Penny Squeezing

Alice
Bento-ing from: Leicester › UK
Joined: 9 Jun 2008
User offline. Last seen 3 years 31 weeks ago.

I know alot of pepole either a) want to save money by making bento's, b) have enough money but obect to spending more than neccesarry, or c) Just don't have a wasteful nature. Either way, their is alot of money wasted on bento's that doesn't need to be, so I thought a thread on money saving and food saving ideas might be called for. So those of us in the above catagories can all post our ideas and hints on how to be stingy without apearing so, and get ideas off each other.
My top hints for the moment are:
1) Reusing leftover rice and pasta saves both food and effort
2) Buying in bulk is worth it for things with no actual sell by date (rice, pasta, anything in a jar or tin etc)
3) It's amazing how much more they charge you for a different label on the exact same thing. Remember, sushi rice is just pudding rice with a larger price tag.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
oendr
Joined: 10 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 12 weeks ago.
Penny Squeezing

I do my best to squeeze every penny out of my bentos but I feel like I still have a lot of progress to make in this effort. For one I am a college student who is cooking for one. One of the things I do is make a lot of one thing and use it all week in my bentos (usually a bean dish or soup).
The biggest problem I have is that food goes bad so quickly some times and it is so expensive to buy organic food when it is not in season.
One of the goals I have in regards to this challenge is making the most of what I buy. This may mean keeping my fridge pretty bear and going to the store every couple of days.

Any advice? Its hard just cooking for one!

BarbJ
Bento-ing from: Cupertino › California › USA
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 29 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

One of the things I hear single people complain about is the amount produce that goes bad because they can't eat it fast enough. Especially if they are trying to get a variety of veggies.

I read somewhere a tip that may help; Some larger grocery stores have a salad bar where you can pay by the pound. They have lots of different veggies and they are all cut up and pre-washed. This person would get her veggies there, so she could just get a small amount of many different veggies and they would last several days, but not be so much of one thing that would go bad before she got to it.
I would imagine the slightly higher cost would balance out on the convenience and all of it getting actually eaten before it goes bad.
After all how much savings is it, if half the cheap head of broccoli goes spoiled and has to be thrown out anyway.

____________________________________

BarbJ
http://barbsblab.blogspot.com/

red_the_opinionated
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 21 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

If you have issues with items going bad before you can use them, rely more on items that can be frozen. As far as veggies go, some that I find to freeze well are:

-Butternut Squash
-Green Beans
-Corn
-Peas
-Soybeans
-Broccoli
-Carrots

With frozen veggies, I don't use them raw, just in case they get a slightly freezery taste. I like to find what is in season and on sale, and freeze in individual portions, then I can use them in quick little fry ups in the mornings, with no waste, and less time spent cooking!

____________________________________

http://charity-brock.livejournal.com/

Glenda
Bento-ing from: New York › New York › USA
Joined: 7 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 29 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Ooo... nice idea freezing fresh vegetables yourself. I tend to just buy the bags of pre-frozen ones, but sometimes I wonder about the quality of those vegetables, and whether or not they add any preservatives or other chemicals before the veggies are frozen. By freezing your own, at least you know you're eating quality food!

ailcoh
Re: Penny Squeezing

I can't agree more with using frozen vegetables, including freezing them yourself, and also freezing pre-portioned home cooked foods that can fit into your bento.

But my penny-saving suggestion is that I am also not turning down leftovers (whether in a restaurant or a home cooked meal) from family and friends anymore as they can be frozen too and used for bento lunches. I volunteered at an event whether they had pounds of pre-cooked penne with vegetables tossed with a little olive oil so I took it home, portioned it and used it for bento lunches and other meals. I haven't had to buy or cook pasta for months. Aside from saving some money, I know the food would end up being thrown away and that seems like a greater shame than taking it and re-purposing it for myself.

bentokitty
Joined: 11 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 44 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

I save money by actually eating less! While normally I'd finish the food on my plate even if I stuffed, I now have a reason to put it away for bento the next day. So I actually save the costs of buying a lunch and of prepairing a main bento dish. I've also learnt to freeze food - something I've never even considered before.

Also I'm really picky with reheated leftowers and old vegetables - somehow this problem disappears with bento! For example here I've cut up and eaten an orange that I would never have eaten normally because it looked spoiled already. But I didn't have anything else to pack and cut it up - only to find out that it was still fresh and tasty inside!

Actually, this bento is a good example for everything: The chicken was something I would have finished in the pre-bento time, I've frozen leftover lentil puree after a party (would have thrown it away otherwise becase I can't eat it for five days straight) and well, the oranges.

