Nearly and freshly expired soup

Winter is a great time to eat your way through your pantry, with a keen eye on expiration dates. Last week, I found these products were all nearly expired or freshly expired:

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So I threw all of this into a slow cooker, along with lentils, brown rice, and spices. Wha la! I made many tasty lunches and dinners from food that might have been wasted… had I not searched for expired food in the dark corners of my pantry.

The inspiration for this soup came from a 99% Invisible Podcast called Best Enjoyed By (episode 195).

Use by
Sell by
Best by
Best if used by
Expires on
Forget about it after

What do all these mean? Today, there are no definitions or standards for the freshness labels that we see on our food. Companies can print whatever they like on their products. Also the labels are about freshness, not food safety. Food that is past its freshness date is not necessarily unsafe to eat.

So what should we do? Take a sniff and taste test?

In the end, common sense must prevail. Just as you wouldn’t drink milk that tasted funky (even when not expired), the ‘Best by’ date doesn’t have to mean the ‘Toss date’. At least that’s my thought.

What do you think? Is it safe to eat food past its freshness date?

I found this additional morsel of info on the USDA website:

  • A “Sell-By” date tells the store how long to display the product for sale. You should buy the product before the date expires.
  • A “Best if Used By (or Before)” date is recommended for best flavor or quality. It is not a purchase or safety date.
  • A “Use-By” date is the last date recommended for the use of the product while at peak quality. The date has been determined by the manufacturer of the product.

 

Salads with meatless protein

It’s Meatless Monday! Meatless Monday is a non-profit campaign aimed at reducing meat consumption in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet. You can get plenty of protein in your diet without eating meat.

Last weekend I whipped up a great protein salad using two of my favorite protein sources: eggs and humus.

Fresh lettuce, orange pepper, and green onions (veggies that I had on hand), topped with hard boiled eggs (allowed to cool) and a big dollop of Mediterranean humus. Lunch! No dressing needed.

Minimal cost, maximum taste, minimal effort, and plenty of protein.

Here are some other protein ideas for salads:

Salads can be the main course and come packed with meatless-protein. Poke around the web and find a recipe that inspires you! You can post recipes or a link in a comment. Bon appétit!

Going Meatless on Monday

It’s Meatless Monday! Meatless Monday is a non-profit campaign aimed at reducing meat consumption in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.

But what about protein? 

No worries. You can get plenty of protein without eating meat. Check out Heather Levin’s excellent post: Frugal Ways to Get More Protein

What should I make? 

If you’re used to eating meaty meals, it can be difficult to make the shift to meatless. You may need some inspiration! Angela Barton has posted some great meatless ideas:

If cutting back on your meat consumption seems impossible, try cutting back on your red meat consumption. Red meat has the biggest impact on your personal health and our environment.

Go Meatless on Monday (or any day) and post your results here. What did you make? Was it good? Please share.

The Meatrix (factoryfarm.org)

Meatless Monday, Dairyless Tuesday

I’m not much of a meat eater. I’m more of a nibbling rabbit. When I stumbled upon the Meatless Monday campaign, I joined right away. Meatless Monday is a non-profit campaign aimed at reducing meat consumption in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.

Health of our planet? Yes, what we eat has an impact on our planet. But I’ve often wondered how much?

Recently I found a study (pdf file) from Carnegie-Mellon University that answered some of my questions. The study compared greenhouse gas emissions associated with food production and distribution in the United States. 

climateimpact

Red meat has the greatest impact on our environment, followed by my dear friend dairy.

Red meat and dairy production have far more climate impact than delivery. The study found that eliminating red meat and dairy products for one day each week could have the same climate impact as buying local food all year.

Now that I know the impact of dairy on the planet, I’ve decided to reduce my dairy consumption.

It’s easy enough to substitute in soy or hemp milk. Soy yogurt? Earth Balance natural buttery spread? I’ve been reading the Living Without Meat blog (sans ads on my Kindle) and collecting vegan recipes. I don’t think I’ll be vegan anytime soon (don’t worry Mom). I’ve always been more of a flexitarian; I occasionally eat meat. Still, I’m compelled to reduce my dairy consumption. Vegantarian?

For me, frugality is about treading lightly on our earth; consuming less meat and dairy.

Have you reduced your meat or dairy consumption? Use a Comment to add your wisdom.

Kim O’Donnel’s Mighty Appetite blog has meatless recipes that sound tasty.

Jacket potatoes: The full meal deal

In the US, potatoes are typically baked, slathered with something gooey and served as a side dish. In the UK, ‘jacket potatoes’ as they’re called, are often the meal itself – topped with anything that you can imagine over rice or inside an omelet.

