eating fresh http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/9932/all en-US The Produce Worker's Guide to Choosing Fruits and Vegetables http://www.wisebread.com/the-produce-workers-guide-to-choosing-fruits-and-vegetables <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-produce-workers-guide-to-choosing-fruits-and-vegetables" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/kid_with_produce.jpg" alt="Child looking at fresh produce" title="Child looking at fresh produce" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="145" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We've had a few requests lately from readers who want to know more about how to get the most out of their fruits and vegetables. Keeping your produce fresh begins at the store. As a former produce stocker, I can tell you that most grocery stores use a variety of tricks to keep profit margins high and the waste to a minimum. If you know what to look for, then you can be sure to pick fruits and veggies that will have a longer shelf life at home.</p> <p>I put together a list of 25 commonly purchased grocery items and provided some basic purchasing tips based on my experience working in the produce department. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-by-the-month">Fresh Fruits and Vegetables by the Month</a>)</p> <h3>Avocados</h3> <p>Choosing that perfect avocado can be tricky. Because avocados will only ripen after they are picked, it's really hit or miss in terms of what shape they are in by the time they reach their destination. You can tell if an avo is ripe by the color and how firm it is. If it is bright green and hard, it won't be ready for a few days at least. A ripe avocado will be slightly soft and have a dark green skin, but it shouldn't be too soft. If push your finger into the skin and feel a &quot;space&quot; between the skin and flesh, it is past its prime. If you can't find a ripe avocado at the store, you can always speed up the ripening process by placing it in a brown paper bag, which helps trap the natural <a href="http://www.catalyticgenerators.com/whatisethylene.html">ethylene gas that causes many fruits to ripen</a>. Placing an apple or banana in the bag also helps.</p> <h3>Bananas</h3> <p>Finding ripe bananas is similar to hunting for ready-to-eat avocados &mdash; they are grown in tropical regions, picked early, and shipped to far away places. Customers would often pass up bananas with a few brown spots because they thought they were &quot;overripe.&quot; I would always peel one and let the customer taste, and most people would agree that this is when the banana is at its best. Lastly, from a strictly environmental perspective, you don't have to put your bananas in a plastic bag to bring them to the checkout (same for avocados). I've never understood this phenomenon, since this is one of the only fruits that has an inedible skin. Just be mindful next time you are at the store, and ask yourself, &quot;Do I really need a bag for this?&quot;</p> <h3>Basil</h3> <p>In the summer, many stores will display large bunches of basil in a bucket of water, which tends to look nice for about 24 hours. Make sure you are picking the healthiest bunch; the leaves shouldn't be droopy or shriveled, and they should have a strong aroma. If the basil is bagged, make sure there aren't any black leaves inside. A few spots are okay, but look for the bunch with the greenest leaves. Like most produce, the older items are rotated to the front when the display is restocked, so you may have to dig around a little. If you still can't find healthy-looking basil, ask someone in the department to check in the back. Basil is one of those items that is delivered often, but the new batch may not be on the floor yet.</p> <h3>Beets</h3> <p>Beets, turnips, parsnips, celery root, and other root veggies should never be soft. If your store displays them in a cooler that is too cold or wet, they will tend to get soft faster. Make sure they are hard and colorful, particularly if you plan on making a fresh beet salad or juice. It isn't as much of an issue if you plan to cook root veggies.</p> <h3>Berries</h3> <p>Mold is the biggest issue with berries, particularly the more delicate ones, such as raspberries and blackberries. In the summer, try to buy local berries sold in paper pints. Pick up the pint to check for any wet spots on the bottom, and try to gently shake the berries around to see if there's any hidden mold or broken berries. Mold spreads quickly once it is in the package, particularly plastic packaging. But even in the package, you can often detect bad berries by the smell. It's generally better to buy berries when they are in season since they will have more flavor and cost significantly less. Because they are so delicate and there's a lot of loss, produce departments have to mark up out-of-season berries.