Keep lettuce fresh with kitchen hack

 

Keep lettuce fresh with kitchen hack - from strawberry container to lettuce keeper

Keep lettuce fresh with kitchen hack

I had just finished washing and prepping some strawberries to eat. And I was left with that empty plastic clamshell that the strawberries come in.

Keep lettuce fresh with simple upcycle kitchen hack -from strawberry container to lettuce keeper

Don’t you hate that thing? Sure, it does a fine job of holding strawberries. But once it’s empty, it’s just one more plastic item to add to the landfill.

Then I read this post from thekitchn.com about how to keep lettuce and salad greens fresh. We Tried 3 Ways to Store Salad Greens .

The post details ways to store lettuce in plastic bags and plastic containers with paper towels. These methods keep lettuce fresh and ready to eat for over a week.

And as I stared at the empty strawberry clamshell container, it hit me: Why not use the empty strawberry container for lettuce storage?

Keep lettuce fresh with simple upcycle kitchen hack

 

So I washed the lettuce and dried it carefully. I layered the lettuce in the clamshell container with paper towels, and refrigerated the container.

And it worked!

Looking back, it seems like a no-brainer. After all, you can buy delicate greens and spinach in plastic clamshells.

 

I’m sure that if you wanted to be a super recycler, you could wrap the lettuce in a clean dish towel. Either way, I’ll be sure to save my strawberry containers this spring!

What disposable items have you given a new life in your kitchen? Keep lettuce fresh with simple upcycle kitchen hackThis post was featured on:

 

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7 ways to dress your kids for cheap

 Save hundreds of dollars on your kids' clothes

 

It happens: You bring your sweet little bundle of joy home, in the cute outfit that still has the new creases in it. Then the blowout occurs.

And your child’s clothes will never be the same again.

It’s not just the stains. Your little one will triple in size in the first year.

Didn’t know you would be raising a baby Hulk, did you?

And your little one keeps growing, and growing, and growing, and. . .

You can spend a mint on those little outfits that they only wear once. But there are ways to save hundreds of dollars on dressing your kids:

1. Shop garage and yard sales

Along with sagging couches and mismatched dishware, you can find mountains and mountains of gently used kids’ clothing at garage and yard sales. You can even find name brand clothes for cheap. During the summer months, I’ll stop at yard sales and spend a few minutes browsing the piles for an outfit or two. I’ve gotten shirts for as low as 25 and 50 cents and jeans for one or two dollars. Remember, you can always pick up items that are too big and store for another season.

2. Hit the clearance racks for out of season clothes

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Stores start marking down clothing in the middle of a season to make room for the new arrivals. This makes January and July great times to search through the clearance racks for clothes at a deep discount. The best deals are for the very seasonal clothes, like winter gloves and swimsuits. Just the other day, I found knit gloves 2 for 50 cents and knit hats for a dollar.

The nice thing about clearance clothes is that your kids can wear them during the same season for a few months. You can also buy a size larger and store the clothes for next year.

3. Shop thrift stores on the discount days

When I was a kid, thrift stores were where Grandma’s clothes went to die. You only shopped there if you needed a polyester jumpsuit for Halloween. Now there are tons of gently used clothes to sort through.

Problem is, the markup on thrift store clothing is higher than I’d like. That’s why I listed this option behind garage sales and clearance racks. Usually the prices are the same as new clothes marked down for discount. However, the thrift store I frequent has certain discount days during the week. I’ll look for  A few times a year the store have 50% off the entire store. That’s when I stock up.

 4. Arrange for an informal swap

When my kids outgrow their clothes, I pass them along to friends that have younger kids than mine. My friends do the same with their older kids’ clothes. We pass along what we can’t use and keep what we can. I find that kids hate hand-me-downs only when they don’t have a voice in what we keep or not. If an outfit doesn’t appeal to them, I donate it. Clothes that are too worn get re-purposed to something else. My nieces LOVE the outfits my fashionista passes down, and since my guy has grown 10 inches (!) this last year, it’s been nice to swap his too short pants with pairs I’ve had waiting for him.

5. Participate in a larger swap

You can also widen your circle of people to swap outfits with. It takes a little more work, but you can arrange a formal clothing swap with a church group, school PTSA, or neighborhood. All you need is an area with tables, some flyers to advertise the event, and a date. Every one brings clothes that they want to get rid of. At the end of the night, bag up any leftovers, and take them to the thrift store to donate. Win for everyone!

