I love energy or snack or healthy granola bars, but if you look at the ingredients in many/most of them – yuck! I have posted about making your own granola bars (Snack On Hearty, Homemade Granola Bars | Dan Likes This!). Here is another cool and super easy way from America’s Test Kitchen on
How to Make Your Own Energy Bars
You can also include some of these yummy healthy ingredients: Easy Ways to Give Any Meal a Powerful Nutritional Boost | Dan Likes This!
To go the extra mile, make your own fuel.
By Lindsey Slack | April 25, 2013
My boyfriend is a run-o-holic. Whether he’s running a half marathon or 20 miles, the man can’t seem to get enough. I’ve always believed that exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, which is why I’m all about supporting him in his racing endeavors. And when it comes to athletic abilities, the quality of what you put into your body affects what you’re able to put out. But it’s difficult to find store-bought energy or performance bars that aren’t filled with ingredients you can’t pronounce and that don’t taste artificial, so I got to thinking: Could I make a healthier (and better tasting) version? The answer is yes, and they couldn’t be easier.
STEP #1 GATHER IT
The great thing about this recipe is that there aren’t too many ingredients, and there’s minimal prep work involved—you don’t even have to toast the nuts or chop anything beforehand. And it’s no-bake!
STEP #2 LINE IT
Lining the baking dish with a parchment-paper sling makes lifting the completed bars out of the pan much easier. You simply pull up on the overhanging bits of paper and the bars come right out.
STEP #3 COMBINE IT
Pour all of the ingredients into the food processor.
STEP #4 PULSE IT
Pulse the pitted dates, sunflower seeds, raw almonds, chia seeds, dried cranberries, and coconut oil until they’re well mixed, about 2 minutes.
STEP #5 TRANSFER IT
Scoop the processed ingredients into the lined baking dish.
STEP #6 PRESS IT
Press the mixture down with your hand or an offset spatula from edge to edge of the pan. Make sure the thickness is even all the way across.
STEP #7 CHILL AND LIFT IT
Once you’ve chilled the bars in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, lift them up and out of the pan.
STEP #8 CUT IT
Cut the mixture into nine equally sized pieces.
STEP #9 EAT IT
Your bar is ready to grab and go; bring it with you on a run for a mid-workout refuel, or enjoy it in the comfort of your kitchen.
The whole recipe is here:
Makes 9 bars
6 ounces pitted dates (1 cup)
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¾ cup whole raw almonds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
¾ cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1. Line 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper, leaving excess hanging over the sides to make a sling.
2. Process all ingredients in food processor until finely ground, about 2 minutes. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish spread into even layer, pressing down using offset spatula or hand to firmly compress. Transfer to refrigerator and chill until mixture is firm, about 20 minutes.
3. Lift parchment sling out of baking dish and place on cutting board. Using sharp knife, cut into 9 bars. Bars can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen up to 1 month.
Get 100+ more recipes like this in the DIY Cookbook.
We love our pizza stone! But I always like to know of other uses for things – so why not the pizza stone to roast veggies? Cool hack from Food Republic:
Your pizza stone’s no one-trick pony in the kitchen
Hack your pizza stone into a veggie roaster by doing…well, nothing.
A pizza stone, otherwise known as a baking stone, is a useful and versatile kitchen tool every home cook should stash vertically in some cabinet where you won’t forget about it. But the high, dry surface heat is also great for roasting vegetables like you’ve never done before.
I’ve found that direct contact with the hot stone keeps things crisp, moist and perfectly cooked. Steaming is great, but you won’t get that delicious roasty char on the outside of the vegetables. Sauteeing is always quick and effective, but you risk limp veggies due to water escaping in the form of steam, which quickly makes them more susceptible to overcooking.
Here’s how you do it: heat the stone in the oven at 375 for 15 minutes. Place blanched, lightly olive-oiled veggies like leeks, parsnips, asparagus and even potatoes (but definitely no beets if you don’t want giant unremovable pink stains on your nice kitchenware) directly on the stone. Roast until tender and starting to turn golden-brown, turning once, about 10-15 minutes. You’ll be delighted with the results, especially if you plunk them on top of the pizza you make after the veggies.
