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Save Money and Eat Healthier: Buy Frozen and Canned Produce

Written by Brett McKay

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We all know that eating fruits and vegetables everyday is an essential part in maintaining a healthy diet. Most people think that to get the full nutritional benefit of produce you have to buy it fresh. There’s some truth to that belief. However, if you buy your “fresh” produce from the supermarket, you’re probably not really getting fresh produce.

Fresh produce really isn’t fresh

Fresh produce loses vital nutrients and vitamins as soon as it’s harvested. Additionally, it can take weeks before the produce arrives at your local market, thus losing even more nutrients. By the time you eat your “fresh” produce, it will have lost most of its nutritious value.

Fresh produce is expensive

Most Americans skip on produce because it’s expensive. When money is tight, highly processed foods are an attractive, albeit unhealthy, way to save money.

The solution? Frozen or canned produce

Frozen or canned produce is virtually identical in terms of nutrition to freshly harvested produce. In some instances, frozen or canned produce have been shown to be better than fresh produce.

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How Long Will Your Packaged Foods Last?

Written by Brett McKay

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Yesterday, I wrote about the expiration dates on packaged foods. We learned that food is often still good after the date printed on it has passed. Today, we’ll discuss how long some packaged foods will be fresh and yummy while it sits unopened. The list isn’t comprehensive and the times are only approximate. Use some common sense in deciding whether to throw food out.

Good For Up To 5 Years

  • Tomato paste
  • Refried Beans
  • Canned Tuna
  • Canned Chili

Good For Up to 2 Years

  • Canned beef, chicken, and ham
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Canned Soup
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Pasta
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Peanut Butter (mmm…. peanut butter…)
  • Popcorn
  • Powdered Drinks

Good for 12 to 18 Months

  • Baby Food
  • BBQ sauce
  • Cake Mix
  • Canned and bottled juices
  • Cooking oils
  • Gelatin
  • Instant Tea
  • Jams and jellies
  • Oatmeal
  • Quick cook rice
  • Salad dressing
  • Salsa
  • Sugar

Good For 6 months

  • Crackers
  • Flour
  • Mayonnaise
  • Rice mixes like Rice-a-roni

Eat Within A Month

  • Bread (if you freeze it, it will last longer)
  • Ice cream
  • Chips

Source: Jerry Baker’s It Pays to Be Cheap! (Jerry Baker’s Good Home series)

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[tags]frugal, food[/tags]

What Do All Those Expiration Dates on Food Mean?

Written by Brett McKay

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You have a hankering for a snack, so you go to the kitchen and decide to make a bowl of cereal. However, when you pull out the milk you notice the date on it says, “Best if used by June 5.” Today’s June 5! Should you throw out the milk? You pull the cereal and notice the package says “Sell by March 24 2007.” But the cereal still looks good, should you throw it out, too?

If you’ve ever been unsure what those mysterious dates on food mean, we’re going to clear that up for you today. By knowing exactly what the dates on food mean, you can avoid throwing out perfectly good food and thus save money on your groceries.

“Best if used by” or “use by”: This date is the last date the product is likely to be at peak flavor and quality. It doesn’t mean the food is unsafe after this date, so don’t be afraid to eat it.

“Sell by”: This is a date for the retailer of the last day on which the product can be sold. It takes into account time for the food to be stored and used at home. If you have food past the sell by date, you have plenty of time to use it before it goes bad. Also, if you find food past the sell by date on your grocer’s shelf, ask if you can get a discount on the product. They were probably just going to throw it away. It would be a shame to let perfectly good food go to waste.

Expiration” or “Exp”: For most foods, this indicates the last date on which they should be eaten. But use some common sense when deciding to toss food. If the milk still smells good a day after the expiration date, it’s still safe to drink.

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[tags] food

Grilling Tips For The Perfect Summer Cookout

Written by Brett McKay

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Tomorrow’s Memorial Day. My wife and I will be driving down from Tulsa to Oklahoma City to spend the day with my family. Burgers and dogs will be had, along with plenty of potato salad and baked beans. If you’re planning on grilling tomorrow for Memorial Day, here are some last minute tips to help you have the perfect cookout.