6. Dress up existing articles of clothes

One way to keep clothes lasting longer is by modifying kids’ clothes as they get stained or outgrown. Here are some ideas that I’ve used:

  • Slap an applique or fabric paint on a shirt to cover a stain
  • Add a ruffle to a too short shirt or skirt
  • Make shorts out of too short pants and jeans with torn knees
  • Turing too short pants into long sleeves, as shown on The Refab Diaries
  • Making old T shirts into dresses, as shown on I Am Momma – Hear Me Roar

 7. Sew Complete Outfits

My kids cringe when I get near a sewing machine. But if you’ve got the talent, you can create some cute outfits. It often takes less than a yard to make a shirt or skirt. Check out the cute shirt that my friend Zina made up for her son:

zina kid shirt
Isn’t that the most adorable little hedgehog? I just love the running stitch on the collar.

Even though I don’t sew, I’ll often peek in at the blog Running With Scissors with serious sewing envy. You should check it out for inspiration.

Treat kids’ clothes as disposable; when you use these 7 solutions for getting kids’ clothes for cheap, you can save hundreds of dollars as well as your sanity!

What are your favorite ways to save on kids’ clothes?

Next week, I’ll tackle the even harder challenge of dressing teens for cheap.

This post is featured at Works for Me Wednesday at Giving Up on Perfect and   Link Party Palooza at Tatertots and Jello

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Bountiful Baskets — Is it worth it?

boutiful baskets-title

 

This is the first in a series of articles where I’ll examine common cost cutting methods and see how they stack up.

The setup: Bountiful Baskets is a non-profit cooperative available in 24 states, mostly in the West and the South. At the beginning of the week, you order a basket for $15 (plus $2.50 handling fee) — an assortment of fruits and vegetables that Bountiful Baskets selects for you. You select a pickup location and on Saturday, pick up the produce (bring your own box). The produce is not strictly local, like a CSA. You can pay extra for an organic basket, as well as add-on specialty items. For more information, see www.bountifulbaskets.org .

I had heard about Bountiful Baskets for a while. People kept telling me how much they save with participating with Bountiful Baskets.

I was skeptical. “Really?” I thought. “There’s no way that a single cooperative could beat my produce prices.” I tend to shop a number of stores, and buy my produce during peak season to save the most money.

But I figured I’d give it a shot. I ordered a basket, brought it home, weighed, and counted the produce. Then I compared the produce to the prices I usually pay. First I figured the lowest price that I like to pay for my fruits and vegetables. Next I wrote down the price of the produce that I found in the stores for that week.

Here are my totals:

 

Bountiful Baskets Price Comparison
Produce Quantity Bountiful Baskets Grocery Sale Price Grocery Average Price
green grapes 2 lbs .99/lb 1.99/lb
pineapple 2 lbs .75/lb 1.25/lb
apricots 4.2 lbs free 1.99/lb
baby watermelon 3 lbs .25/lb .75/lb
plums 2.3 lbs 1.49/lb 1.99/lb
bananas 2lb 10oz lbs .33/lb .50/lb
potatoes 5 lbs .99/lb .99/lb
romaine 1 head .88/lb 1.25/lb
spaghetti squash 1 lb 8.4oz .99/lb 1.49/lb
mushrooms 8 oz 1.49/lb 2.50/lb
cucumbers 2 3/1 .79
Total 17.50 28.67 35.25

 

Wow. As you can see, there’s quite a difference between the cost of the basket and the individual prices of the items — even when I buy them at the lowest sales price that I can get.

The nice thing about Bountiful Baskets is that, unlike a CSA, you are not committed to purchasing a basket each week. During the summer months, when our garden is producing more than we can eat in a week, we don’t participate as often.

Bountiful Baskets may not be for everyone, however. You won’t find Bountiful Baskets an excellent deal if:

  • You don’t eat a lot of vegetables – Well, of course, if you are not willing to prepare and eat the fruits and vegetables, you’ll waste a lot of produce.
  • You must have perfect vegetables – I haven’t had a big problem with the quality of produce, but because it’s packed and distributed by volunteers, some items may not be as picture perfect as found in the supermarket. Be sure to inspect your basket when you receive it.
  • You are uncomfortable with trying new items – We’ve found lots of interesting vegetables in our box, such as: multi-colored carrots, fennel, chayote, and parsnips. I’ve had to Google items a few times to figure out how to prepare and cook an odd fruit or vegetables.