From Food52, we get this is a very comprehensive list of
Inspired by conversations on the FOOD52 Hotline, we’re sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun. Today, we’re talking about smart storage.
We’ve given you Our Weekly Grocery List; now, we’ll show you how to stock your larder. Part of treating ingredients correctly is knowing the best places to store them, and for how long. We’re tackling several storage myths and general confusions, starting with the counter and the pantry. We’ll be covering the rest of the kitchen next week.
Garlic, onions, and shallots: These alliums can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to two weeks; in the fridge, they will turn mealy and lose much of their flavor.
Tomatoes, potatoes, and winter squash: Although it may seem blasphemous to keep vegetables out of the refrigerator, trust us (and the USDA): these should be kept in a cool, dry place instead. (Plus, they make beautiful decorations.)
Bananas, citrus, and melons: Like the vegetables listed above, these fruits are best left on the counter. Once cut, they should be relegated to the refrigerator; otherwise, they will begin to dry out.
Bread: To slow down retrogradation — the process in which the starch molecules in bread crystallize – Cook’s Illustrated says to store bread at room temperature for up to 2 days, either tightly-wrapped in foil or in a Ziploc bag to minimize moisture loss. After 2 days, wrap the bread in foil, place in a freezer bag, and store it in the freezer. And to revive crusty bread that’s been stored for more than a day, just pop it into the oven for a few minutes.
Cakes and pies: According to pastry chef Stella Parks, both frosted and un-frosted whole cakes will last for about a week when tightly wrapped in plastic. Cut cakes have a shorter shelf life, around 3 to 4 days. Fruit pies can be kept on the countertop for up to 2 days; after this, move them to the refrigerator.
Dry goods: Generally, dry goods can be stored for up to 6 months (longer if you take good care of them), according to scientists at Colorado State University. Once a package is open, it’s best to move it to an air-tight container; this will ensure freshness and keep your pantry cleaner to boot.
Nuts: Store your nuts in air-tight containers if possible; these allow them to maintain the right level of moisture. For ultimate freshness, consider storing them with their shells on.
Spices: As the LA Times tells us, heat, light, air, and humidity are all spices’ enemies; your spices should live in your pantry. Whole spices last much longer than crushed or ground; these can be kept for up to 2 years, while ground spices should be refreshed every 6 months. Airtight tins or small spice jars are the best mode of storage.
We’ve shown you what to store on your counter and in your pantry – now, we’re taking you to the refrigerator and freezer. Because not all parts are created equal, we’ll show you where — and for how long — your goods will last. Got any helpful storage tips or questions? Leave them in the comments section!
Dairy products: According to Cooks Illustrated, milk, cream, yogurt, and other dairy products are best stored on the upper shelves of your refrigerator; the temperature there is the most constant, so they’ll keep longer.
Eggs: Some refrigerators urge you to put your eggs on the inside of their door. Don’t give in — the door is the warmest part of the refrigerator. Eggs are happiest in their cartons on a shelf. Don’t try to be European and store your eggs outside the refrigerator; eggs in the United States, unlike in Europe, are washed before sale so they lose their protective outer layer.
Mushrooms: According to our friends at the Kitchn, commercial mushrooms (the ones you buy at the grocery store) are best left in their original packaging. Once you open it, wrap the whole package in plastic wrap. Wild mushrooms are best kept in a paper bag in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer.
Vegetables: All vegetables, minus the ones relegated to the countertop, are best stored in perforated plastic bags in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer. To make sure they don’t decompose prematurely, keep them away from ethylene-producing fruits: apples, stone fruits, mangoes, passion fruit, pears, and kiwis.
Fruit: Fruit, with the exception of melons, citrus, and bananas, should be stored in the refrigerator in a separate drawer from the vegetables. Do not wash your fruit until you are ready to eat it; the excess water quickens decomposition. Although whole lemons are best left out on the counter, lemons that have been zested — but not juiced — can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored in the refrigerator.
Cheese: According to Formaticum’s blog, cheese should be wrapped in porous material for storage; cheese paper is the best, but waxed paper or parchment paper will also do the trick. Before storing, do a “face clean” of each cheese: scrape the surface with a non-serrated knife to remove any excess oil that may have “sweat out” at room temperature. Each cheese should be wrapped separately and marked with the name and date of purchase. Avoid plastic wrap at all costs — as scientiest Harold McGee says in his book On Food and Cooking, the cheese can absorb the flavors and chemicals from the plastic. There’s nothing worse than an expensive piece of cheese that reeks of plastic or has gone bad, so storing it correctly is worth that extra effort. For a handy how-to, check out this article from Serious Eats.
