ICYMI-Recipe & Thrifty/DIY Tips Round-Up: Understanding Seed Catalogs, Kitchen Grease Soap, making the most of produce and more….

Recipes,food,budgeting,thrifty tips…stuff you might have missed this past week.

Save Cash and Eat Better With These 8 Tricks for Your Fruits and Veggies-   useful tips to make produce last longer

Making Soap from Kitchen Grease « Little House in the Suburbs- I know it sounds gross but it’s the reason my Grandma saved all her grease in a can by the stove. Ultimate recycling.

What To Buy In The Month Of January – How I Pinch A Penny- maybe this helps,maybe it doesn’t. Poor is poor and a lot of times that means there is no money to buy anything, even if it’s cheap but… if you have some extra jingle and need some things, these things are cheaper in January.

How to De-Gas Beans – Whole New Mom- It doesn’t say it but…the longer How to De-Gas Beans. This REALLY works! Find out how to take the gas out of beans and make sure you don't end up "gassing" everyone else out after eating a bean-filled meal!you soak the beans, the less gassier they will be. Hey, when you eat a lot of beans, every tip helps.

Meal Planning and Keeping a Stocked Pantry-Doing this instead of meal planning works best for some people. It can be hard for those with low income/SNAP budgets to have a well stocked pantry sometimes,though. I do a bit of both. I have to do a lot of shopping at once because we don’t have a car and if someone is offering a ride, that’s the time to get groceries…ALL the groceries …but in that context,I would only buy the fresh produce we could use in that week and make sure the rest was either frozen (or freezable) or canned/dry goods.

Parsnip Fritters – I’m betting CSA members have parsnips they need to figure out what t do with…

So many NY apples, but not enough storage -My state, so probably not applicable everywhere but right now in NY, apples are cheaper because of piss-poor planning. Overproduction, lack of storage. Shameful the lack of waste associated with this.

To Peel or Not to Peel?- Literally just what it says. Which veggies are worth taking the time to peel or not.

How-to: Shopping in a Wheelchair – not budgety or anything but helpful for anyone new to shopping while in a wheelchair.
How to Choose the Best Seeds for your Garden: Understanding Seed Catalogs-The one thing (the only thing) I love about January is the arrival of seed catalogs in mailbox.
This video is really,really good if you’re a newbie to gardening and trying to figure out what kind of seeds to buy or swap for. I like the tips on organizing your seed stash,too. I’m a terrible seed hoarder. I need to get better at organizing them.

Eat All Your Vegetables: How to Use Stems and Roots- use ALL your veggies.

 

Free Food:Abandoned CSA Shares

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I’ve talked a little bit here  on other social media about CSAs being a great source for local and inexpensive produce. Unfortunately, the input from many readers is that they either do not have any CSA programs in their area or it’s still not affordable or not accessible because of transportation.

Let me back up for the people who are sitting there scratching their head, trying to figure out what “CSA” stands for and what it even is.

CSA = Community Supported Agriculture. 

A farm or a community garden sells “shares” to members. Each week, members will get a box of produce for their membership fee.
The membership and share fees are typically affordable but unfortunately, most CSAs aren’t set up to accept EBT (food stamps), which makes it impractical for people on SNAP. BUT because CSAs are usually run by very community minded & socially conscientious people, many CSAs will offer sliding scale fees for low income families or will allow people to work for shares. Sometimes if the farm is especially rural, they will arrange a pick-up point within the nearest town or city to make it easier for members to get their shares.

There are CSAs for other things besides produce. Some farms will offer meat ,egg, and dairy shares. Beyond the economically benefits, the food offered is generally non-GMO, local ,and organic.

If you aren’t sure if there’s a CSA in your area, there’s a CSA finder here: CSA Finder

 

There’s one thing that happens sometimes with CSA shares that can be especially beneficial to low income families.  It happens that people don’t pick up their share. They were busy, forgot, couldn’t make it that week…. whatever. Stuff happens. Sometimes people will pick thru their boxes at pick-up and leave behind things they don’t like or won’t use. The CSA managers then have fresh produce they need to figure out what to do with so that it doesn’t go to waste. In some areas, food pantries are not set up to accept and distribute fresh produce, so that’s not an option. Giving it directly to a family who needs it would be the preferable thing to do.

It is definitely worth contacting your local CSA owners to ask if they allow abandoned shares to be claimed by non-members. I would personally at least offer to volunteer to work on the farm or garden in exchange for the privilege of getting first pick at leftovers. That just feels like the right thing to do.

So, want to see what one CSA’s abandonment looks like?

In these pictures are:

  • swiss chard
  • red onions
  • edamame beans
  • hot peppers
  • bell peppers
  • turnips
  • various squash
  • bags of various greens -arugula, spinach,romaine,kale
  • potatoes
  • beets
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • garlic
  • yellow onions
  • broccoli
  • parsley
  • cilantro

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I managed to get some great meals from these veggies. Lighting is horrible in my kitchen, awful for food photography but some things I made…

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Quick White Bean Stew with Swiss Chard and Tomatoes

 

White Bean & Swiss Chard Stew

Garlic Edamame   A Healthy and Flavorful Snack // wishfulchef.com

Garlic Edamame

…and a bunch of other stuff.