  • Let a gas grill preheat for about 10 minutes before you start cooking. For charcoal grills, wait 20 to 30 minutes for the charcoal to turn to a light gray.
  • Keep the grill vents open. This lets oxygen in to feed the flames.
  • Clean your grill. Take the grate off and wash it down with warm soapy water. Make sure to scrub it with a wire brush or steel wool before and after cooking.
  • When using charcoal, douse the coals with the least amount of lighter fluid as possible. If you don’t have lighter fluid, substitute it with salad oil.
  • To estimate the temperature of your grill, hold your hand, palm side down, about 6 inches above the coals. If you can only hold your hand for:

2 seconds – it’s hot, about 375°F or more
3 seconds – it’s medium-hot, about 350 to 375°F
4 seconds – it’s medium, about 300 to 350°F
5 seconds – it’s low, about 200 to 300°F

  • Use long-handled tongs or a spatula to turn food. Do not pierce the food while cooking. Piercing lets all the juices out.
  • Completely defrost meat and poultry before grilling so it cooks more evenly. Use the refrigerator for slow, safe thawing or thaw sealed packages in cold water. You can microwave defrost if the food will be placed immediately on the grill.
  • Turn items only once and test with and instant read thermometer.
  • Cook food to a safe internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Meat and poultry cooked on a grill often browns very fast on the outside. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temperature. (The instant-read type works particularly well.) Whole poultry should reach 180°F; breasts, 170°F. Hamburgers made of ground beef should reach 160°F; ground poultry, 165°F. Beef, veal, and lamb steaks, roasts and chops can be cooked to at least 145°F. All cuts of pork should reach 160°F.
  • Eat and enjoy! Happy Memorial Day!

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[tags]cookout, grilling, food, The Frugal Law Student[/tags]

The Five Absolutely Worst Times To Go Grocery Shopping

Written by Brett McKay

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I’m not a big fan of going to the grocery store, especially when it’s packed with people. Not only do you have to deal with too many carts in the aisles, the waits at the check seem to last an eternity. If you want to avoid the crowd, don’t go shopping at these times:

  • Weekends. It seems like Sunday is the busiest of the two days.
  • Weekday afternoons between 4 and 7PM. This is when the on the way home from work crowd packs it in.
  • During or just before a holiday weekend like Fourth of July and Memorial Day. If you wait this long you’ll have to deal with all the grillers getting ready for the big cookout.
  • The day the weatherman predicts a big winter/rain storm to come in. People will ransack the grocery store to stock up on supplies. Not only will the grocery store be packed, everything will probably be gone
  • The afternoon before a holiday. Make sure to buy your Thanksgiving or Christmas Turkey at least a week in advance. You’ll avoid the crowds.

Are there any other times you try to avoid grocery shopping? Drop me a line and add to the conversation.

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[tags]food, grocery shopping, The Frugal Law Student, frugal[/tags]

Dieting Is Making You Poor

Written by Brett McKay


If you want a heavy wallet, you should stop dieting. That’s right. If you care about your net worth, you’ll gladly eat that Little Debbie Brownie sitting in the pantry. (Mmmm… Little Debbie Brownies….)

According a study done by the University of Michigan, dieting can increase the likelihood that you’ll spend more money impulsively.

Humans only have a limited number of mental resources to allocate towards self control. The scientists theorize that if you’re using these mental resources to resist food cravings, you become more prone to giving in to other temptations, like impulse spending.

Alright, so you shouldn’t just let yourself go. But maybe this is a reason to stop obsessing with whichever Atkins/South Beach/No Carb diet is in vogue. Just eat like a normal person. Your wallet will thank you.

Additionally, dieting itself can get expensive. Diet books, diet programs, and special diet food can all eat away at your bank account.

Source: Men’s Health June 2007

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[tags]diets, personal finance, money[/tags]