____________________________________

My bento-blog in German!

Stephen
Re: Penny Squeezing

bentokitty: a very sensible tip but something that you need to be a little careful about. People in the western world tend to overeat rather than undereat but you need to get a healthy calorie intake every day just to maintain your health. The kind of people who spend their time online looking at healthy food are perhaps more likely to go to the unusual extreme and not eat enough.

Part of the benefits of a carefully stocked bento is that it covers all of the food groups that keep you healthy in a reliably sized portion. I think you shouldn't try to choke down a head sized beef steak every day at lunch but if you have a reasonable sized box and you fill it with nutrious food finishing that off isn't a sin, even if it doesn't leave something for the next day. You need a fair amount of food just to maintain your body.

red_the_opinionated
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 21 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

OOOOOoooo yes. I used to rely heavily on the fancy-schmancy organic bags o' veggies, and they were alright, totally great for saving time and getting better produce out of season. I still get them for last minute dinners and such. But being such a fan of sales and in-seson goodies, I save oodles of cash by doing my own. It also makes farmer's markets more exciting. 10 ears of corn for a dollar? You betcha! (And you can use the leftover cobs for some tasty panna cotta or ice cream- just steep the cobs in your cream with a vanilla bean. Sounds odd, but it's wicked good with roasted peaches.)

bentokitty
Joined: 11 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 44 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Stephen: Thank you for your comment. I don't spend my time online looking at healthy food, just at prettily arranged food :)

No, seriously, I know that I tend to undereat during the workdays, but that doesn't come from not finishing my food. Actually it's why I started making bento in the first place - to have an additional meal and not have to attend practice after seven hours of work having eaten a banana and two apples. I'm an active kick-boxer training 6+ times a week (and occasional needs to loose/gain/keep weight for matches), so I should actually care much more about what and how I eat, but I've never made the effort (actually, this challenge is a good starting point).

On the other hand, however, I was one of those children who weren't allowed to leave the table without eating everything on their plate. So learning to listen to my body telling me I'm done eating and then having the mental strength to actually leave food on my plate though it's tasty and/or I paid for it has really been good for me.

Sassia
Bento-ing from: Colchester › UK
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 3 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

bentokitty, that's an interesting point that reminded me of my childhood. If I left food my mum would always say "There are children in Africa that would be so glad of that meal you've wasted". Un-PC maybe, but clearing your plate was encouraged. I now cook as much food as I would usually for a meal and then skim some of it for a bento or freeze the rest. Just because I've eaten it all before doesn't mean I've needed that much!

nicole
Joined: 8 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 21 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing - Produce

Learn to love carrots (full size, not the baby bullets) if you don't already. They are very healthy, and they are usually a very good bargain compared to other produce. That hole in your bento could hold some carrot sticks! I can eat them plain, no problem, but almost any dip is good on them. Yogurt and sour cream based dips work, hummus works and peanut butter is really good on carrots. Many salads are possible (cole slaw half cabbage/half carrots for instance), there's kinapira and they can be pickled.

Bananas are usually 50-60 cents a pound, which is cheap for fruit, and they are full of nutrition and fiber.

Frozen berries cost a fraction of fresh except for a couple of weeks a year.

Bell peppers, if you're going to cook them anyway, are cheaper frozen.

____________________________________

My flickr photostream: http://flickr.com/photos/astrogirl

All my bentos appear on flickr, but not all on my blog, which is here: http://astrogirl.com

bentokitty
Joined: 11 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 44 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

TofuWarrior: This seems to be an international saying! At least people in Russia, Italy, Germany and (educated guess) America say the same thing... In Germany they also say that it would rain the day after if you didn't finish your plate. From my viewpoint now I think it's a horrible thing to get a child used to - we're living around supersized meals as it is... Same for the russian "shut up and eat" (or actually the saying goes "when I eat I'm deaf and numb") policy, you're not supposed to actually enjoy food, just shovel everything down in silence... I could go on forever ;(

Alice
Bento-ing from: Leicester › UK
Joined: 9 Jun 2008
User offline. Last seen 3 years 31 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Interestingly, pepole who veiw food as fuel tend to be more likley to be over (or sometimes under) a healthy weigth then pepole who apreciate food as an art form and/or social event.

booklegger
Joined: 24 Jul 2007
User offline. Last seen 5 years 43 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Well, specific to penny pinching here is some of what I do. I get tired of leftovers sometimes so I freeze things in individual servings for a bento box or a tv dinner style meal later down the road. I try to freeze them in square shapes since the two boxes I use the most are square, I fill in the box with frozen squares of food in the morning. I even have some make ahead frozen fruit recipes I try to keep in store.

