The purpose of the Sideco Blog is to provide you with practical information that can help you save money by making well informed decisions in regard to maintaining and improving what is probably your largest investment. We will be adding new topics on a regular basis and archiving each article so you can come back to them at any time. These are not intended to be detailed 'how to' instructions for the do it yourselfer, but rather answers to the questions that the responsible and conscientious homeowner faces every day, month and year.
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Last month we discussed how to save time and money at the grocery store. Now it's time to save a lot of time, work and money in the kitchen. I like to cook, but I just don't want to spend as much time in the kitchen as I used to. I also like to eat and I'm not willing to sacrifice quality for ease. Vacuum sealers, such as the Foodsaver, have long been used by people who buy in bulk. They can also be used by the rest of us to help save time and effort in the kitchen and still maintain the quality we demand.
I try and never cook only one meal at a time. If I'm going to the trouble of making a wonderful meatloaf, it's just as easy to make enough for 4-5 meals. The same is true for chicken, roasts, stews, spaghetti sauce and virtually everything. After having cooked my main items only once, I have a great selection in my freezer for many effortless meals.
Ziplock bags are a great invention, but they are only good for very limited use. Even the heavy duty freezer bags begin to allow freezer burn and deterioration after only a very short time. By taking a couple of extra minutes to vaccuum pack my food, I can extend it's useful storage life by multiples. My meatloaf tastes exactly the same, even months later, because the air has been removed from the package and the very thick package prevents the drying effects of the freezer from damaging my food. I simply portion my food into individual meals, label and date the packages and the work is done.
Wet items, stews, soups etc. require one additional step. They cannot be vaccuumed as the liquid would be drawn into the pump. Fortunately, they are not as prone to freezer burn and can survive weeks longer in a ziplock bag. For longer storage, I freeze these items in a ziplock bag overnight. Once frozen, I unzip them and vaccuum seal them while frozen and they're perfect for longer term storage. I only have to cook these things twice a year, at most.
Mealtime is easy, as well. The bags can be placed in the microwave until the contents have been heated. I have found that one of the easiest and most flexible methods is to employ the principles of 'sous vide'. By placing the bag in a large pot of hot water kept below the boiling point, the food will get perfectly heated yet won't get overcooked even if it remains in the water for several hours. The water temperature should be at least 140 - 150 degrees to ensure safety, but it doesn't require watching, stirring or monitoring and will be ready any time you are.
The benefits of a foodsaver are obvious if you go to Sam's or other warehouse store. But, there are many uses for those who don't, as well. I have found that I've had to purchase a new bag of coconut every time I needed some because it had simply dried out. A foodsaver will keep these items fresh for very long periods.
Kroger regularly offers whole ribeyes or other cuts at close to a 50% savings over purchasing an individual steak. If you have to waste any of it, however, it's no bargain. I just served the last steaks from one such special. They had been in my freezer for a full year and were just as good as the day I put them in.
There is no doubt that my foodsaver saves me money. More importantly, it saves me a lot of time and effort. I'm not suggesting that everyone rush out and purchase one. I do suggest, however, that you look at your lifestyle, purchasing and cooking habits and evaluate if a foodsaver could make your life easier and your meals better.
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