Summer's End

by Maureen Bennie


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The summer days are waning and fall is almost here. The change from summer to fall brings changes within the home - children go back to school, vacations end, new work projects begin, and the frills of summer go into storage. A change of season can also mean big savings for the organized food shopper. With a little planning, you can find good deals this fall season and save time during the busy months ahead. Here are some inexpensive tips to try at home.

Produce

Take advantage of the low prices of in-season fruits and vegetables at farmer's markets and grocery stores. Consider canning and freezing today's in-season produce to enjoy all winter when produce prices are at their peak. Fruits that freeze well are peaches, berries, apples, cherries, grapes, apricots, and pears. Apples, apricots, peaches and pears need to be peeled before freezing. Toss pears and apples with lemon juice, toss apricots with honey, and toss peaches with a small amount of honey and lemon juice to prevent browning. Frozen fruit is delicious in cakes, muffins, crisps, breads, and pancakes.

Most vegetables freeze beautifully but do require blanching first. Blanching involves immersing vegetables in boiling water for a matter of minutes. This process inactivates their enzymes so that they don't lose their quality in the freezer. Frozen vegetables are wonderful on their own just steamed or use them in recipes like stews and casseroles.

Canning involves more effort and equipment than freezing and is a bit more costly. With canning, jars must be sterilized first. Once they have been filled with fruit or vegetables, lids with rubber rings are screwed on top of the jar. Jars are then placed in a pressure cooker or boiling water bath for a specified amount of time until a seal is created.

Mothers with babies who are on solid foods or will be can puree in-season fruits and vegetables, freeze in ice-cube trays, then pop out the cubes and place them in baggies for later use. Homemade baby food is much cheaper than store bought and more appetizing too. Your baby can enjoy asparagus, beets, cauliflower, and broccoli for example; none of which are available in store bought baby food jars.

Investment Cooking

When the fall schedule begins again, you may be surprised at the lack of time to cook. Instead of reaching for high cost, low flavor convenience foods or eating out, try investment cooking. Make large batches of dishes and freeze them in individual or family size servings. Because this task can be labor intensive, try sharing the work with a friend and splitting up what you make. Spaghetti sauce, chili, homemade tortellini, soups, meat pies, sauces, lasagna, muffins and breads all freeze well. Having a freezer full of meals will take the pressure off trying to run home and whip up something when you only have an hour.

There are some great websites that offer recipes and instructions to help with the investment cooking process. You can also look for recipes that do double duty. For example, you may roast a chicken one night, then use the leftovers for soup or a casserole the next night. Don't forget about the crock-pot either. Throw in meat, some of your frozen vegetables and broth and you have a meal by the end of the day.

Use the summer's end as a springboard to savings and for staying ahead of the grocery buying game. The savings are out there so take advantage of them. Having a freezer full of food for the busy fall schedule can be a godsend. A little planning can go a long way towards living a less stressful life in the winter months ahead.




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