Eggs in the door! Shame on us. Do as we say, not as we do.
Meat: Meat is best stored in the coldest section of the refrigerator: the bottom. Removing the retail packaging and rewrapping the meat in foil can extend its shelf life, but you should try to consume refrigerated meat within 4 days of purchase.
Fish: Before refrigerating a piece of fish, dry it completely and wrap it in waxed paper. It will usually keep in the coldest part of your fridge for up to 2 days, but make sure to check the smell before you cook it; if it smells too fishy or has an off color, throw it out. For bonus points: store wrapped fish on a bed of ice (heaped in a bowl or shallow dish) in the fridge, and change as needed, à la Cooks Illustrated
Pies: According to Betty Crocker, pies containing eggs (custard or cream-based pies) should be stored loosely covered in the refrigerator.
Yeast: While yeast can last in the pantry, it’s best stored in the refrigerator (or freezer, for long-term); once exposed to heat and light, it’s easily killed.
Herbs: According to FOOD52-er RobertaJ on this Hotline thread, basil, parsley, cilantro, and other leafy, water-based herbs should be treated like flowers: take off any twisty ties, trim a small amount off the stem ends, and plop the bunch into a tall glass of water. Cover the herbs loosely with a plastic bag, and they’ll stay fresh for at least a week. Hardier, oil-based herbs like thyme and rosemary can be wrapped in a damp paper towel and layered into plastic bags. Hotline MVP anitalectric has a special tip for basil: wash, dry, and stem the basil when you get home from the market, and keep the leaves in a rolled-down plastic bag. They’ll stay fresh for 5 days.
Yeast likes to hang out in the fridge. Amanda also likes to keep “sensitive” oils in there.
Meat: Freezing uncooked meat in its original packaging is the best way to keep it for long periods of time. According to the USDA, the maximum recommended freezer storage time for beef and lamb is 6 months; for veal, pork, and poultry, 4 months; and for seasoned sausage, 2 months.
Fish: Fish can last in the freezer, according to the Perdue University Center for Animal Sciences, for up to 6 months; fattier fish, however, should not be frozen for over 3 months. For the best results, use the ice-glaze method provided by the National Center for Home Food Preservation: place the unwrapped fish in the freezer until completely frozen, dip the fish in near-freezing ice water, and place it back in the freezer to harden. Continue with this process until a uniform cover of ice is formed, then place the fish in a freezer bag for storage. As an alternative,according to the FDA you can simply wrap your fish tightly in plastic, foil, or moisture-proof paper before freezing.
Pies and pie crusts: You can freeze crusts and whole pies, baked or unbaked. According to Betty Crocker, an unbaked crust will keep for 2 months; an unbaked pie for 3 months; and a baked crust or pie for 4 months.
Cake: Un-cut, un-frosted cakes can be wrapped first in plastic wrap, then tin foil, and stored in the freezer for several months. To thaw, let the rounds spend a night in the refrigerator; cake needs to thaw slowly so that it can reabsorb its moisture.
Stock: Freeze stock in ice cube trays or muffin tins, then store the cubes/chunks in a freezer bag. That way, you can access a small amount of stock whenever a recipe calls for it. To save even more space, reduce the stock by 50 percent before you freeze it, then add water when you defrost it. According to Martha Stewart Living, frozen stock will last up to 2 months. You can also store leftover wine in the same manner and use as needed.
Coffee: Cook’s Illustrated says the freezer is the best place to store ground coffee beans; they keep longer, and will retain thier well-rounded, roasted flavor.
Citrus Zest: Here’s a tip from the smart folks at The Kitchn: any time you use a lemon, lime, grapefruit, or orange, take a few minutes to zest it. You can store the zest in the freezer in plastic bags for each fruit — or if you’re feeling fancy, in individual, plastic-wrapped portions.