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A potato topped with leeks, asparagus, mushrooms, and cheese

Jacket potatoes are great because they’re cheap, tasty, easy to prepare, filling, and your toppings are endless. Start by scanning your fridge to see what you’ve got. Need some inspiration? Here are a few ideas:

  • Baked beans & cheese (UK classic)
  • Chili and cheese
  • Sauted mushrooms and cheese
  • Bolognese sauce with meat and mushrooms
  • Ham, corn, tomatoes, and cheese
  • Salsa, guacamole, black beans, and sour cream
  • Leftover takeout curry
  • Salmon and cream cheese
  • Broccoli and cheese
  • Sauted veggies (whatever is on sale) – think stir fry on a potato

Be creative with your potato toppings. Really anything goes.

Have a potato bar

Let everyone create their own potato. Just pre-cook some potatoes and keep them warm. Assemble a series of bowls with toppings such as: cheese, corn, baked beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, ham or black beans. At dinner time, guests can line up, split open a potato, and top as they desire. This is a great dish to serve when your guest list includes kids, adults, vegetarians, and meat lovers. Everyone will be happy.

Sans aluminum foil

Instead of wrapping your baked potatoes in aluminum foil, try leaving them unwrapped using Delia Smith’s technique for crispy skin.

What do you like on your potato? Leave a comment with your ideas.

Veggies for breakfast: Yummy omelets
Tips for cutting your food bill

Beans: Simple, inexpensive, and magical

Beans, beans, the magical fruit! Beans are the cheapest source of protein on the planet, but they’re not just cheap. Beans are low fat and loaded with vitamins, carbohydrates and fiber. Beans are good for you and our planet.

beans

Reducing your consumption of meat and choosing plant-based foods is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint. Livestock produces more greenhouse gases than the transportation sector. Truly! So do your part and try using beans where you would normally use meat – start with just once a week and work your way up. What you eat has an impact on our planet.

Dried beans

Dried beans are cheaper and less gassy then canned beans. Buy dried beans in bulk – what you can consume in a few months time. Store your beans in an air tight container.

Soak beans overnight to reduce cooking time and gas. To do this, place your dried beans in a bowl – for every cup of beans add 2-3 cups of water. After soaking for 8 hours, rinse the beans and you’re ready to cook.

Quick soak method

For every one cup of beans add 2-3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat, cover, and let beans soak for 2 hours.

Cooking beans

Put your soaked beans in a pot with fresh water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and let simmer for 60 minutes or until tender. Add more water during cooking if necessary. Beans require salt to bring out the flavor, but don’t salt your beans until the end of the cooking.

Sound like a lot of work? Consider cooking a boat-load of beans and freeze some for another day.

Don’t fear the bean 

If you aren’t used to eating beans you may experience gas, but don’t fear the bean. Gas elimination strategies: 

  • Eat small amounts of beans on a more frequent basis. Your body will adjust to a more ‘beany diet’.
  • Soak beans overnight or if soaking during the day, change the soaking water every 2 hours.
  • After soaking, cook the beans in fresh water.
  • Cook the beans slowly. 
  • Add apple cider vinegar or brown rice vinegar to the cooking water near the end of the cooking time.
  • Salt your beans after you’ve cooked them.

Keep some beans in the fridge and add them to most any dish – salad, soup, stir-fry, a wrap, an entre’ – whatever.

Just bean recipes
Cheap bulk bean burritos

Veggies for breakfast: Yummy omelets

Vegetable omelets makes a great healthy, simple and inexpensive meal. To make omelets on a budget buy veggies on sale. Even cauliflower is good inside an omelet. To make things easy bake your vegetables in advance and store them in the fridge. 

What you need

vegetables  (asparagus, leeks, broccoli, red peppers, cauliflower, onions) 
olive oil
salt and pepper
eggs
cheese (optional)
butter for the pan

Cut up your raw vegetables, drizzle them with copious amounts of olive oil and add salt and pepper. Stir everything so that the veggies are coated with oil.

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Broccoli, peppers and onions

Now, bake uncovered for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. After 20 minutes stir the veggies and decide if you want to cook them longer or not. Cook until the texture is right for you.

Make the omelet. Whisk together your eggs and pour them into a buttered pan. Add your vegetables and some cheese if you’d like. Add fresh herbs if you’re feeling gourmetish.

omelet-inpan
Asparagus, leeks and cheese omelet

Cook and fold the edges over to make an omelet. If the ‘folding’ doesn’t go well, your omelet is now a scramble which is still tasty.

Although omelets are often eaten for breakfast, I love omelets anytime – breakfast, lunch or dinner. Keep it simple – vegetables and protein. To make this meal on the cheap, buy fresh vegetables and eggs on sale. Also use leftover vegetables whenever you have some. Enjoy!

Omelet recipes