightly several times to seal out air and potential pests, then clip. You can buy special “chip clips” at the grocery, or simply use the black office clips designed to hold papers together if you have them lying around. They work just fine. I always do this with the inner lining of cracker and cereal boxes, too. It works!

* Jars. I transfer pasta, popcorn, beans and other dried legumes, rice, and cereals like oatmeal and our multigrain Shredded Wheat from their flimsy packaging into tightly sealed glass jars (I buy big glass jars used at Echo Hill Country Store for $2 each) or plastic containers like Click-Clacks. They keep it all fresh and pest-free practically forever. Ditto for sugar and brown sugar, which I put in plastic bowls with tight-fitting lids.

* Sugar softener. Speaking of brown sugar, it’s depressing to reach for a box and find a rock-hard lump that it would take a rock hammer to break apart. I keep that from happening with my sugar softener, a terra cotta disk that I soak in warm water until it’s absorbed plenty of water, then put in the plastic container I use to store my brown sugar. I just settle it on top of the brown sugar and it keeps it nice and soft; every six months, I’ll take it out, rinse it off, and resoak it before putting it back in the container. Works like a charm! If you only eat popcorn occasionally, you may find that, after awhile, your popcorn isn’t popping as well as it once did and you have plenty of unpopped kernels in your pan. That’s because it’s the moisture content in the kernels that makes them pop. You can sprinkle a few drops of water over the kernels in the jar, shake, and revitalize them, but I think one of these disks would work even better. And of course you could use a shard of a broken (unused, please!) terracotta plant pot if you didn’t want to spring for a disk.

* Soda pump. I have a pump-top for my soda bottles that keeps the carbonation from dissipating. You just take off the bottle cap, screw on the pump cap, and every time you pour some soda (or seltzer), put the pump top back on, give it a few vigorous pumps, and the fizz stays in the soda so it’s just as carbonated next time you use it. Great idea! 

* Ziploc bags. I use these to keep butter and cheese fresh in the fridge. Cheese can dry out fast if you just try to rewrap the plastic back over it once you’ve opened it. Keep it fresh and moist by sticking what’s left, wrapper and all, in a Ziploc bag or Baggie and sealing it. I do the same with boxes of butter to keep them from going stale or taking on off-flavors from the fridge.

* Wine stoppers. I’m sure there’s a technical name for these, but I don’t know what it is. They’re tight-fitting but flexible rubber (or, er, flexible plastic?) stoppers that let wine breathe and keep it from going stale or flat even after you’ve opened the bottle. They work, and no more fighting trying to shove a cork back into the bottle.

* Veggie bags. I always save those clear plastic veggie bags you use for produce in the grocery store, since I’m unlikely to get anything like that at a farmers’ market or CSA and they definitely help produce stay fresh longer. When I get home with my farmers’ market or CSA treasures, I transfer them from their unwrapped or brown-bagged state into these recycled bags before tucking them into the veggie crisper. The one exception is mushrooms, which need to breathe and actually last longer in a brown paper bag.

* Plastic containers. You can now buy sets of cheap, reusable plastic containers at any grocery store and reuse them practically indefinitely. I find that they’re a dream come true in terms of storing leftovers and keeping them fresh in the fridge. You can not only see what you have, but it keeps beautifully until you can use it. I have friends who recycle large yogurt containers and the like for their leftovers, which works just as well with two caveats: you can’t see what’s in the containers, and the rectangular shapes of the purchased ones are easier to stack. But if you have a great memory and/or don’t want to spend extra money, go for it!

This isn’t exactly an exhaustive overview, just a few options to get you thinking. Meanwhile, if you have storage containers, tricks, or tips I haven’t mentioned, please let us hear what works for you!

               ‘Til next time,




1. Heather - August 17, 2009

All good ideas! I will need to try the pump top for the soda pop. I only buy canned if we have it at all for the simple reason that I dislike flat pepsi.

Yes, flat soda is gross, Heather! But eeew, I always feel like canned soda tastes metallic. Thank heavens for the pump top!

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