</p> <h3>Broccoli</h3> <p>There is some contention over whether it is best to buy crowns or bunches. Crowns tend to be more expensive, but bunches are sold by weight, and if you add the weight of the stalk, it can be just as costly. It really depends on whether or not you will use the stalks. In any case, you want to make sure that the crowns have a dark green hue. If they look pale or have yellow spots, they are on their way out. You can also squeeze the tops to make sure the broccoli is firm. The same goes for cauliflower. Look for a firm head with little to no brown spots.</p> <h3>Carrots</h3> <p>If your store offers bulk carrots, these are your best choice for quality, and they are much cheaper. As a general rule, bagged items have traveled many miles and may have begun to break down. Buying local will guarantee that you are getting the crispest carrots, but if local carrots aren't available, find out the source of the other options (most of the time you can find this information on the bag or ask an employee). Usually, you can find carrots that haven't traveled too far. Carrots should be bright in color and look &quot;alive.&quot; Avoid anything that looks limp, dry, dark, or moldy (similar to other root veggies).</p> <h3>Citrus</h3> <p>A good rule of thumb for citrus is that most varieties <a href="http://www.eatlocalchallenge.com/2006/06/what_is_ripe.html">will not ripen after they are picked</a>. So it is best to buy citrus that is ripe but not rotting. Look for a firm fruit with vibrant colors. Avoid anything that is bruised, wrinkled, or lacking in color.</p> <h3>Corn</h3> <p>Corn will last longer if you buy it with the husk and don't shuck it until you are ready to cook it. The husk keeps the corn moist and fresh. Look for a thick, bright-green husk, and don't buy anything that has dry ends or has too many brown spots. Even if it looks healthy, bugs can still be an issue (particularly with organic corn). Before you buy, peel back the husk without taking too much off, and make sure there aren't any places where the corn is pale, dry, or nibbled on. You can also tell which ears are healthy by weight. The heavier the ear, the more moisture it has retained.</p> <h3>Cucumbers</h3> <p>Cukes should be firm and dark green in color. Pickling cucumbers tend to be lighter in color, but you can always check to see if there are any soft or dark spots. I love Italian cucumbers &mdash; the long, slender ones &mdash; but they don't last as long and are typically sold in plastic wrap, which holds in the moisture and causes more breakdown. For any type of cuke, try to find ones that are not packaged.</p> <h3>Eggplant</h3> <p>Eggplant should be dark purple and firm, though there are <a href="http://www.foodsubs.com/Eggplants.html">many eggplant varieties</a> that have different shapes and colors. All eggplant varieties should have skin that is free of wrinkles and soft spots. Only buy eggplant if you plan to use it soon, since it doesn't store very well. Smaller varieties are less bitter.</p> <h3>Figs</h3> <p>While figs may not be as common as other fruits such as peaches or apricots, they all share the same qualities when they are ripe. Fresh figs are harder to find than dried ones, but they are a real treat if you can buy them when they are ripe. A ripe fig should have the same soft texture as a ripe peach, but it shouldn't be too soft. The skin should be slightly wrinkled but not shriveled. The color depends on the variety, but the most common variety sold in stores is the Brown Turkish Fig, which should have a deep brown color when ripe. But if you ever have the opportunity to eat a fig right of the tree, this is the best way to experience a fresh fig.</p> <h3>Green Beans</h3> <p>You should be able to break a fresh green bean in half without any effort, and it should have a snap to it. Buy green beans in bulk if you can, and put them in paper bags if your store offers them (the paper might absorb some of the moisture, but plastic encourages mold). Like berries, green beans tend to mold quickly, so look for the white furry stuff, especially if the beans are pre-packaged. Avoid anything that looks dark or mushy; a few spots are okay, but don't buy spotty, pale, or limp beans (same goes for snap peas).</p> <h3>Kale</h3> <p>A healthy bunch of kale has a rich color, and the leaves won't droop when you hold the bunch upright. This is true for other leafy greens, such as collards and chard. If you gently squeeze the leaves, they should make a squeaky sound and bounce back immediately. Think about a house plant that hasn't been watered in a while &mdash; don't buy any leafy green that looks like a sad or dying plant.</p> <h3>Lettuce</h3> <p>You can always tell if a head of lettuce is fresh by looking at the bottom where it was cut from the ground. If it is brown and dried out, it hasn't retained any water during its trip from the farm to the grocery shelves. Working in produce in the winter meant a lot more prep work, since we received lettuce from the West coast &mdash; a long distance from Vermont. To revive lettuce, we would trim off the bottom of the heads and soak them it in a sink full of water, which you could do at home, but it is better to pick out the healthiest lettuce at store. Look for lettuce that is crisp, vibrant, and that doesn't have wilted leaves, holes, or dark mushy spots. Avoid pre-packaged lettuce and buy mixed greens in bulk when available. Of course, local is always the best choice when it is in season.