This inexpensive and creative small garden will even fit most apartment patios! Cool design by Old World Garden Farms:
A simple crate planter made from pallets and using a straw bale for a growing medium
So you have little space, little time, little money and you still want to garden. Or maybe you would like to add a great looking focal point to your existing garden or landscape to grow something unique. Even better, maybe you know of someone who still likes to garden but can’t get out or handle as much of the physical activity anymore.
Here is a great solution to all three! Create your own Pallet Straw Bale Crate Garden. It’s attractive, simple to build, and best of all, low or no cost to make.
To build on the cheap, you can create the straw bale frame using the slats from a single pallet
With a single pallet, (3) 2x4x8′s, a bale of straw, and a bag or two of soil and compost – you can create an instant garden space that can provide fresh vegetables or flowers all summer long.
You can purchase all the materials you need for under $15.00 – or build for virtually free using pallets and scrap lumber. We made a few single bale boxes last week for our garden – and will use them along our fence row to grow our cucumbers in. You can also double the measurements to make a double bale box and plant to your heart’s content.
The straw bale crates have a lot of built-in advantages! They are easy to maintain – with little weeding ever needed. The 2’ high design lends itself to less stooping and bending while tending, and the combination straw, compost and soil make for a great instant growing medium – without the hassle of digging up the earth.
The best part of all – at the end of the season – you can add all of the contents to the compost pile –or start a compost pile right in the pallet box to have fresh compost next year when you’re ready to grow again!
Here is how we made ours:
Start by assembling 2 rectangle frames from scrap wood or 2 x 4′s.
Next – attach the two rectangles with four of your slat boards in each corner
Next – screw in additional slat boards to create the crate “look”.
(1) Straw Bale
(4) 2 x 4 x 20”
(4) 2 x 4 x 44”
(1) Pallet – for vertical boards – be sure to use untreated pallets to be “food safe”
(1) bag of compost – substitute your own for free material
(1) bag of topsoil – substitute your own for free material
***The straw bales we use measure 20″ wide, 18″ high and a little less than 46″ long. Bales can vary in length – so be sure to measure your bale to adjust the length and width of frame boards. You can also reference our previous post’s on How To Disassemble A Pallet Quickly, and How To Make Your Own Compost for more info.
Building The Garden:
Assemble 2 rectangles from your 2×4’s – screwing or nailing together 2 of the 20” pieces and 2 of the 44” pieces. Once you have both rectangles together – use your pallet boards to attach vertically to connect the two rectangles to create your straw bale box.
We cut our pallet slat boards into 18″ lengths, (we got about 2 boards for each slat) and then screwed them into the inside of the two frames to form the crate. The spacing is up to you – we put about 4” between each board for ours – we wanted the look of an “old-time” crate.
Planting The “Garden”
Next -use a sharp knife, reciprocating saw or shovel to dig out a 6 to 8″ planting hole
Simply place your plant in the hole and cover with more soil.
We like to put a layer of compost or mulch over the top of the bale to complete the look.
Now it’s easy – place the bale down inside the frame – you may need to wiggle a little and cut a little off here and there to get it to fit depending on the size of the bale.
Simply use a sharp knife or blade to cut out your planting holes – we went about 8” deep and 5” around– filling them with a good mixture of garden soil and compost. Plant, cover up, water – and the garden is in! Depending on what you plant – you can fit in 5 to 6 tomato plants, or a combination of pepper and tomato plants per bale, etc. You can plant a little closer than traditional garden rows because of the raised beds. Only your imagination is the limit to what you want to grow!
You will get some compression of the bale as the season progresses – the bale will slowly decompose, giving even more nutrients to the plants. Your plant and roots will thrive in the soil, compost and straw because the garden is off the ground – there will be very little weeds that develop, and should be easy with the added height to pick and maintain.
End of the Season :
If you have a compost bin already set up – you can certainly take the contents and throw them into the pile. The decomposed straw and soil mixture are great for a pile – adding a lot of carbon material. If not – use the crate box as a compost bin! Mix up the bale and contents right in the pallet box structure – and start adding some shredded fall leaves, coffee grounds, vegetable scraps , lawn clippings and more. By next spring – you will have enough compost made to use in the next bale for planting, with extra if you need it.