If I have a leftover that is less than a serving I still freeze it in some very small boxes I have. These are bite-size fillers and help in the "waste not want not" motainai philosophy of bentos that attracted me to bento to begin with.

I like how Biggie makes tamagoyaki http://flickr.com/photos/lunchinabox/1412432361/ easy to make ahead and definately inexpensive. I have heard of people soft cooking the scrambled mixture in a microwave and then squeezing it up like Biggie does but I haven't tried this, it seems like something a college student could try and perfect perhaps. Also, before I had a sushi mat I would make my tamagoyaki and roll it first in saran wrap and then again very tightly with a dishcloth before chilling it.

I agree 100% with the poster who commented on carrots and cabbage. Carrots, potatoes and cabbage...all keep for a long time, are inexpensive, healthy and filling! I buy large carrots, I cut them into thirds. The small thinner end becomes carrot strips for blanching (which is also good added to tamago yaki as is defrosted and drained frozen spinach), matchstick carrots for salad and carrot sticks for raw snacking. I take the thicker end pieces and cut the sides off making the carrot have 5 or 6 straight edge sides, then I slice those pieces up into large chunks and cook them in water and then freeze each chunk separately before I put them in a freezer container. I usually keep these as large chunks and just add one or two in the box, they are a good splash of color. I take tose outer sides and cut them up into super thin matchsticks for kinpira.

Potatoes are easily microwaveable and endless with recipe potential.

Maki has a cool recipe for cabbage pickles made in a ziploc bag on one of her sites. Shredded finely it is a good salad, good in a stir fry, good cooked to pieces in some broth. I keep the larger outer leaves and use them in place of paper cups and as dividers in my bento boxes. Cabbage can be bought in halves and even fourths in most supermarkets so no need for it to rot in a crisper.

If penny pinching is what's motivating you to pack a lunch then bento boxes are a perfect solution and there is no need at all to make special food just for your bento lunch.

Stephanie
Bento-ing from: San Lorenzo › California › USA
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 23 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

This is from the US FDA website:

"Storing potatoes in the refrigerator can result in increased acrylamide during cooking. Therefore, store potatoes outside the refrigerator, preferably in a dark, cool place, such as a closet or a pantry, to prevent sprouting."

"Generally, more acrylamide accumulates when cooking is done for longer periods or at higher temperatures. Cooking cut potato products, such as frozen French fries or potato slices, to a golden yellow color rather than a brown color helps reduce acrylamide formation (see Picture A). Brown areas tend to contain more acrylamide."

I tend to like my vegetables a bit under cooked, so I do not think that I will have much of a problem in that regard. And by the way, the website also mentioned not toasting you bread too much because of the same concerns and that there is no know way to reduce acrylamide in roasted coffee. Personally I will not worry about this, I eat a plant based diet without any processed foods [other than tofu] or meat, so I feel that this one habit of storing potatoes in the fridge will be unlikely to harm me.

Stephanie
Bento-ing from: San Lorenzo › California › USA
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 23 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Buying raw and in bulk for non perishables definitely helps. I will buy 10 lbs of carrots and potatoes at a time [potatoes last even longer in the fridge, if you have room]. And I also buy some frozen and non perishables items at a wholesale store.

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 36 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

I just cook for myself, and have several stingy habits.

I buy short-dated pre-grated cheese at the supermarket and freeze it. It is usually about half price, which makes it a little bit cheaper than block cheese, but the big saving is that I can use just a little bit at a time in a sauce or on a gratin from the freezer (it naturally freezes free-flow) so a) I don't pig out on fattening cheese, and b) I don't end up throwing out half a mouldy block of cheese.

I buy large (over 1 kg) packs of stewing meat (usually $1/kg cheaper), cook large curries, casseroles and stews, and freeze portions. If I cook these in the oven, I'll make 2 or 3 at a time to save on the electricity, but usually use the slow-cooker. Slow-cookers are very economical. This also has the advantage that I can have dinner ready 15 mins after I come home from work. The aliquot of stew goes into the microwave, and I cook up some veges while it defrosts and heats.

I buy fruit and veg that are in season - they're always cheaper. It means that I'm eating mostly carrots, parsnips and cabbage for a month or so at the end of winter, but I can cope. It also means that in a couple of weeks I'll be having corn on the cob for lunch every day. Yum. And 50c a day for lunch, not bad.

