Don’t Be Intimidated!

Don’t Be Intimidated!

There is a true intimidation factor in cooking for some people—I get the emails from them so I know this is true. For me, having grown up in a home with parents who cooked, rarely eating out, I learned how to navigate my way in a kitchen early on.

It was (being honest here) a bit of surprise when I first started my website back in 2001 to learn that not everyone knew how to chop an onion. The cooking terms that I learned before I got my first Girl Scout badge (The Cooking badge naturally—I’ve got it taped to my bookcase, LOL!), have fallen by the wayside. Terms like dice, mince and julienne have turned into much simpler terms like chop, chop fine and chop into matchstick-sized pieces. But who cares, right? The deal is to get the cooking DONE, not worry about semantics.

Check out this testimonial we received from Heather:

Dear Leanne,

Okay, I finally decided to try your system.

Well, first I get the menu – looks good, but I’m worried, because spaghetti and sauce is about the most I do. Then I see the grocery list – there are things on there that I’ve never ever bought before!

I go to the grocery store with your list in hand. For a family of 6 my average grocery bill was always over $120/week. With Leanne’s list – I spent $67.52.

Now, I decide to prepare the meal. First thing that I discover, a fancy sounding name doesn’t mean hours of cooking. Second thing, it really only takes about 1/2 hour to cook the whole thing! Finally, I find out that my kids eat things that don’t include mounds of sugar.

Thank you for helping me save money and my family’s health!!

Heather

Me again—the trick is, as Heather wrote, was not to be intimidated! She took a tool (the menu) and dove in and did the work. She discovered that doing so saved her a ton of money, her sanity, and made her feel like a hero in her own home! Isn’t that what we all want?

Don’t be intimidated by cooking! I’ve said in a million times, this is not brain surgery and it is something everyone can do, I promise! If you need help, I’ve got it for you in every way imaginable from free daily newsletters, to recipes and tips, grocery lists, freezer cooking, you name it. Don’t lose hope and think you can’t do this thing called cooking. YES, you can!!

Ready to try Dinner Answers like Heather did?  We’ve got it right here for you.

How Clean is Your Fridge?

How Clean is Your Fridge?

Why is it the last thing to get cleaned in a kitchen is the inside of the refrigerator? I know that’s true for a lot of people; it certainly was for me!

The fridge was the last frontier for me in the kitchen. I could keep the kitchen clean, unload the dishwasher regularly, keep the floors up, the pantry reasonably organized. But the fridge? I would let it go. And then it would be a bear to deal with. I had a perfectionist attitude with my fridge—it was an all or nothing proposition. I would spend an hour or more cleaning every last nook and cranny. Tossing stuff left, right and center, cleaning the rubber gasket with a toothbrush, pulling everything out, disinfecting it and making the whole thing gleam. Honest, I could see that thing shine from my bedroom!

One day it dawned on me that I did not have to clean my fridge like that. I could do it one shelf at a time! I could keep things rotated and wiped down in as little as 2 minutes at a time. But the secret for making that happen was what I like to call Refrigerator Awareness. Cleaning the fridge does NOT need to be a project!

All that means is adding Refrigerator Awareness to your radar screen and don’t let that big, old appliance turn into that nasty, dreaded cleaning project! It truly does NOT have to be that way!

Oh and lest I forget. There is a TREMENDOUS bonus that comes from picking up the RA skill (Refrigerator Awareness). You save money. Gobs of it. Your food gets eaten, not shuttled to the back to develop into a science experiment. Your produce doesn’t develop slime, wilt or become fossilized. And, you may just find something in there you didn’t know you had that needs to be used up! Isn’t that just the coolest thing ever? (pardon the obvious pun!)

To recap: 2 minutes a day. That’s all. Let’s put an end to Project Refrigerator Clean-ups. I don’t know about you, but I’ve HAD it with those big jobs!

The same awareness goes for the freezer! Is yours cleaned up enough to handle some handy freezer meals?

7 Tips for Reducing Food Waste

7 Tips for Reducing Food Waste

Hands up if you ever questioned your parents when they told you not to waste your food because there are people starving in Africa.

As a child this really doesn’t make a lick of sense. How can the food I don’t eat help a starving person? Are we actually going to ship our leftovers to them?

We all know as adults that this was our parents’ way of trying to encourage us not to waste our food. But the truth is, if our ancestors could see how much food we’re wasting day in and day out, they would be absolutely appalled. And you know what? It really, really makes me mad; it doesn’t have to be this way!

1.3 BILLION tons of food gets wasted per year by people from all over the world. That’s billion, with a B.

To put this all into perspective, that is roughly one third of the food this planet produces. ONE THIRD. Wasted. And this is happening while 925 million people on the planet are suffering from hunger.