September In-Season Produce

sept in season

 

It’s such an fantastic time of the year for inexpensive produce. If you have the freezer space and canning equipment, it’s worth gathering extra and preserving some of the awesome bounty that Nature doth’est hath provide. Or something like that. My Old English or whatever language the doths and haths comes from is quite rusty.

 

Kale Me Now.

kale

I love kale. Not to be cool…I just really do. It’s super good for you AND it’s easy to grow.

Because it’s easy to grow, if you join a CSA or any sort of fresh food co-op, you are bound to end up with kale. If you buy kale locally, it should be fairly inexpensive. It’s a great frugal food that packs a huge amount of health benefits into a serving.

Why use Kale in green smoothies?  #cleaneating #healthyliving #yumtown #foodporn #veggies

When you buy kale, it should look like this:

Nice and green. Firm and crisp. Not wilty or yellow. Not slimy and dark green.

So, here’s the thing a lot of people don’t like about kale. That crispness the leaves have can be quite tough and bitter. There’s a couple of tricks to make it not so chewy and bitter.

1. Massage It – Yep, like a real massage. Strip the leafy bits from the center stems or use a sharp knife to slice around the stems. Instead of massage oil, sprinkle a teaspoon of salt into a bowl of your cut up kale and just pretend it’s someone you love, who had a long, hard day at work and needs your tender,loving fingers caressing the pain and stress away. Get in there and really rub and pinch and poke. When you’re massaging, you’ll notice juices being released and the kale becoming tender. That’s perfect. That’s what you want to happen. It doesn’t take long to get to this point…just a few minutes. From there, you can use it as is raw or in a recipe you’ll cook. And because I understand completely that some people learn best by seeing it done : Video of a woman desteming and massaging kale

2. Blanch It – Boil water. Put your kale in and cook for just a few minutes. Literally, 3 minutes. Strain it into a colander . Transfer to a boil with ice water and let sit for a couple of minuter. Then strain again. And for the see-it-done learners: visual

Now you’re ready to put that kale into a salad or some other recipe.

Like Kale Chips! I hear those can be expensive if you buy them. DIY Kale Chips will probably spare you a bunch of crappy additives and preservatives,too. Also: It’s totally fine to use regular salt instead of sea salt.
Kale Chips...mins the coconut oil and the cayene pepper.

My favorite way to cook kale as a side-dish is to saute it in olive oil ….and then I add chopped up bacon. Now, I said this one evening on a bus coming home packed with Cornellians and those who overheard me either gasped at the horror of such a thing or laughed because they thought I was using hipster wit (also known as irony). I was not joking. My dearest Faux-Hubby cooks it in a similar way but with garlic…lots of it. My son works in a natural grocery/deli and makes a kale salad that is deeee-licious….just a base of kale with sliced beets ,feta, and a nice vinaigrette.

More kale ideas!
The Incredible Edible Green: 15 Kale recipes

9 Killer Kale Recipes

Kale Kids Love

Walnut Kale Pesto

Pineapple Kale Popsicles

11 Kale Salads

What to do with mystery produce

mystery

This happens especially in the summer time. People email me  or message me on Facebook pictures of their most recent take home from their food pantry or CSA share.

“I don’t even know what this is! How am I supposed to cook it? LOL”
The veg in question…bok choy.

I once ended up with a whole box of rescued bok choy. I knew the feeling.

My favorite though was a picture of kohlrabi with the question, “What do I do with this?! It looks like those mandrake things in Harry Potter!

Food pantry produce is obviously a blessing, especially since so many food banks have a limited resource of fresh produce or don’t even deal with produce at all. Quite a few pantries that I know of often can’t include produce because they have limited storage space and/or no refrigeration and also only have a distribution day once every 2 weeks.

The negative side of food pantry produce is that sometimes what’s being handed out is the grocery stores surplus of veggies that haven’t sold well that week …meaning…the unpopular, often confusing ones.

But it isn’t just the unpopular veg that throw some people off. My inbox is a  confessional at times.  People admit, embarrassed , that they’ve never eaten common things  like broccoli or carrots before .Or that they’ve certainly eaten potatoes in their life but never cooked them. No need to be embarrassed here. I grew up in a household where everything was cooked from a box or was served out of a can. I had to teach myself about real food. There’s no shame in admitting that you don’t know something and asking to be informed, whether the subject is kale or world history.

So, if you have food that comes your way, you can totally ask me.  If I don’t know the answer, I can find someone who does. Every Friday on this blog and the Facebook page, I’ll have a weekly Frugal Foodie Friday. If you have a certain produce items or basic cooking skill you need tips how to master, ask away and on Fridays, I’ll post the info.
There’s a few other great sites you can check out that might give you some ideas.
The Farmers’ Market Recipe Generator  is honestly quite limiting right now with the produce options input in to the generator but it’s still a good start.

On buzzfeed, there’s a list of 31 Things To DO With Confusing CSA Veggies and nourished kitchen has another great list of some general ideas for what to do with those veggies in your CSA box.