So how about trying a straw bale pallet crate garden this year! And if you have a neighbor or relative that loves garden but finds it difficult now – it’s a great gift to let them have their very own garden
Happy Gardening – Jim and Mary
Here are some good guidelines to think about before you keep using plastic to reheat any food in – from the WSJ:
When to Throw Out Microwaveable Plastic Containers
Lunch at your desk can be a downer, especially when it involves leftovers reheated in the office microwave. But are you putting more into your body than just lukewarm pad thai? Rolf Halden, the director for the Center for Environmental Security at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University, stirs the pot.
“We don’t know if and how many people die from plastic exposure,” says Dr. Halden, “but we do know that in the developed world we suffer from a lot of diseases—breast cancer, obesity and early onset puberty—that are less prevalent in developing countries. These are a result of our lifestyle.” He adds: “From a public health perspective, we should consider heated plastic an unnecessary source of exposure to harmful elements and eliminate it.”
Two to Watch
Since plastic was first synthesized in the early 1900s, it has evolved into everything from lifesaving medical devices to a softening agent in hair conditioner. Plastic is ubiquitous but there are two chemicals in it to watch out for when it comes to what your body ingests.
Phthalates, the chemicals that make a PVC container flexible, “can migrate out of the plastic when it’s heated,” says Dr. Halden, who has done comprehensive studies on emerging contaminants and plastics for more than a decade. Phthalates can leach into food, resulting in hormone imbalances and birth defects—although no one knows at what level those effects are triggered, he says. Phthalates are present in measurable levels in the blood of nearly every person in the developed world, he adds.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is a potentially worse offender. Once tested for possible use as an estrogen replacement, BPA was found to be of better use in the mass production of polycarbonate plastic. It’s used in everything from the lining of metal soup cans to receipt paper. The FDA banned the use of BPA in baby bottles in July 2012, because of its link to developmental delays.
While the recycling numbers at the bottom of plastic items “are not meant to provide health information or risks,” Dr. Halden says, they can sometimes provide clues to the chemicals in them. For example, No. 7, says Dr. Halden, means “there is a high likelihood” that Bisphenol A is in it. That reusable water bottle sitting on your desk? “Think of it as one big BPA vessel,” he says.
When to Toss It
The amount of chemicals leaching into food depends on the type of plastic that is put in the microwave, the time it is heated and the physical condition of the container, says Dr. Halden. Old, cracked containers and those that have been washed hundreds of times often give off more toxins when heated. Any deformities or discoloration are a sign it’s time for the recycling bin.
And reheating foods heavy in cream and butter in plastic is always a bad idea. “Fatty foods absorb more of these harmful chemicals when heated,” he says.
Another Way to Reheat
Rather than torturing yourself over what plastic is safe, use an inert container such as glass, ceramic or stainless steel, he suggests. Along with cold spots in food that could harbor bacteria, Dr. Halden points to another reason to avoid reheating in the microwave: taste. “Food tastes much better if it is prepared in a hot oven or on the stove, and not cold on the inside and too hot on the outside,” he says.
Oh man – some of these items I love, but now I am reconsidering ever buying them at all! GREAT find Em!! From ReadersDigest:
27 Foods You Should Never Buy Again
Cross these items off your grocery store list—whether they’re rip-offs, fakes, drastically unhealthy, or just plan gross, here are the 27 foods you should never buy again.
A few shavings of nice cheese on top of pasta or vegetables can take a simple dish from good to great—but you don’t have to fork out $22 a pound for the famous stuff. Instead, look for varieties like Pecorino Romano and SarVecchio, which offer the same flavor at half the price.
Smoked and Cured Meats
From fancy charcuterie to “dime a dog” night, pass on cured meats in any form—they’ve been linked to cancer, disease, high blood pressure, and migraines. Plus they’re packed with artery-clogging grease: regulations allow up to 50% (by weight) of fresh pork sausage to be fat.
Ahh, blueberries…now in everything from your breakfast cereal to muffins, granola bars, and sauces—or are they? Turns out that most of the blueberry-flavored items on grocery store shelves don’t feature a single actually berry, just artificial blueberry flavor. Buy your own berries and add them to plain cereal for a real health boost.
This is junk food masquerading in a healthy disguise. Check the ingredient list to make sure whole wheat is the first, and main, ingredient—otherwise, you’re just getting a few grains mixed into regular white bread. Better yet, forgo the bread and enjoy straight-up barley, brown rice, quinoa, or steel-cut oats.