I've done a price comparison at the supermarket, and was surprised to find that the things in the bulk bins are usually MORE expensive than exactly the same thing in packets. So always check. It's worth paying a little more per kg if you only need a tiny amount of something that won't last, but most things in bins last perfectly well.

Then I have a vege garden. I know a lot of you won't have that option, but you can grow a few lettucy things and some herbs in a couple of pots in a corner. I had a broccoli forest a month ago - 8 broccolis all ready at once. I made a heap of broccoli soup and froze it.

____________________________________

Bronwyn

My blog is Food and Shoes

red_the_opinionated
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 21 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing
Stephanie wrote:

potatoes last even longer in the fridge, if you have room.

This is a quote I pulled from a website - they say it much better than I would:

You should keep uncooked potatoes somewhere cool and dry but don't keep them in the fridge. This is because putting potatoes in the fridge can increase the amount of sugar they contain, which could lead to higher levels of a chemical called acrylamide when the potatoes are baked, fried or roasted at high temperatures.

Alice
Bento-ing from: Leicester › UK
Joined: 9 Jun 2008
User offline. Last seen 3 years 31 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

On the subject of potatoes. They're best in a dark, cool, dryish place and not the fridge. However, if they whent mouldy with a little damp what use would the be to the plant? I'm less fussy about shoots (for some things), but very fussy about breed (always), I can't stand those white soapy things they pass for potatoes over here, the ones we get are OK, but I miss the floury ones with insides and muddy skins which we can't get hold of until summer...
Anyway back to the point.

Leftover mashed potatoes (with the butter, milk, etc) make great potatoe cakes with the addition of plain flour. All you do is add enough flour to make a rollable dough, a little at a time if your uncertain of how much but I just shovel it in. Then you knead it until mixed, roll it, and cut it.
Leftover boiled/steamed potatoes make good potatoe salad and, I hear, potato dumplings.
There is no excuse for wasting good potato. They are just so nice and their are so many ways to use leftovers you can use it, that it would be almost criminal.

No prizes for guessing my Mother's nationality.

Sassia
Bento-ing from: Colchester › UK
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 3 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

I'm impressed that any of you get your potatoes to last more than 3 days. We buy 2.5k of potatoes for me to take to work to bake and after 2-3 days I'm trying to find one that doesn't have a hint of green about it! It doesn't seem to matter whether I store them in a cupboard or in a special cotton bag, they still go green.

For example, we got a delivery from the supermarket on Tuesday. The rest of the potatoes will have to be peeled and used up today as they are a bit green. i knowe you are supposed to chuck green ones out, but I can't afford to waste all those potatoes!

PAmom
Re: Penny Squeezing/ Green Potatoes

Tofu Warrior,

The green in the potatoes is just chlorophyll - the green stuff in leaves. It happens to my potatoes all the time and mine cook-up and taste just fine. It just means the potato has gotten too warm/ too much light and thinks it's time to grow.
Now, if it's a fuzzy green on TOP of the potato - then you've got mould. I keep my potatoes on the floor in my pantry and they keep for several weeks. Sometimes they get a bit soft when they start sprouting, but you can't tell when you cook those up for mashed potatoes. :)

maki
admin
Bento-ing from: somewhere › France
Joined: 24 Jan 2007
User offline. Last seen 4 weeks 5 days ago.
Re: storing potatoes

Your potatoes may be getting green because they exposed to light. Also, if they start sprouting way faster than you think they should, see if you are storing them next to onions. Onions and potatoes seem to sort of encourage each other to change/grow, which means sprouting and rotting faster than if they are kept separate. I used to store the taters and onions together in a basket, but now keep them on separate shelves in the pantry, and both last a lot longer without turning icky. Also, if one potato goes bad and they are still in the plastic bag you bought them in, the whole batch will go fast very quickly, so I always take them out of the bag and put them into a basket where they can breathe better.

So to sum up: keep potatoes in a cool, dry, dark, airy place to make them last as long as possible. (On a sidenote - we live in an area where some of the farmers grow potatoes, and they store them just open, still covered in dirt, in big piles their barns!)

____________________________________

The Big Onigiri.

- Wherever you go, there you are. -

clarissa
Bento-ing from: Berlin › Germany
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 6 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

And if you do not like to eat the parts that got slightly green cut them away. After cooking the rest it should taste just fine

____________________________________

Adopt one today!
Adopt one today!
Adopt one today!
Adopt one today!

