Saturday, August 6, 2011

A bunch of cheap (and sometimes green) tips

Thrift store finds, repurposed for fruits and veggies:

~ Crocheted cloth squares, probably created as trivets or potholders, for scrubbing veggies, in place of plastic veggies scrubbers. I had tried a natural coconut coir veggie brush, but disliked it because it shed bristles and often bruised or damaged my produce. These squares are soft enough to prevent damage to produce, but have enough texture to scrub fruit and veggies well.
~ Cloth diapers for patting fruits and veggies dry after washing. They’re very absorbent, and it saves paper towels.

Cough medicine: In the moldy Northwest, I have been plagued by long-term coughs. This recipe is a great cough reliever: mix 1/2 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon of honey in 8 ounces of warm water, and drink.

Car dehydrator: I found this wonderful tip at The blog. I had long wanted to try Condo Blue’s recipe for making orange essential oil, but couldn’t prevent my orange peels from molding while I was drying them out. Now I just place the peels in my car dashboard window on sunny days, and by the end of the day, I have hard, dry orange peels. And the car smells great while they’re drying! (Of course, in Washington State, I can only do this in the summer).

Reduce fat and sugar with water: Sometimes the most natural products in the store (not counting meat or produce), with the least additives, contain the most fat and sugar. Natural mayonnaise, for example, or real maple syrup. I have found that adding water to these is a good way to reduce the fat or sugar content, without the additives of the "lite" version. (I even read a suggestion on another blog recently: buy a half gallon of whole milk, pour it into a gallon jug, and add water. Presto, a gallon of reduced fat milk at reduced cost! It's one way to better afford organic milk).

Btw, you’ll often notice that in “lite” versions of products, water is the first or second ingredient anyway. All the additives are added in order to give it the same thickness or taste as the original product, or to prevent separation. So if you’re going to add water, it’s important to only do so with the quantity you’re going to use, right before you use it. It will be thinner, but if you eat it right away, it generally doesn’t separate or affect taste. Experiment to find out the ratio you like best: 4:1 (where 1 is water), 3:1, 2:1 or 1:1. Whichever you choose, you'll be stretching your budget by making the food item last longer, and you'll be reducing fat and/or sugar.

Homemade chocolate sauce: Add 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1/4 cup milk of your choice (regular, soy, almond, rice, etc.), and 1 tablespoon of a mild oil (I use canola) to a small glass bowl. Stir gently to coat the chips. Microwave on high for one minute. Remove from microwave and (optional) add 1/2 teaspoon of flavoring (I usually add peppermint extract). Stir until smooth. Serve immediately over fruit, ice cream, cake or other dessert of your choice. Yum!

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