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#882 Halloween Savings: Don’t Let That Pumpkin Go To Waste

21 Oct

jack o lanternAfter carving up your Halloween jack o’ lantern, do you:

A. Let it rot on your lawn or doorstep until it is a disgusting heap of orange and black moldy goo.

B. Throw it away.

C. Compost it.

D. Roast it for pumpkin puree.

I pick D.

So this money-saving idea may be bordering on cheap, but I like to think of it as Native American resourceful. As in nothing goes to waste. I thought my mom was seriously cheap and weird when she did this, but then I moved to Europe where they don’t have pumpkin puree in a can. But they do sell pumpkin slices in the grocery store. That’s when I started to roast my own pumpkin, and my mom’s crazy ways seemed a little less crazy.

Please note: Pumpkins go moldy very quickly so this has to be done within 24 hours of carving to be safe. This means, don’t carve the Halloween pumpkin until the day of or day before Halloween. Who really uses a jack o’ lantern for more than Halloween night anyways?

Step 1: Discard the top with the stem and cut the pumpkin in half.
halloween pumpkin and top

halloween pumpkin cut in half

Step 2: Cut the pumpkin into even-sized cubes and trim the dried-out layer. Don’t worry about trimming the rind off, leave it during roasting.

halloween pumpkin cubes
Step 3: Place the cubes on a cookie tray, rind side down, and brush or spray with canola oil. Roast at 350 degrees until a skewer inserts easily into the cubes, about 40 minutes.

halloween pumpkin roasted
Step 4: Allow to cool for 5 minutes and then trim off the rind with a butter knife and place soft cubes in a bowl. Mash to desired consistency. Or place in food processor for a smoother finish.

mashed halloween pumpkin
Alternatives: Steam on the stove top or cook in a pressure cooker (the rind should be removed for these methods). The end result will be more watery. I like the drier finish of roasting, plus it adds a nice flavor.

Step 5: Measure into 1 or 2 cup servings and freeze what is not used right away.

halloween pumkpin puree

How this Halloween money-saving tip actually saves you money: From one average-priced $6 pumpkin, you can get roasted pumpkin seeds (isn’t that the best part of carving a pumpkin), a Halloween decoration and pumpkin puree. A small pumpkin (that in my case was actually $4.50)  yielded exactly 7 cups of pumpkin puree. libby's pumpkin pureeOne can of premium brand puree is $1.98. Generic brands are $0.99 – $1.20 per can. One can of pumpkin puree is 2 cups. That means my 7 cups is equal to 3 1/2 cans of store-bought puree or $6.93 worth of premium brand or $3.37 – $4.20 worth of generic brand puree. The premium brand canned pumpkin puree cost is more than the original cost of the pumpkin. The generic brand cost is slightly less than the original cost of the pumpkin. And that’s not factoring in that this would be the third use of the single purchase of a pumpkin.

Additional benefits of turning your jack o’ lantern into pumpkin puree:

  • No concerns about BPA in canned goods
  • Pumpkins are packed with nutrients namely beta-carotene just like orange carrots. The fresher the pumpkin, the better the nutrients so making your own means it’s fresh and hasn’t been sitting around, exposed to extreme temps to kill bacteria during manufacture and other practices that kills food nutrients.

Your regular jack o’ lanterns might not be the best flavor choice, but there are a huge variety of pumpkins. If you get one from a farm stand or farmer’s market, the grower may be able to tell you more about the richer-flavored pumpkins to choose from.

What to do with all this roasted pumpkin?
If you’re Euro, you’ll go savory with pumpkin soup, pumpkin ravioli or pumpkin risotto.
If you’re American, you’ll go sweet with pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread or pumpkin muffins. I once made killer pumpkin cheese cake and pumpkin creme brulee.

The best part is that Thanksgiving is just around the corner and you’ll be able to wow the guests with tales of home-roasted pumpkin pie.

#891 Reuse Ziploc Bags

17 May

brownies in ziploc bag

Photo via flickr by quinn.anya.

This is one of those things my mom did that I swore I would never do. But then I hated to throw out a Ziploc bag that was perfectly useable. And I hated even more to run out of Ziploc bags when I was in the middle of trying to throw something in the freezer. So once I was the one cleaning up the kitchen and freezing food, I started to reuse Ziploc bags. Something I really disliked before suddenly seemed like a great idea. An added bonus is that it saves money by significantly reducing how often you buy Ziploc bags.