Pat
Re: Penny Squeezing

But food IS fuel. I guess one can view it as whatever one wants, but it's still fuel for the body. I eat more when I'll be doing something strenuous, less when I won't. I'll get lightheaded and faint if I eat bits of "art form" then go to the gym.

MitarashiDango
Bento-ing from: Melbourne › Australia
Joined: 28 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 24 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Putting your fresh unwashed veggies in Tupperwares at the lower section of your fridge help keep them fresh for longer. That's what my mom does. Fresh choysum could last up to a week, carrots would not go bad for at least 10 days and beans remain crisp for at least 1 week.

Back on the topic:

I, a poor uni student, would usually buy the cheapest produce and frozen veggies (if the ones I want are not in season) to stretch my penny. For instance, brocolli is now $6/kg, but the frozen ones that comes in 500g packs are on sale for $1.50 each. Non-seasonal veggies are always cheap here, especially carrots. Dead cheap, but I dispise them. Bamboo shoots (my favourite) are fortunately quite cheap here - although the vacuum-packed ones stink the kitchen to death! Canned beans are wonderful too.

My pantry items include store-bought furikake and instant noodles. I know they are not healthy but they're cheap.. As much as my parents want me to eat healthy meals, I do look out for the amount of sodium in 1 serving. I cook 1/2 of the noodles, added more water and load up on the veggies - halving the sodium intake.
Othertimes I'll do my usual dump and cook method:
- dried/instant noodles of any type
- combo of miso, kochujang, pepper, soy sauce (from buying sushi) and leftover instant noodle seasoning powder
- fresh/frozen veggies and protein

However, there are times when I do spourge. For instance, I could get a dozen of non-organic cage eggs for much cheaper price than 1/2 dozen organic FR eggs, but I prefer to splurge on them because of bird flu and the fact that they have been tampered by a lot chemicals (paticularly some form of steroids) in the "making".

____________________________________

[black]magic from Dango-kun's kitchen

Stephanie
Bento-ing from: San Lorenzo › California › USA
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 23 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

The sodium content is not as bad as you think. If one bowl of ramen/microwavable meal containing 900-1000 mg of sodium and that is your entire meal it is fine, according to a former nutrition professor since the recommended daily allowance of sodium is 2400 mg (in the US). Where a lot people tend to go wrong is eating salty foods with the ramen or other really salty foods throughout the day.

Personally when I was a college student I used to add an egg and some vegetables to the ramen, just to balance out the meal a bit more (honestly I still do this sometimes, it is yummy, and my husband makes fun of me for eating like a poor college student).

MitarashiDango
Bento-ing from: Melbourne › Australia
Joined: 28 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 24 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

However, most asian ramens (e.g. Nongshim Shinramyun and Indomie) contain 1750-2350 mg of sodium. Egg +vege + soup ramen is my favourite combo too!

Loretta
Moderator
Bento-ing from: London › UK
Joined: 4 Mar 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 17 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

I wish I could agree that sushi rice is pudding rice - I've tried it, but can't enjoy it, certainly not a bowlful of it.

I think the main challenge of reducing costs is to find ways of doing so that don't make you feel as if you are compromising. Scaling back your eating habits can mean that meals become repetitive and boring and knowing that you are constantly denying yourself may contribute to eventually kneejerking and overspending/overindulging/phoning-for-pizza as a reaction.

There are some basics I won't buy the cheapest versions of - one is pasta, because cheap supermarket pasta always seems inferior (I can never get it to have the right 'al dente' bite I crave). However, I am always on the look out for offers on the brands I do like. Buying pasta in bulk with a hefty 'buy two get three' (or even better BOGO) discount means that I get the premium stuff for not much more.
The same with rice and olive oil.
But by getting rice and pasta I truly enjoy I do save money as I don't need to 'mask' their tastes and textures with more expensive/fattening ingredients.

I also find I can save money by spending a little more on some key flavouring ingredients. Parmesan (or any other highly flavoured cheese) seems like an indulgence, but you only need to finely grate a little onto a meal compared to an undistinctive cheddar. Salted capers are another ingredient where a little goes a long way. Olives, quality condiments (I'm particularly fond of the Tabasco Chipotle sauce now), dried herbs, truffle oil, a vanilla pod buried in a sugar jar, packets of kimchi, anchovies, douban jiang are some of those pantry treasures that will make the most modest, economical ingredients sparkle into a memorable and satisfying meal.