Fortunately, Bountiful Baskets also has a great Pinterest board where participants post recipes. I’ll also post a weekly menu plan using your basket items, so you can figure out what to do with all that produce!

What’s your experience with Bountiful Baskets?

Bountiful Baskets did not pay or reimburse me for this post, and the links are not affiliate links. All opinions are my own.

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7 ways to use old citrus

7 ways to use old citrus

 

It happens to all of us. Maybe you vowed that this was the year that you’d eat half a grapefruit for breakfast every day. Maybe you saw that gorgeous stack of oranges at the grocery store and had to have some.

So you end up with surplus citrus. And sometimes you might end up with an orange or lime that’s a little bit old. Not moldy or gross, mind you. But just a little. . . sad. When we have fruit that starts to look this way, everyone in the family shuns it.

But there’s still a way to salvage it. Here are seven ways to use up your old citrus:

Marinades

Juice your citrus. Then toss chicken breasts in a freezer bag and the squeezed juice. Freeze for later thawing and grilling. Some flavor combinations that I love:

  • Grapefruit juice, a few sprigs of rosemary, and a garlic clove
  • Lime juice, sliced onion, chopped fresh cilantro
  • Lemon juice, lemon zest, and thyme

Freezer meals

But why limit the juice to marinades? You can make some great freezer meals from fresh-squeezed juice.

Try either the Orange Ginger Chicken or Lemon Pepper Chicken from New Leaf Wellness:

6 Crockpot Freezer Chicken Meals

Fresh-squeezed orange juice tends to be sweeter than concentrate, so if you make this yummy recipe from Freezer Meals For Us, taste the orange sauce before adding the brown sugar and adjust to taste.

Slow Cooker Orange Chicken

Drink spritzes

You can’t get more than a half-cup of juice from most citrus, making it tough to get a good fresh-squeezed glass of OJ from one orange. However, you can use a splash of squeezed juice to freshen up a drink. Freeze the juice in ice-cube trays. When frozen, you can drop a cube in plain water. The juice cubes can add zing to other drinks too. I once put a blood tangerine cube in a Diet Coke. . .ah heaven!
Beats Diet Coke and lime any day.

Smoothies

This works best with oranges, of course. Peel the oranges and lay the segments on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Freeze and pop the frozen segments into  a freezer bag for use. These make the freshest tasting Orange Julius!

Green cleaner

You can also take citrus peels and steep them in vinegar. Strain the liquid after a few weeks and pour it into a clean spray bottle. There are lots of how-tos on the Internet, such as this one from  the Shabby Creek  Cottage. Just remember, you can use more than orange peels. Lemons, limes, and grapefruit peels also make a nice natural cleaner.

Sometimes the citrus is just too far gone to be edible. Don’t worry. You can still squeeze some life out of it before tossing.

Air freshener

Cut up your citrus and toss the pieces into a slow cooker or pot of simmering water. You can also add aromatic herbs and spices, like rosemary and cinnamon sticks. It’s especially great to get rid of those musty late-winter house odors.

Disposal cleaner

Finally you can always use it as a disposal cleaner. Cut up the citrus and toss a few slices in the disposal along with a few ice cubes. Grind them up. This is a great way to clean the disposal and keep it fresh. I know that many people like to freeze slices in chunks like hockey pucks, but I’d rather keep my freezer free for other things.

What’s your favorite way to deal with old citrus?

 

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5 Minute, No-Measure Crockpot Soup

5 Minute No Measure Crockpot Soup leftovers

Crockpot soups are soooo nice to come home to. They’re warm, comforting, and easy.
But trying to follow a recipe at seven in the morning is a little too much effort for me.
I know, I know. You can put all the ingredients in the crock pot the night before and refrigerate the crockpot until morning.
But that involves planning. And some days, that’s more planning than I want to deal with.

For those days when mornings are hectic, I rely upon the 5 minute, no-measure crockpot soup.

You can throw together this soup in five minutes, plug in the crockpot, and leave it to simmer. Come back — instant dinner.

Carl Weathers Baby you got a stew going on

Carl Weathers would approve

To make 5 minute, no-measure crockpot soup, just follow the chart below. Start with a liquid, like chicken broth, add a few vegetables from column A, protein from column B, add some spices. And baby, you got a soup going on!