Reduced fat peanut butter
When companies take out the fat, they have to add something back in to make the food taste delicious. In this case, it’s lots of extra sugar—and who wants that? Instead, spread regular peanut butter on your sandwich for more of the good fats and protein without fake sweetness.
Tomato-based pasta sauces
A jar of spaghetti sauce typically runs $2 to $6. The equivalent amount of canned tomatoes is often under $1. Our suggestion: Make your own sauces from canned crushed tomatoes or fresh tomatoes — particularly in the summer, when they are plentiful, tasty, and cheap. The easiest method is to put crushed tomatoes (canned or fresh) into a skillet, stir in some wine or wine vinegar, a little sugar, your favorite herbs, and whatever chopped vegetables you like in your sauce — peppers, onions, mushrooms, even carrots — and let simmer for an hour. Adjust the flavorings and serve. Even easier: Coat fresh tomatoes and the top of a cooking sheet with olive oil and roast the tomatoes for 20 to 30 minutes at 425˚F before making your stovetop sauce.
Large bottom-feeder fish such as tuna, shark, king mackerel, tilefish, and especially swordfish are high in mercury. Choose smaller fish, like flounder, catfish, sardines, and salmon instead.
Stick to a cup of coffee for your afternoon boost. Seemingly harmless caffeinated beverages are often sugar bombs—and the FDA has received numerous reports linking brands like 5 Hour Energy and Monster Energy to heart attacks, convulsion, and even death.
Gluten-free baked goods
If you aren’t diagnosed with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, keep in mind that gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy—and gluten-free baked goods like bread, cookies, and crackers often are packed with more refined flours, artificial ingredients, and sugar than traditional baked goods. Plus, they can cost up to twice as much as you’d normally spend.
Flavored non-dairy milks
Vanilla-eggnog-caramel soy milk doesn’t win you any points in the health department—and it definitely won’t help your grocery receipt bottom line. If you prefer non-dairy milks for personal dietary reasons, buy unsweetened versions. And if you’re just trying to eat healthfully, skim milk should be just fine.
Foods made of WOOD
Take a look at the ingredient list for your high-fiber cereal or snack bar, and you’ll probably see an ingredient called “cellulose.” Turns out that cellulose is a code word for “wood pulp.” Food manufacturers use it to extend their products and add fiber, so it looks like you’re getting more food. But really you’re just left with a mouthful of wood shavings.
Skip the refined grains and go for whole: a 17% higher risk of diabetes is associated with eating five or more servings of white rice per week, compared to eating white rice less than once a month.
‘Gourmet’ frozen vegetables
Sure, you can buy an 8-ounce packet of peas in an herbed butter sauce, but why do so when you can make your own? Just cook the peas, add a pat of butter and sprinkle on some herbs that you already have on hand. The same thing goes for carrots with dill sauce and other gourmet veggies.
When you buy a pre-made sandwich, you’re really just paying for its elaborate packaging — plus a whole lot of salt, fat, and unnecessary additives. For the average cost of one of these babies ($2.50 to $3.00 per sandwich), you could make a bigger, better, and more nutritious version yourself.
Premium frozen fruit bars
At nearly $2 per bar, frozen ‘all fruit’ or ‘fruit and juice’ bars may not be rich in calories, but they are certainly rich in price. Make your own at home — and get the flavors you want. To make four pops, just throw 2 cups cut-up fruit, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice into a blender. Cover and blend until smooth. You might wish to add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water so the final mix is a thick slush. Pour into 4-ounce pop molds or paper cups, insert sticks, and freeze until solid.
Boxed rice ‘entree’ or side-dish mixes
These consist basically of rice, salt, and spices — yet they’re priced way beyond the ingredients sold individually. Yes, there are a few flavorings included, but they’re probably ones you have in your pantry already. Buy a bag of rice, measure out what you need, add your own herbs and other seasonings, and cook the rice according to package directions.
Energy or protein bars
These calorie-laden bars are usually stacked at the checkout counter because they depend on impulse buyers who grab them, thinking they are more wholesome than a candy bar. Unfortunately, they can have very high fat and sugar contents and are often as caloric as a regular candy bar. They’re also two to three times more expensive than a candy bar. If you need a boost, a vitamin-rich piece of fruit, a yogurt, or a small handful of nuts is more satiating and less expensive.
