Day-Old Deals

by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


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Most bargain-savvy shoppers head straight to the clearance bin or discount shelf in the grocery store to score a low price, but if the goods go bad before you can use them, you save nothing. Instead of lamenting their demise, use them up in dishes to eat right away or to pop in the freezer for later. Here are a few ways to use and/or preserve perishables so your "day-old" deals will prove to be frugal.

Fruit is commonly discounted when it's on the verge of spoilage. Of course, for bananas that are really brown, banana bread, muffins and cake can make good use of them; however, for those still firm and just flecked with brown, pop them in the freezer (right in their peels) and peel them later for use in smoothies.

Bananas will last a little longer for fresh consumption sliced and put in a gelatin dessert or tossed with fruit juice in a fruit salad.

With most fruit that is still firm and wholesome, you can also prepare it as if you're going to eat it and puree it for convenient baby food (add a little water if needed) or use in future smoothies or sorbet. Frozen in ice cube trays, fruit cubes may be stored in freezer bags for a few months.

Who says it always has to be applesauce? Try saucing pears, peaches, pineapple and other firm-flesh fruits and freezing for enjoying later.

Don't let fruit have all the fun. Orange-colored veggies just past their prime like sweet potatoes and carrots can also sneak into smoothies. Try grated carrots and sweet potatoes in spice muffins and cakes. As with fruit, cook and puree veggies for baby food cubes.

Soft avocados work best in guacamole. Clean and freeze spinach for using shredded in lasagna, quiche and frittata later. With many veggies, bad spots may be cut out and discarded and the rest may be used, but to prevent illness, thoroughly cook the produce.

Hard cookies? You know the drill. Pop a slice of bread or apple in an airtight container with them. Ground-up, day-old cookies also make terrific crumb crusts for tortes, pies, and cheesecakes.

Bread usually dries out even more in the freezer; however, if your intended use is for stuffing (it's not just for Thanksgiving and try it with chicken and pork), French toast, or for topping casseroles or grinding into breadcrumbs, just transfer the loaves to freezer-safe containers for long-term storage. If you plan to use it within three weeks, the original wrappers work.

Day-old pastries and doughnuts can be revived to moistness by microwaving them for a few moments. Or cut them up for using in a trifle (layer pastry cubes, prepared pudding, whipped cream and chunks of fruit with juice in a trifle pan).

Depending on the variety, over-the-hill cereal can also be blended into smoothies, ground into crumb crusts and used to top casseroles. Be careful about using it to make cereal bars or marshmallow-based treats because adding just a couple of ingredients won't mask the stale taste for discriminating palates.

Dairy products remain wholesome a week after their expiration date. Skim and low-fat milk tends to freeze better than whole milk, but transfer it to a freezer-safe container to allow room for the milk to expand. If you find the milk isn't palatable after freezing, it may be used for cooking, as long as milk isn't the star ingredient, such as pudding or a white sauce.

If the milk has really gone downhill, whip up recipes calling for sour milk. Some baked goods use it and you can freeze them for later use.

Most kinds of firm cheese freeze well, but as with bread, repackage it for freezing long-term. To use up cheese in a hurry, you can add it to many dishes to pump up the protein and calcium. Use it in soups, pre-made dishes that already have some cheese (like frozen pizzas), tuna casserole, and scrambled eggs.

Speaking of eggs, you can use them up in a jiffy if you fire up your oven and bake. Quiche, frittata and cheesecake use up lots of eggs and they freeze well, too. Double or triple the recipes and divide the dishes into family-sized portions for handy defrosting.


Deborah Jeanne Sergeant's website is www.skilledquill.net.

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