A cheap topping - heat some olive oil in a pan and add cut garlic and the herbs of your choice. Add breadcrumbs/panko and stir until browned. Add to any dishes where you might add grated cheese.
You can make a variation on this by adding a little finely grated parmesan to the browned breadcrumbs, the cheese melts and binds to the crumbs and makes a delicious cheesy topping.

Frugal meal examples might be - home made gnocchi (just flour and cooked, floury potates formed into dumplings) with a chopped onion, garlic and canned plum tomatoes made into a sauce. Adding some capers and/or olives and then some cheesy breadcrumb topping really makes this economical dish luxurious.
This Jamie Oliver recipe is easy, economical and delicious - gently fry some garlic in olive oil and melt in some canned anchovies, add crushed dried chilli, take off the heat, add lemon juice and combine with freshly made pasta. Add a generous portion of garlic/herb browned breadcrumbs.

Stephanie
Bento-ing from: San Lorenzo › California › USA
Joined: 15 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 23 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

I agree that some things are worth paying a bit more, for me it is brown rice and whole-wheat pasta (some of the cheaper ones are just awful).

And something I would add about flavoring is that there are many inexpensive fresh options. For example right now, locally, all the citrus fruits are just falling off the trees. So just walking down the street you can get a bunch of free fruit, which can create many dishes (note: I don't consider it stealing if there is a bunch of fruit just rotting on the ground and the owner doesn't bother to harvest any of the fruit still on the tree).

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 36 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Another thing you can do is check out local manufacturers of yummy stuff and buy their seconds. We have a specialty pasta manufacturer here, and you can get pasta seconds (funny shapes etc) very cheaply from their factory shop. Then again, on the few occasions I let myself eat pasta I usually make my own - cheaper still.

Denise
Re: Penny Squeezing

Hi everyone,

I'm a freelance journalist/student at NYU. I'm putting together a story about how more people are returning to cooking and packing bento boxes as a way to save money in the recession. If you pack bentos to work (or school) please contact me. I would love to speak with you! I am also looking for bento box photos. Your photo(s) will be credited with your name. My e-mail address is dgc248 [at] nyu [dot] edu.

Thanks!

Denise Chan

denisec26
Bento-ing from: New York › New York
Joined: 2 Apr 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 34 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Hi everyone,

I'm a freelance journalist/student at NYU. I'm putting together a story about how more people are returning to the kitchen and packing bento boxes for work. If you pack bentos to work (or school) please contact me. I would love to speak with you! I'm also looking for bento box photos. If your photo(s) are selected, I will credit your name/website. My e-mail address is dgc248 [at] nyu [dot] edu.

Thanks!
Denise Chan

roselette23
Bento-ing from: ATL › Georgia › USA
Joined: 19 Feb 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 33 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Sometimes frozen fruit is even cheaper than fruit in season. It makes a good smoothie, because you don't need ice cubes (which water it down).

I like having these along with my ochazuke bento in the morning. This is usually a (thawed) frozen rice ball with green tea poured over, and it's a great way to get extra mileage out of a pot of rice.

Leftover mashed potatoes make good korokke, too.

eilismaura
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 5 years 17 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

I have to learn more about freezing your own - especially fresh veg -

husband loves to garden (usually tomatoes - way more than we can use) and he really loves farmers markets -

only three of us at home - so I worry about his binges and buying too much and it going bad

Where is a good place to look for info on this kind of freezing (as opposed to do ahead meals that you freeze)

Thanks

Eilish

____________________________________

~ Begin by knowing you have already arrived ~
my blog - http://honeysheistwisted.blogspot.com/

clarissa
Bento-ing from: Berlin › Germany
Joined: 6 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 6 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

When we freez something out of our garden we usually make it like this:

  • freeing everything from dirt and unwanted parts
  • lay all parts out flat on something like a baking sheet
  • put the baking sheet in a freezer
  • when everything is frozen well, put it in a bag and back in the freezer

In this way we freez strawberries, raspberries, redcurrants and many more. I think it should work for all freezable veggies to

bronwyncarlisle
Moderator
Bento-ing from: Dunedin › New Zealand
Joined: 12 Jan 2009
User offline. Last seen 1 year 36 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

See http://www.gardenguides.com/how-to/tipstechniques/vegetables/freezing.as...