This is just not right and it’s not doing our planet any good. Food disposal is hard on the environment and it costs money. Not only is good money wasted by throwing out food we paid for, but roughly a billion dollars is spent on getting rid of wasted food in the United States each year.

And while we can’t stop the world from being wasteful, we can put an end to wastefulness in our own homes. Here are a few ideas:

1. Make meal plan each and every week (all of our Dinner Answers menus come with a categorized shopping list) before you go grocery shopping. You’ll only buy what you need.

2. Avoid buying in bulk unless you know you will eat the food you buy, or unless you plan to donate some of that food to a food bank or soup kitchen

3. Serve smaller portions to your family so food isn’t scraped into the garbage

4. Plan leftovers from today’s dinner for tomorrow’s meals (I do this all the time!)

5. Check expiration dates of everything you buy, so you’re not putting your groceries directly in the garbage when you get home

6. Take a cue from the grocery stores and rotate the food in your fridge. Put newer produce towards the back and bring older food to the front so it doesn’t rot back there

7. Use your crisper drawers for items you eat a lot, like carrots and apples. It’s not called a crisper, not a rotter, so don’t put easier-to-forget-about items down there to languish where it will just turn to a nasty mess.

How do you try to prevent wasted food in your home?

Easy Tricks to Shortcut Your Cooking

Easy Tricks to Shortcut Your Cooking

I get asked all the time for ways to make dinner faster. I get that; we’re a microwave society. We want it quick, dirty and hassle-free. This is why convenience foods are so popular (and expensive and 99% of the time, full of chemicals and lacking nutrients).

Here are a couple of things that I do that helps me get dinner done quickly and efficiently:

1) Shear Strength. I use my kitchen shears as much as I use my knives. From snipping fresh herbs, to opening bags of frozen berries, to cutting up chicken, I have two pairs and one in always in the dishwasher!

2) Foiled Again. To prevent my celery from going limp and nasty (and listen, having to run out to the store to buy fresh celery in the middle of cooking is total buzz kill) I wrap it foil. It stays fresh for weeks this way!

3) Garlic Getaway. I use these little garlic ice cubes (Dorot is the brand) that I buy from Trader Joe’s to shortcut the fresh garlic pressing stuff. The garlic is better (in my opinion) than that of the jarred variety and it’s so easy and convenient, love them!

4) Spin on Spinach. I buy triple washed tubs of organic spinach at the warehouse store. I saute it for a side dish, add it to salads, make it the salad, stir it into soups, eggs and quiches. It’s amazing and versatile and cuts my prep work way down.

5) More Spin. I use a salad spinner for my lettuce to get it nice and dry. Wash it, throw it in the spinner, take it for a quick spin and voila, lettuce that’s washed, dried and ready to go for your salad!

These are just a few of my shortcuts. What about you? Do you have some tried and true ones you’d like to share?

Back to Basics: 3 Kitchen Appliance Must-Haves

Back to Basics: 3 Kitchen Appliance Must-Haves

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With packing up to move to our new home this week, it has me thinking again about the kitchen basics. What kitchen essentials does any college kid, newly married couple, or just someone starting out in the kitchen, really need to get started?

First: A toaster oven. This little gem is really a great multi-tasking work horse. It will bake a potato, heat up leftovers and make toast. Considering that most people aren’t cooking for a family just starting out, this little oven works great for one or two and keeps costs down in the utility department too.

Staff Pick: BLACK+DECKER Counterop Convention Toaster Oven

Second: Blenders are a fantastic little marvel. Smoothies are one of my favorite and most often used quick, to go breakfast options, and I wouldn’t get very far if I didn’t have my blender to rely on! They also prove to be useful beyond mixing smoothies or drinks, but blenders can also puree soups, and chop softer ingredients as well.

Staff Pick: Blendtec Total Blender Classic, with FourSide Jar or NutriBullet Pro

 Third: Coffeemaker or hot pot. Keep your money and make your coffee at home! If you’re the parent of a college kid, I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough, LOL! The little hot pot is great for heating water for tea, hot cocoa or those dreadful instant noodles college kids consume by the truckload. (I certainly don’t condone this practice of eating those noodle cups, but it is a fact of life and part of the growing up process!)

Staff Pick: Hamilton Beach Single Serve Coffee Brewer and Full Pot Coffee Maker or Bodum CHAMBORD French Press Coffee Maker, Copper Classic Collection

So there you have it. There are several other appliances out there to be had, but that will come later. For me, walking into the appliance section of a store is like walking into a toy store. I love it, but we only need to start with a few and these 3 are definitely a good start!

What is the ONE kitchen appliance that you absolutely can’t do without?