Monday, September 12, 2011

tips and money saving tricks for the kitchen

1. buy long shelf life food in bulk:
This way, you're not forced to use all of your supplies faster than you need to (you tend to when things are on their way to spoiling)... You will eat the amount you intended on eating, which means, food will last longer, and you will shop less and therefore save money.  Below I list products that fill my fridge and cupboards just to give you an idea.
  1. sack of potatoes- if found in a plastic bag with little ventilation, take out and leave out in the open. try not to stack them on top of one another as this will trap moisture and cause soft spots (spoil).
  2. bag of carrots - carrots last a long time for me. they're very nutritious and add sweetness to a lot  of my dishes. being very versatile they can be put in practically everything. soups, pastas, omelets, side salads, main courses. diced them, stir fry them, boil and mash them, and shred them to keep things exciting.
  3. onions and garlic- same as potatoes, leave out in the open in an even layer.  they never rot on me.  they are anti cancer troupers and always add much flavor to mostly every dish I cook. 
  4. mayo
  5. spices - spices are nutritious, can outlast you, and add tons of flavor to dishes. I stacked up on my favorites (the biggest jars). mix them up in many different combinations and you got yourself many different dishes.  the more you use them, the more familiar you become with their compliments.  you can always look up recipes online that will help familiarize you with them.  (dried parsley, cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, cinnamon, curry powder, paprika, nutmeg, dried red pepper flakes, graham masala).  They also make great soups!
  6. peanut butter and jelly - enough said
  7. butter
  8. pasta- elbow macaroni and spaghetti are my favorites - they have the longest shelf live ever. they're fairly cheap, especially macaroni, and cook fast.  They absorb flavor well and can be prepared an infinite amount of ways.
  9. canned tomato sauce, paste, diced tomatoes
  10. frozen vegetables- corn, peas, carrots. for when you run out of fresh vegetables and don't have time for a grocery run
  11. sugar, tomato ketchup, hot sauce, vinegar, soy sauce
  12. mayo
  13. ginger 
  14. cheese
2. don't buy too many vegetables and fruit at once:
I found that vegetables here on the island are different than the ones from stores in my neighborhood in San Francisco.  They're more irregular in size, more vibrant and tasting, and are not as yolked and shiny--->meaning, they are real vegetables, not imposters hahaha.  Because they're more natural here on the island, they tend to spoil a lot faster.  Most last for 1 week so buy the amount you would use in that amount of time.  If you find yourself with on-the-verge of spoiling veggies, it is a good idea to cook them into a meal and later store in the fridge or prepare them for the freezer. 
  • a guide to freezing vegetables can be found here
  • a guide to freezing fruit can be found here
3. freeze your bread before it goes bad: 
Feel like your bread will spoil before you can finish it and don't want to force yourself to eat more than you want? Bread freezes well and lasts a long time in the freezer. Or the alternate route is to store it in the fridge straight from the grocery store (especially if your kitchen isn't air conditioned, this is the way to go).
  • a guide to freezing bread can be found here
4. how to prevent onions from making you cry:  
many sway away from cooking with onions even though they love them because they can't stand burning eyes. here is a method i learned form experience that will keep your eyes free from worry. peel the onion's first layer off then storeit in the fridge at least a day before cooking. it will keep well in the fridge for about three days depending on its size. if stays in there too long, it will become a little dehydrated but it will still be usable as ever.

5. invest in a non-stick pan (with a lid): 
purchasing a non stick frying pan can help decrease the amount of oil needed to cook food.  many foods, like eggs and potatoes, need more oil to be cooked in when in a stainless steal frying pan (sticks) than in a nonstick frying pan.  test it out for yourself!  Also, if you don't have a toaster, the pan will come in handy. Toast bread, tortillas, pizza, and many other items. You can even caramelize toast- check it out here.  Make sure you handle your pan with care so that the nonstick doesn't breakdown. Once this happens, it will be unsafe to cook.  Right after cooking, while still hot, rinse with water then wash with the soft side of a sponge.  Also, only use nonstick cooking utensils when cooking, not metal, to prevent scratching your pan.

6. stock up on freezer meat:
once you stock up on long shelf life produce and then meat for the freezer, you'll have a wide selection of dishes you'll be able to make. if you go to the grocery store with only one dish in mind, you will end up leaving with just one dish, using money as if it were good for one month's worth of food.  Instead, find your favorite meats and toss them in the freezer. When you come up with a dish, thaw them out the day before. here's what my freezer looks like:
*frozen chicken thigh meat - to me, it absorbs flavor, hold moisture well, and is cheaper than breast meat. it does have a little more fat compared to breast meat, but then again, that little fat is little in the grand scheme of things. When Cooking, I use less oil and depend on the chicken fat to cook up my dishes.
*ground beef
*pork chops
*sausage
*bacon
Make sure you thaw out only one weeks worth of meat. toss a little in each dish you prepare throughout the week!

7.  buy eggs from the egg man on campus:
Every Tuesday 11:30am- 1pm. he can be found at the gazebos on the left hand side on the way to the library.
17ec for 30 eggs vs. 10ec per dozen at grocery stores. generally they will last as long as you need for them to last.  i tried both routes and found that buying a dozen at a time was more costly since i use them on a regular basis.

8.  stick with local fruits and vegetables:
They're much cheaper than imported produce.  You can find a lot of local produce at the gazebos on campus or at food fair located in Grand Anse across the street of Scotia Bank (red sign). Tomatoes at Food Fair are half the price as the ones found at IGA. Food fair also has greens, onions, green figs, lettuce, and much more.

9.  buy pots, pans, and household items from Saint Georges:
There's  a wider selection and better competing prices.  From school, take the Grand Anse bus and stop at Texaco. Walk up the hill around the corner towards IGA to the bus stop. Take the #1 bus to the last stop. You will know when you get there. There's also a fish and meat market.

 10.  bring meats to room temperature before cooking:
the meat will cook more evenly

11.  tenderize tough cuts of meat by marinating them

12.  don't buy cheap can openers or cheap cheese shredders:
the can opener will break down on you and the shredder will rust within a  heartbeat

13.  avoid food with MSG and Trans fat:
*Msg is short for "monosodium glutamate."  Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter that naturally occurs in our bodies but found in food, they come in over-the-top quantities that are bodies are equipped to handle.  As a result, your brain neurons are over-excited causing damage you don't want to imagine.  MSG can turn something fairly bland into one of the best things you've ever tasted in life. It tricks your brain! Watch out for this guy. There are other disguised names of MSG. the reason why they're different is because of their different concentrations. FDA requires food industries to label food with "MSG" only if it's in its pure form. anything lower, food companies are allowed to name it anything they want. "Natural Flavors" is a common disguise name. Click here to learn the other names of MSG (scroll down for list). try to avoid as much as you can

*Trans fat on the other hand, has been know to cause cardiovascular health problems.  It is a chemically altered fat that the human body is unable to recognize.  The process involves adding a hydrogen atom to vegetable oil to increase shelf life. it is called "hydrogenation."    Because of shaky FDA rules, food companies are able to produce trans fat products products that read "no trans fat" on their labels yet still have them.

14.  Don't have a toaster?  Use a non stick pan!
* to toast bread, heat pan up over medium high heat, medium-low if toasting wheat bread. Place bread in pan by itself or add a little butter for more flavor.
*you can also toast tortillas, bagels, nuts, and sesame seeds.

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