Archive for January, 2009

Substitute fresh pineapple for canned pineapple

Thursday, January 22, 2009 3:21 Comments Off on Substitute fresh pineapple for canned pineapple

If you are like me and love pineapple, it can be pretty inexpensive to buy fresh when you watch for it to be on sale.  I often like to buy fresh pineapple for recipes that call for pineapple tidbits or chunks, but the problem is that many of them call for the can of pineapple tidbits or chunks WITH the juice.  So just how much juice is in a can?

A quick conversion is for every 1 cup size can of pineapple with juice, substitute 1/2 cup fresh chopped pineapple and 1/2 cup diluted pineapple juice or just plain water.

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This was posted under category: Cooking

Make your own Chinese Five Spice Powder

Thursday, January 15, 2009 14:18 Comments Off on Make your own Chinese Five Spice Powder

If you are looking forward to making a Chinese style dish for Chinese New Year, you can make your own Chinese Five Spice powder without having to buy a jar of it pre-made.  This is good if you only make Chinese food occassionally, and don’t want to buy an entire jar.  And as a bonus, most of you will already have all the ingredients in your spice cupboard already!

Recipe for Chinese Five Spice Powder:

  • 1 tbsp ground star anise
  • 2 tsp ground fennel
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

Mix well and store in an airtight container or spice jar.

Don’t forget we have many other spice jar mixes at MomsBudget including veggie dips, fruit tips, popcorn seasonings and more!

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This was posted under category: Cooking, Make your own

Switching up the lunchtime fruit routine

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 22:41 Comments Off on Switching up the lunchtime fruit routine

Tired of seeing apples coming back in your child’s lunchkit with only a bite taken out of them?  Or sending the same banana back and forth until it is too brown to even use in banana bread?  The reality is that the majority of parents limit the fruit they pack in their kid’s lunches to the traditional apples, oranges and bananas, when there is actually a whole wide variety of fruit options that increase the liklihood it will actually get eaten 😉

And don’t just think about those little single serving sized fruit cups (which also relates to our weekly grocery shopping challenge this week – Don’t Buy Single Serving Packaged Food).  Buy a large jar or can of it, and divide it into single serving sizes yourself.  Don’t have enough plastic containers?  Carefully divide into plastic bags, then store the plastic bags in a larger container in your fridge to avoid an accidental leak making a mess of your fridge, and then simply put the contents of each one into a plastic container when ready to put one into the lunch.

And if you are worried about the added sugar content of canned or jarred fruit, look for ones packed in water or juice, and avoid the ones that say packed in syrup.

Many kids also loved dried fruit.  And if your local grocery store doesn’t carry much beyond raisins and cranberries, your local health food store will have a huge selection of just about any kind of dried fruit.

So here are some other fruit ideas for lunches that ago above and beyond the traditional tried and true:

  • Mandarin orange slices
  • Canteloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Watermelon
  • Whole mandarins / clementines (a real treat in the spring & summer!)
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Star fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Pineapple
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries

Don’t forget you can change the fruit experience by freezing them and packing with an ice pack, as they will likely stay mostly frozen by lunchtime.  One of my favorites is frozen grapes!

And adding a low fat yogurt dip can make the fruit an extra treat, and even make some kids feel more like it is a desert!  But avoid caramel dip, or make it an infrequent treat, since it is high in sugar and calories.

You can also put fruit on plastic skewers to mix up the presentation if your child is old enough.

What other ways do you fruit in your child’s lunch?

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This was posted under category: Babies & Kids, Cooking

Grocery Challenge Monday – Don’t buy single serving packaged food

Monday, January 5, 2009 4:57 2 Comments

Today’s Grocery Shopping Challenge is to buy in bulk and avoid those “single serving” convenience packages.  The grocery stores are tempting everyone with foods packaged up in those 100 calorie packages, but you are paying premium when you could just be doing it yourself.  And let’s face it, buying a 100 calorie pack of chocolate cookies really isn’t doing anyone any favors, especially your waistline, even though the marketing companies want you to think those packages are “healthy” with “only” 100 calories… not to mention many people end up eating more that one pack at a time!!!

So the challenge this week is to buy anything that you might buy in those handy single serving packs, whether it is baby carrots, cookies or single serving soup packages, and buy them in the larger size.  Then, when you are at home, go and and divide them into single serving sizes into plastic containers or ziplocs. 

Don’t forget to check out the prices… that package of six single serving packages will cost just about as much as the large package that you can usually make two or three times the number of packages when you do it yourself. 

Don’t fall into the trap of just thinking it is “easier” to buy them packaged in the single serving sizes.  It is easier, but you are probably paying someone the equivelant of about $100 per hour to package them when you do buy them that way, when you can take 5-10 miunutes and do it yourself – and it is also a great chore to have your kids do for their allowance too!

This was posted under category: Grocery shopping, Grocery Shopping Challenge

How much variety is in your brown bag lunches?

Monday, January 5, 2009 2:34 1 Comment

All this week we will be giving great tips and ideas to help you stay on budget by taking your own lunches to school and work, so be sure to subscribe to get all the tips!