I’m serious about the no measuring. . .you just eyeball everything. And this recipe scales — you can make it in a small 4 quart crockpot enough for two with leftovers, or feed the block with an 8 quart crockpot. Just follow the ratios: 1/2 liquid, 1/4 vegetables, 1/4 protein.

Crockpot soup is very forgiving. Here are the details:
broth

Liquids – Pick the flavor you want and fill the crockpot up half way. Spaghetti sauce is good for minestrone type soups, milk for chowders, and clear broths for almost anything. If using milk, be sure to use skim or 2% milk. Higher-fat milks tend to curdle.

 

tomatoVegetables – You can fill the crockpot 1/4 full with bite size chopped vegetables. Frozen vegetables work great, as well as leftover vegetables from the night before. Limit it to three kinds of vegetables to avoid weird combinations.

 

meat

Meats and other proteins – I always have a few bags of precooked chicken or hamburger stashed in the freezer. Cans of beans are even easier to add to your soup.  Just dump your protein in, filling up the crockpot, leaving 1-2 inches headspace.

 

spicesYou can be a lot less exact with spices than other types of cooking. Toss in a chopped onion, some minced garlic, and some celery. Feel free to leave out the onion or garlic if you don’t like. Toss in the other spices, a good pinch, depending upon how you want the soup to turn out. I just grab a small spoon from the silverware drawer and use it to add the spices.

I like to salt the soup just before eating. It’s lots easier to adjust salt and heat at the end of the cooking time.

 

cheeseThese are the finishing touches that really makes the soup. Add them just before serving. You can stir them in or top your soup with them.

 

And finally, give your soup a good stir before leaving it unattended. I confess, I tend to forget this last step. Often I’ve come home and lifted the lid to view an island of dried out vegetables and meat in a pool of liquid.

 

Here’s your handy chart:

crockpot, leftover magic, soups, freezer cooking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Minecraft patch from upcycled T shirt

upcycled tshirt to minecraft patch title

 

 

 

 

 

So, for the past six months, my kid’s been obsessed with this:

Minecraft up cycle from old tshirt | 15 minute cheapskate
A red pixelated turd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those whose kids are NOT obsessed with Minecraft, this is a Redstone. Redstones are items used in the Minecraft video game to transmit “power.”

Minecraft up cycle from old tshirt | 15 minute cheapskate
So it’s a magical pixelated turd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this is what he wanted on his blanket for Christmas. I couldn’t find any Redstone blankets.

So I created one.

I had an old stained and torn t shirt that I sacrificed for the project.

minecraft 1

 

 

I printed the Redstone graphic on computer iron-on paper.

 

upcycle, minecraft, iron on, sewing, appliqué, Tshirt

 

 

 

 

Depending on what kind and brand of iron-on paper you use, you may need to reverse the image when printing it out

Leaving about a 1/4 inch around the image, I cut out the image and ironed it on the shirt.

Cut out the patch and started sewing. I set my sewing machine for a close zig zag stitch and started stitching the patch on.

The patch has a nice vinyl-like feel. I didn’t want to pin the patch onto the blanket, and poke holes in the patch.

 

As I’m sewing, I’m thinking, “This Redstone is suspiciously looking more brown than red.”

upcycle, minecraft, recycle, sewing, kids
And the fact that the red pixels now appear yellow certainly didn’t help

 

I don’t know if it was the mindless zigzagging around the patch, or the color, but I got distracted and screwed up. Because I didn’t tack down the patch before hand, the patch shifted position and I accidentally created a gap.

minecraft 5

 

 

 

 

 

There was no way I was going to pick out all those stitches and risk tearing the patch or putting unnecessary holes in the blanket.

Did I mention that this was happening two days before Christmas?

Ping! Idea struck!

I took the leftover t shirt, cut a few 1 inch strips of material, and stuffed the patch. Gave the patch a nice puffy appearance.

Laziness + time deadlines = innovation!

I finished sewing on the patch. It didn’t look half bad.

Next time I use this technique, I’ll tack the patch down with fabric glue before sewing. Even hot glue or spray on glue would be okay, since it’s temporary.

I wouldn’t use fusible interfacing or tape because I don’t know if the iron-on patch would peel or scorch due to additional applied heat.

Ta da! And how did the blanket go over?

He’s happy

What do you think?

 

 

Hey! I’m at the Works for Me Wednesday blog party at Giving up on perfect. You should check them out!

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