Spice mixes like grill seasoning and rib rubs might seem like a good buy because they contain a lot of spices that you would have to buy individually. Check the label first: We predict the first ingredient you will see on the package is salt, followed by the vague ‘herbs and spices.’ Look in your own pantry, and you’ll probably be surprised to discover just how many herbs you already have on hand, and you can improvise as much as you want.
Powdered iced tea mixes or prepared flavored iced tea
Powdered and gourmet iced teas are really a rip-off! It’s much cheaper to make your own iced tea from actual (inexpensive) tea bags and keep a jug in the fridge. Plus, many mixes and preparations are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and other sugars, along with artificial flavors. To make 32 ounces of iced tea, it usually takes 8 bags of black tea or 10 bags of herbal, green, or white tea. If you like your tea sweet but want to keep calories down, skip the sugar and add fruit juice instead.
Bottled water is a bad investment for so many reasons. It’s expensive compared to what’s coming out of the tap, its cost to the environment is high (it takes a lot of fossil fuel to produce and ship all those bottles), and it’s not even better for your health than the stuff running down your drain.
Even taking into account the cost of filters, water from home is still much cheaper than bottled water, which can run up to $1 to $3 a pop.
If you have well water and it really does not taste good (even with help from a filter), or if you have a baby at home who is bottle-fed and needs to drink safe water, buy jugs of distilled or ‘nursery’ water at big discount stores. They usually cost between 79 cents and 99 cents for 1 gallon (as opposed to $1.50 for 8 ounces of ‘designer’ water). And you can reuse the jugs to store homemade iced tea, flavored waters, or, when their tops are cut off, all sorts of household odds and ends.
Washed and bagged greens can be a time-saver, but they can cost three times as much as buying the same amount of a head of lettuce. Even more expensive are ‘salad kits,’ where you get some greens, a small bag of dressing, and a small bag of croutons. Skip these altogether. Make your own croutons by toasting cut-up stale bread you would otherwise toss, and try mixing your own salad dressing.
Individual servings of anything
The recent trend to package small quantities into 100-calorie snack packs is a way for food-makers to get more money from unsuspecting consumers. The price ‘per unit’ cost of these items is significantly more than if you had just bought one big box of cheese crackers or bag of chips. This is exactly what you should do. Buy the big box and then parcel out single servings and store them in small, reusable storage bags.
We checked unit prices of those small bags of trail mix hanging in the candy aisle not that long ago and were shocked to find that they cost about $10 a pound! Make your own for much, much less with a 1-pound can of dry roasted peanuts, 1 cup of raisins, and a handful of almonds, dried fruit, and candy coated chocolate. The best part about making your own? You only include the things you like. Keep the mixture in a plastic or glass container with a tight lid for up to 3 weeks.
‘Snack’ or ‘lunch’ packs
These ‘all-inclusive’ food trays might seem reasonably priced (from $2.50 to $4.00), but you’re actually paying for the highly designed label, wrapper, and specially molded tray. They only contain a few crackers and small pieces of cheese and lunchmeat. The actual edible ingredients are worth just pennies and are filled with salt.
Gourmet ice cream
It’s painful to watch someone actually pay $6 for a gallon of designer brand ice cream. Don’t bother. There’s usually at least one brand or other on sale, and you can easily dress up store brands with your own additives like chunky bits of chocolate or crushed cookie. If you do like the premium brands, wait for that 3-week sales cycle to kick in and stock up when your favorite flavor is discounted.
Pre-formed meat patties
Frozen burgers, beef or otherwise, are more expensive than buying the ground meat in bulk and making patties yourself. We timed it — it takes less than 10 seconds to form a flat circle and throw it on the grill. Also, there’s some evidence that pre-formed meat patties might contain more e. coli than regular ground meat. In fact, most of the recent beef recalls have involved pre-made frozen beef patties.
If you have ever wondered where the various cuts of beef come from - look no further!
BTW: my favorite is the tri-tip!
An easy-to-use guide to cuts of beef. The chart shows where each cut of meat comes from on the cow, how much it costs and how to best cook it.
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