The number one reason why people hate to brown bag their lunches is because it seems like it is the “same old, same old”.  And when you are faced with eating the same kind of ham sandwich every day, the temptation to make a lunch run out to McDonalds or to go to a local restaurant is that much stronger.  So variety is important!

So, what ways can you vary up the brown bag routine?  The same deli ham you bought on the weekend will seem different depending on how it is served… maybe whole wheat bread one day and a pita the next.  Or cut up the ham and make a mini pizza with it instead.  Sometimes something as simple as adding cheese or making it with mayo one day and sandwich spread the next can turn a boring sandwich into something new and exciting.

Think the same for the extras in the lunch.  Switch up the juice you include.  Or if you are sending veggies and dip, send ranch dip one day and nacho dip the next.  The same goes for veggies too… if its carrots on Monday, make it brocolli on Tuesday and cucumbers on Wednesday. 

Don’t forget to get input from your kids too… they might happily eat cauliflower with dip every day, rather than switching up with different types, because all kids have veggies they love and veggies they would rather do without, and it is better to increase the odds that any veggies get into their tummies rather than discover that anytime you send carrots they end up in the garbage.

This was posted under category: Babies & Kids, Cooking

How safe are your teflon pots and pans?

Sunday, January 4, 2009 15:26 3 Comments

Have you inspected your teflon coated pots and pans lately?  If you are like most, probably not!  But if your Teflon coating has become scratched or flaking – caused by using metal utinsels when cooking, by overheating, or by heating an empty pot or pan for too long – you should replace it immediately. 

Of course, when you are on a budget, it can be hard to throw out something that seems perfectly fine except for one spot on the skillet, when you can “work around it”.  But in actuality, those little flakes and bits that come off wherever the teflon is damaged, even if you can’t see the flakes, are actually toxic to ingest.  And some research has shown that it can cause cancer.

You can prevent damage to your teflon coating by only using silicone or plastic utinsels on the cooking surface, and save the metal ones for your stainless cookware or the barbecue.  And never allow your teflon cookware to sit on high temperature without planning to immediately cook something when it heats up.  Teflon coating releases noxious chemicals into the air if it is allowed to sit on high for too long, so be sure you are ready to start cooking once you begin to heat it up.

If you find that you are still damaging it, or you just don’t want to use teflon anymore, consider investing in stainless steel cookware.  It will be more expensive to buy, but you won’t be replacing it every 6-8 months when the cook surface gets damaged.

This was posted under category: Cooking

How to stretch those instant oatmeal packs into larger servings

Friday, January 2, 2009 14:23 Comments Off on How to stretch those instant oatmeal packs into larger servings

Instant oatmeal packets are like a staple of many household’s breakfast routines.  But many people (unless your kids are about 6 or under) end up eating two packets at a time, since the serving sizes are pretty small.  But at two packets a day, and especially when you are multiplying by multiple family members, can add up to a budgeting disaster, and with this economy, the last thing you want to do is waste money!

Here are some tricks you can do to make those packets stretch – or do away with them altogether – when your family loves them so much!

Buy in bulk
the first key is to buy your Quaker (or whichever brand you prefer) instant oatmeal packs in the larger quantity sizes.  You will save a lot more money when you buy the boxes of 50+ packets than when you are buying the small boxes of only 8 packets at a time.

Supplement with Quaker Quick Oats
You can buy large backs of Quaker Quick Oats, which are the exact same oats used in Quaker’s Instant Oatmeal packs.  For every packet, add the same amount of plain Quaker Quick Oats to the bowl, and you now have double the amount of oatmeal, but are only use one of the expensive oatmeal packets.  And as a bonus, you are also reducing the amount of sugar the family is eating in your oatmeal, since there is only half the amount there would be if you were using two packets of instant instead.

Add extra “stuff”
If your kids complain about not having as many raisins or apple pieces, simple add some of your own from the pantry.  The raisins are exactly the same (except for all that added sugar powder on them) or chop up dried applie slices into small pieces and toss into the oatmeal before cooking.  You can use any kind of dried fruit, just cut the pieces up small enough so they will cook.

Skip the instant oatmeal packets all together
You don’t actually have to use the packets at all.  Use Quaker Quick Oats, or your preferred brand of quick cooking oats and make your own oatmeal packets.  Doing it this way you can double the portion size for family members as needed, and you can ensure what you include in the oatmeal is healthier.  Experiment with different types of dried fruit to make your own creative oatmeal blends.  If your grocery store doesn’t have a wide variety of dried fruit, check out your local health food store, which will also have more unusual dried fruit such as canteloupe, mango and pineapple.  Just remember to chop them in very small pieces so they have time to rehydrate in the microwave.

Use coupons
Keep your eye out for coupons to cut your costs on oatmeal.  We have some Quaker coupons (both for quick oats and for instant oatmeal packets) right now in our coupon section, on a first come, first served basis.

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This was posted under category: Grocery shopping, Make your own