When they talk about blanching, they mean dunking in boiling water for about a minute I think - maybe two? You don't need to do it with tomatoes anyway. I always blanch my beans (fava and runner) but seeing as they're going to be cooked once they're defrosted anyway I do it for a bit longer just to be sure I've done it long enough. If you get what I mean.

mosaica
Bento-ing from: › Vermont › USA
Joined: 11 Mar 2008
User offline. Last seen 3 years 45 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

I do a lot of blanching & freezing. Some things need no blanching --two of my favorites are sweet peppers and tomatoes. With sweet peppers, when I get a bonanza which I can't use fresh all at once, I seed 'em, slice em, and freeze them in a zip lock. Once they're mostly frozen, I give the bag a whack so that they're not in a solid bunch, and then back into the freezer. These are great for almost any sauce, stir-fry, soup, chili, etc. There are some stir-fries in which I like the crunch of the quickly fried peppers, and for this it's best to use fresh peppers.

Tomatoes --I used to spend a LOT of time blanching, peeling, and then freezing the tomatoes in ziplocks, but I learned from a neighbor that freezing them whole after rinsing of the dirt works GREAT. They're perfect for any application that doesn't call for a fresh tomato (sauces, stews, soups, etc), and the skins slide right off when you defrost 'em.

____________________________________

http://mosaica.wordpress.com

c-helle
Bento-ing from: Birmingham › Alabama › USA
Joined: 30 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 33 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing/ Green Potatoes

Not chlorophyll--solanine--and it's toxic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solanine

c-helle
Bento-ing from: Birmingham › Alabama › USA
Joined: 30 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 33 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

I love these suggestions! I am going to try your topping suggestion on top of roasted potato slices ASAP!

c-helle
Bento-ing from: Birmingham › Alabama › USA
Joined: 30 Aug 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 33 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Hey! We practically live next door! *waves from Birmingham*
I enjoy smoothies made that way, too. Our favourite is silken tofu blended with frozen berries. Speaking of frozen fruit, we keep our eyes peeled for U-Pick type farms every season (apples are just about due 'round here now, although I'd not freeze them). It's fun for the kids to pick berries, then we can freeze gallons of them for a fraction of the price of frozen or store-bought. Granted, time is money these days...

Never heard of ochazuke bento--do you reheat the rice ball after you thaw it? I'd love to try it!

Danielle
Re: Penny Squeezing

Sometimes we need to look back to get ideas for the now. A great way to penny pinch is to pickle or otherwise preserve vegetables. Now I'm not saying you should go out and try to can vegetable pickles without some knowledge, but refrigerator quick pickles are a nice solution. I'm talking about the kind brined in vinegar sloution. Note refrigerator pickles are not shelf stable like canned ones so this is something that while the vegetables will still take up refrigerator space they won't go bad as fast.

Really you can pickle most vegetables but I find cucumbers, radishes of any type, and carrots are easy and delicious vegetables to pickle. Really though almost any vegetable can be pickled. Green beans are a good pick particularly when down as a spicy pickle with garlic (I love these btw). Sweet radish pickles are always a favorite, http://justbento.com/handbook/johbisai/sweet-sour-and-salty-instant-radi... from Maki is a great recipe that could easily be applied to other vegetables; carrots like this are fantastic. Obviously as mentioned in a earlier post, cabbage is another good one.

Experiment with a basic foundation pickle recipe by changing seasonings. Garlic, red pepper flakes, coriander, cinnamon, star anise, whole black pepper, and any herb are all great flavorants. Adding seasonings really changes the whole feeling of the pickle and is a great way to buy one vegetable in bulk and make several different side dishes that keep you from getting bored and not finishing what you bought. Something like this http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&... recipe without the spices is a good base recipe to tweak to your taste.

One note about garlic, apparently young garlic when exposed to vinegar can turn blue. The first time I saw this I thought for sure it was something horrible and was completely freaked out. I mean it was bright blue, not typically, in my book, a naturally occurring color. I was about to throw out my pickles when I decided to look online to see if this was some kind of mold or something. I found this http://whatscookingamerica.net/Q-A/bluegarlic.htm article. Apparently this is something kind of normal but boy was I freaked out. Just a heads up.

Another good money saving tip is to sugar your fruits that are about to go bad. This is mainly good for berries. Just wash and cut up large berries like strawberries or leave smaller ones whole, put them in a container and liberally sprinkle with sugar. In a few hours the sugar will draw out some of the water in the berries and make a very sugar heavy syrup that can act to help preserve the fruit. Maybe not the healthiest way to eat fruit so back off on how much you would use. As a bonus though the berry flavored sugar syrup is great mixed with club soda to make a most delicious strawberry or berry soda pop. Also the sugar syrup over vanilla ice cream is phenomenal.

