Saturday, February 22, 2014

Use It Up: Orange Syrup

Many things are tossed into the garbage can when they still have lots of good life left in them. Use It Up is a section on how to use this "trash" to make new, useful items for your home or to re-purpose items to avoid a purchase.

Whenever I eat citrus, I dry all those peels, knowing that someday, somehow I'll use them. Today I found that use. I was making homemade syrups and wanted to try some new flavors. An AHA! moment! What about an orange syrup for teas, coffees, drizzling over desserts, or mixing with sangria?

I made a simple syrup using one part white sugar with one part water. I put it in a saucepan on medium heat and stirred it together until the sugar dissolved. I dumped in some orange peel pieces and let it simmer. I stirred it often so that it didn't burn and heated it until it thickened and the volume had decreased by about a fourth. I let a spoonful cool and tasted it. Perfection. I strained the orange peels and was left with a bright, cheery syrup.

 I was about to dump the spent orange peels into the compost container when I decided to taste one. It was incredible. Sweet, bitter and citrusy. I nibbled on them as a snack throughout the day. If I have any left the next time I make orange scones, those will be a perfect add in. They would also be nice in cranberry orange muffins, on top of ice cream (especially a sunday drizzled with the orange syrup!), in oatmeal or in pancakes.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Salvage Grocery Shopping

Want to save money on groceries? Like keeping perfectly edible food from going into the landfill? Want to have an adventure while grocery shopping? Check out your local salvage grocery!

Salvage groceries buy closeouts from other stores, so there is no guarantee of what you'll find. Sometimes the selection is awesome, other times it's lacking. The items are either discontinued items, items with changed packages (say, 12 oz packages left over after the company starts making 11.5 oz packages), dented cans or boxes, seasonal items, expired products or items leftover when a store closes. My favorite salvage store gets items from health food stores, so I find lots of organic products for a price comparable to Aldi. Overall, the prices are better than the sales price at the chain groceries in my city, and sometimes I get incredible prices. I am able to buy "higher end" products than I would otherwise be able to afford. These items would likely be thrown away if it weren't for salvage groceries, so I like knowing that by shopping there, I'm keeping perfectly good food from being destroyed (When I worked at a grocery store, management made us throw all dented items into the garbage, and lock the dumpster to keep people from diving it). Plus, I never know what I'll find, so it's an adventure, or at least as close as grocery shopping ever gets.

Now for the warnings. Know your prices. Some things cost more at salvage stores than the sales prices at the chain grocer. Check the packaging. Dented cans are probably okay if it's a small dent that isn't on the lid or seam, but pass up badly dented cans or anything that is rusted, leaky, missing a label, or otherwise looks suspicious. Don't buy boxes or bags that have been torn open and taped back together. Check packets/bags to see if they are sealed or if there are tears. Check the expiry dates. As many articles lately have shown us, "use-by" or "best by" dates are more of suggestions than rules, but it's probably best to avoid anything with an expiry date of 2008. Buy things you eat; don't buy something you don't like just because it's an awesome price.

Here's the list of items that I found on my latest trip:

Cascadian Farm Purely O's cereal, organic...2 @ $.79
Barilla spaghetti...1 @ $.59
Agave nectar...1 @ $1.99
King Arthur Self Rising Unbleached flour...5 lbs for $.99
Tollhouse White Chocolate Chips, 24 oz package...1 @ $1.99
Corn tortillas, 10-12 packs...8 @ $.10

Vlasic Roasted Red Peppers...4 @ $.49
Mrs. Sassard's Bread and Butter Pickles...1 @ $.99
Chipotle salsa...1 @ $.99
Wolfgang Puck Marinara...1 @ $.99
Colavita Spicy Marinara...1 @ $.99
Le Roselli's Spaghetti sauce...1 @ $.99
Diced, fire-roasted tomatoes...1 @ $.59
Smuckers Triple Berry Topping...1 @ $1.59
Smuckers Peach Preserves...1 @ $1.59
Jif Hazelnut Chocolate spread...6 @ $1.49