Here are some ideas for reusing Ziploc bags to save money and reduce trash output:

  • Get the good kind. If you’re going to be reusing bags, the good brands are sturdier and will endure more washing and re-washing. Generic brands tend to be flimsy and thin. Neither Ziploc or Glad zip bags have BPA so that is not a concern with re-use.
  • Only get the large ones.
    sandwich bento box

    Go reusable for sandwiches and lunch items instead of wasting money on sandwich bags. Photo via flickr by anotherlunch.com

    Limit purchasing Ziplocs to gallon and quart sizes, which are great for freezing and storing food. Use a reusable, plastic sandwich saver or Tupperware container for sandwiches. Sandwich bags are a waste of money and resources. Plus your sandwich will never be crushed in your lunch bag if it’s in a hard plastic container. When using the large bags for food storage and freezing, limit your use by using a more durable, reusable container if possible. Ziplocs are ideal for freezing chicken breasts and fruit or keeping fresh an open bag of chips.

  • Mark the bags. Most large Ziploc bags come with a spot where you can write on them. Write down the contents and date it with a permanent marker. When you wash the bag, use the bag for the same item again and re-date. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to use a bag used for chicken for cereal, so I avoid cross-contamination skeevies by reusing chicken Ziplocs for chicken. It’s easiest to reuse Ziplocs used for bread or dry good storage because if the product was in a bag, the Ziploc might just need an quick, dry wipe out to reuse.
  • Wash and dry properly. To really get a good clean, make sure the bags are turned inside out, and the Ziplocs get a good hot water and soap scrub. Inside out bags can also go in the dishwasher. Now for drying, they can be hung clothes line style in your kitchen or on your clothes line with the open bag end down so the inside and outside are aired out. Make sure the bags are well opened so they can dry thoroughly. If I need one right away, I will get a fresh dish or hand towel and pat dry.
  • Know when to throw them out. I think why I hated my mom’s version of Ziploc reuse is that she continued to reuse them well past when they were done in. If the seams are ripping or the bags are irreparably greasy (bacon and tomato sauce are the worst), then throw the bags out or recycle them if your waste disposable accepts them for recycling.

Happy saving!

#892 Don’t Get Rid Of Dead Batteries

15 May

batteries

Photo via flickr by Matti Mattila.

I have to admit this one came out of desperation… and then I realized it actually worked. When the battery or batteries die in a remote, toy or appliance, don’t assume the batteries are totally dead. Instead I put the “suspected” dead batteries into a zip lock bag to save for later use. What can these “suspected” dead batteries be used for? Items that don’t need much juice can use a battery that otherwise doesn’t “work.”

I started using suspected dead batteries in my wireless mouse. Turns out a wireless mouse uses very little power and can use the charge left in a battery that otherwise doesn’t power other items. I’ve run my mouse on “dead” batteries for a month or more. Once I use up my not-really-dead battery in my wireless mouse, I then put the “really” dead batteries in a separate zip lock bag for later recycling.

call2recycle logoNow when I’m caught with no fresh batteries in the house, I have a store of “suspected” dead batteries to try out. After success using the batteries in my wireless mouse, I started testing the suspected dead batteries in toys and other items before using new, fresh batteries. More often than not, the batteries will work. Sometimes for a longer time than others, but at least I get a little more life out of them. Other times, if a full set of suspected dead batteries doesn’t power the item, I’ll put in one or two fresh batteries (usually because I don’t actually have the correct amount of batteries needed) and one or two suspected dead batteries, and presto, it works! If I’m mixing and matching, I mark the non-fresh batteries so I know that when the item needs new batteries to only switch out the older one or two batteries instead of all three or four.

Getting the longest life possible out of a battery means spending less on new pack of batteries. Other ideas to save money on batteries include:

  • Buy generic. Tests by companies who test that rid of stuff show that generic batteries work just as well or better than more expensive brands. If the expensive brand does last a bit longer, the price difference does not make up for the performance difference.
  • Get rechargeable batteries. The electric cost to recharge batteries is much less than spending on disposable batteries and it reduces battery waste. Rechargeable batteries can be used many times over.
  • Keep batteries cool. Keeping batteries in the fridge, especially in hot climates can help extend the life of the battery. It’s a small amount, but if you’re storing batteries, why not keep them in the fridge to make sure they last as long as possible.
  • Take the batteries out. If you’re not using the item all the time or use it only seasonally, take the batteries out of the item when not in use.

Whatever you do, don’t throw batteries away! The chemicals they leak into landfills are serious contaminants. They should always be recycled. While this can be a challenge sometimes, Radio Shack or other electronic stores may have a recycling program if your local waste disposal does not recycle batteries. For rechargeable batteries and cell phones, look up a drop off service from Call2Recycle. You should always recycle your dead cell phones and laptop batteries as well.