Bear
Re: Penny Squeezing

Not quite on topic, but I came across two things I have used heavily when freezing foods:
1) The best book I have found about the principals of freezing and recipes to go along with it is "Can I Freeze It?" by Susie Theodorou. Great recipes for Gyoza!
2) Silicone baking dishes, especially muffin "tins" of different sizes. I like the ones with smooth sides and use them to portion my stews, soups, broths and main dishes before freezing, then pop the frozen foods out and bag them up for easy access. Frozen ginza chicken curry and leftover rice and vegies in my bento along with soy and balsamic vinegar cured english cucumbers are a great lunch which keeps itself cold for quite a while.

Re: Penny Squeezing

Yes, American mothers used to do the "clean your plate" thing.

"Clean your plate" when it's a 10" plate, snacking is discouraged and families sit down to discrete meals and eating doesn't happen outside them makes sense.

In any culture where there's a lot of snacking, food is not confined to specific meal events and is very cheap? Not so smart.

Madeleine20
Bento-ing from: › USA
Joined: 13 Jan 2010
User offline. Last seen 3 years 35 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Sometimes I make sure I have a verrry inexpensive breakfast so that I can spend a little more on my lunch and dinner. The cheapest complete breakfast I've come up with so far is oatmeal with 1/2 a banana and 2 tbsp of peanut butter. This is filling and only amounts to 20-30 cents. As for wasting vegetables, I've never had a problem with this. I'm always able to use up what I buy. Of course, I don't buy a lot at once. The most expensive things for me to buy are fruit, vegetables, and proteins. So I make sure I fluff up my meals with a good dose of rice or other grains and accent it with a good amount of vegetables and often less protein than I desire. I treat fruit like a luxury (that I have everyday=)

____________________________________

My flickr food photos account:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/54728974@N05/

Re: Penny Squeezing

Well, I make bento for three, so I go ahead and buy fresh veggies and don't sweat it. If they start to go bad, I make a soup really quick and freeze that. Because of my chicken buying habits I've always got a fair amount of stock on hand.

I buy short grain rice from the local Asian store in bulk. Cheap, cheap, cheap.

I buy meat in bulk and repackage it myself. It is not unusual in my area to be able to find whole chickens for less than a dollar a pound, so I buy them whole and cut them into parts myself. It's icky but it only takes about five minutes. I use the drumsticks in bento a LOT. Parts we don't like to eat for meals go into the stock pot. I use stock a lot in cooking.

I also cook with beans a lot.

For the most part, I cook almost entirely from scratch, so I cook about as inexpensively as it is possible to do, anyway. My average bento uses about $1.50 in materials. I could do it cheaper if I wanted using cooked frozen veggies, but to be honest with you, I'm pretty okay with lunch costing a buck fifty for person's meal.

ETsMom
Bento-ing from: Yakima › Washington › USA
Joined: 3 Oct 2009
User offline. Last seen 2 years 31 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

Some different ways that I penny pinch include home canning and blanching as freezing. I grew up in a large family and my mom always had a huge garden to supplement my dad's smaller income. I grew up harvesting and canning the bounty. Now that I have my own children, I recognise the importance of quality produce. I love that I can spend the time canning fresh veggies and fruits and have those good things available to me when the weather is cold and the produce is more expensive at my local market.

Another thing that I do is buy certain foods in bulk. I like to buy dry beans, rice and pasta. They keep for a very long time. It's nice when we sometimes have a lean month. I don't have to worry about not having enough. I buy meats in larger packages and divide them when I get home. I also use my crockpot a lot to save time and energy. I admit that it gets more action in cooler weather because I like to make stews, soups and stoups. I make double portions and freeze the extra for another meal.

arlia11
Bento-ing from: Framingham › Massachusetts › USA
Joined: 5 Apr 2009
User offline. Last seen 4 years 11 weeks ago.
Re: Penny Squeezing

I got very good at making pie dough from scratch, and I make mini meat pies with leftover meat stews, chicken and veggies, etc. that fit wonderfully into bentos. They also freeze very well.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

New forum activity since your last visit

TitleAuthorAnswersLast Postsort icon
Sesame salad dressing Supertaster91 year 12 weeks ago
Authentic paella? maki101 year 13 weeks ago
IMPORTANT: If you have a blog on JustBento... maki21 year 15 weeks ago
Shiso - uses for this herb Loretta01 year 17 weeks ago
Fuki (Japanese Butterbur) Tsukemono Recipes kumo51 year 18 weeks ago