Kraft Mayo, fat free...2 @ $.39
Kraft Mayo...1 @ $.79
Miracle Whip...3 @ $.99
Hellmann's Mayo...1 @ $.39 (Yes, I am aware this is a lot of mayo. We had depleted the pantry supply so it was on our list, and both of us tossed some into the cart without the other realizing it. We are re-homing a few jars to someone who can use it)
Kraft Creamy Italian dressing...1 @ $.20
Kraft Ranch dressing...1 @ $.20
Ken's Steak House Chunky Blue Cheese dressing...1 @ $.20
Kraft Thousand Island dressing...2 @ $.10
Wishbone Buffalo Blue Cheese dressing...1 @ $.99
Tony Chachere's Spicy Sweet Sandwich Sauce...1 @ $.89
Kraft Sweet and Sour sauce...1 @ $.79
Peppadew Mustard sauce...1 @ $.79

Wolfgang Puck Creamy Tomato soup, organic...1 @ $.69
Wolfgang Puck Chicken and Wild Rice soup, organic...1 @ $.69

Jerky sticks...2 @ $.49
Gum, 3 packages of 15 pieces...1 @ $.99
Craisins...1 @ $.99

8 o'clock coffee, 24 oz package...1 @ $6.99
8 o'clock coffee, 12 oz package...1 @ $2.49
Folger's Vanilla Biscotti coffee, 10 oz package...1 @ $2.49
Chock Full O Nuts coffee, 11.3 oz package...1 @ $2.49
Maxwell House coffee, 11.5 oz package...1 @ $2.49
CDM Coffee and Chicory, 13 oz package...1 @ $2.49
Seattle's Best Coffee, 12 oz package...1 @ $2.49
Lottie + Beck Bed Time Tea, 20 pack...2 @ $.20

Temptations cat treats, 3 oz...3 @ $.99
Goodlife cat treats, 3 oz...3 @ $.99
Hartz Crunch 'N Clean cat treats, 3 oz...4 @ $.25

Simply Green toilet paper, 100% recycled...16 @ $.99

Cologne...1 @ $1.99
Reusable cold drink cups and straws, 2 pack...1 pk @ $4.99
Utility lighter...1 @ $.79
Ball pint canning jars with lids and bands...6 @ $.33 (Trucker found these! Best deal I've ever found on canning jars)
Bathroom rug...1 @ $2.99

We also bought some bulk assortments: 2 bags of snacks/misc items for $3.99 each and 3 bags of seasoning packs for $.99 each. Within those bags we got:

Lifesaver mints...95
Kit Kat snack sized candies...13
Fruit gummy snack packs...27
Russell Stover candies...2
Ferro Rocher chocolates...3
Candy toys (novelty candy dispensers)...3
Instant oatmeal...3 packs
Caribou Coffee K cups...5
Starbuck's Via packs instant coffee...6
Cake Mate Writing gel...1
Moon Pies...16
Odwalla granola bars...32
Quaker fruit and nut bars...4
seasoning packs from salad dressing to grilling to canning mixes...73

We bought the snack/misc bags for the granola bars that we use when hiking and the seasonings bags for the canning/grilling seasonings. A lot of those items will be given to someone who uses them. We don't have a Keurig coffee maker, and I don't know anyone who does, so I just opened them and dumped them into another coffee container.

Our total purchase was $127.32. To see how much I saved, I added up the sale price that I would feel comfortable paying at my regular grocery store for just those items that I would actually buy (so the Keurig cups, moon pies, etc are not included). The price I would have paid at my store was around $265. This trip saved me $138. Also, for some items, I got more variety, or a higher-end product. For example, the salad dressing, I compared paying $1 for store brand dressing, but the store brand that is $1 at my store has only 4 varieties. For our coffee, we buy basic store brand, or whatever is on a good sale, but we love it when we get the coffee and chicory blend for about the same price per ounce.

Do you ever shop at salvage groceries? Love them? Hate them? Any great scores you'd like to share?

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