</p> <h3>Melons</h3> <p>To halve or not to halve. Forgive the hackneyed cliche, but this was always a debate in the produce department. From my experience, dividing and shrink-wrapping melons was an easy way to help customers see if the fruit was ripe. If a cantaloupe, for instance, had a good color, not too pale but not too dark, and didn't have any dark or pulpy spots, it was ready to eat. Avoid anything that looks too watery or that has a strong musky odor. For an uncut melon, smell the outside, and if you can tell what the fruit is with your eyes closed, it's ripe (this is true for pineapples too).</p> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-unique-ways-to-eat-watermelon">Watermelons</a> are in a slightly different category because they don't smell as strongly, and tapping to see if they sound hollow has never really worked for me. Avoid watermelons that have funky shapes, major discoloration, or anything that feels too light for its size. Heavier watermelons have more water inside and will be juicier. If you aren't sure, you can always compare it to the other ones around the same size and pick the heaviest one. Last word on melons &mdash; be adventurous. There are many types of melons out there, and you never know if one of them might be your new favorite.</p> <h3>Mushrooms</h3> <p>Picking out mushrooms that aren't molded can get dicey, since by definition, they <em>are </em>mold. One of my co-workers grew mushrooms for many years, and he said the best way to tell if a shroom is funky is the smell. Don't buy mushrooms if they smell fishy (not suspicious, but literally like fish). Color and texture are also good indicators. Lots of dark spots, slimy surfaces, and mushrooms that are too spongy are not good signs.</p> <h3>Onions</h3> <p>As with other alliums, such as garlic and shallots, sprouting is a sign that the onion is beginning to break down, but you can always check for wet or dark spots. Although onions have a strong odor to begin with, if the odor is overwhelming, it's probably bad. Look for fruit flies around the bin at the store, and always ask if there are fresher onions in the back since many root veggies are lower on the priority list in terms of restocking.</p> <h3>Pears</h3> <p>Like bananas, pears are actually better if they have brown spots on them. You don't want them to fall apart in your hands, but they should be relatively soft and aromatic. You can always request to taste one if there are many in the bunch that look too ripe. I've found that most people who work in produce are very friendly and generous with sampling, but as a rule, the brown spots on the skin are more of an indication of ripeness than rotting fruit.</p> <h3>Peppers</h3> <p>Smooth skin usually means a healthy pepper; however, wrinkles on jalapenos are okay, but be wary, because this often means that they are extra hot! All peppers should be firm and free of holes or dark spots, and they shouldn't feel like a rubber when you gently squeeze them.</p> <h3>Potatoes</h3> <p>You'll often find that potatoes are sold in plastic bags, which is the worst possible way to store potatoes. I'm assuming this is done so that customers can see the condition of the potatoes, but try to buy potatoes in bulk or sold in paper bags. Again, sprouts and spots are usually good indicators of a bad potato, but wrinkled skin is another one, along with soft flesh. Sometimes you can pick off the sprouts and they are still fine, but always check for green potatoes by scraping away a little of the skin. There's still a debate over <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/03/health/nutrition/03real.html">how toxic green potatoes really are</a>, but it's definitely a sign that the root has begun to break down.</p> <h3>Radishes</h3> <p>If the radishes are sold with the tops, you can tell how fresh they are by the health of the greens. Yellow or wilted leaves are a sign that the radish has been on the shelf for a while; however, always check the actual root. If it is still firm, then it is still fresh.</p> <h3>Tomatoes</h3> <p>Tomatoes have three simple fresh indicators: Color, texture, and fruit flies. Avoid pale tomatoes (heirlooms are exceptions to this rule) and any tomato that has been damaged. Once the skin is broken, they will break down much more quickly. When buying packaged cherry tomatoes, pick up the package. If you see fruit flies buzzing in all directions, put it back. If you aren't sure how to tell if an heirloom is ripe, just ask someone. For the most part, a tomato is ripe when it is soft enough to squeeze without breaking the skin.</p> <h3>Winter Squash</h3> <p>Winter squash will last for quite some time after harvest if stored properly. Whether it's butternut, acorn, or delicata, look for the squash that is heavy for its size (like watermelons), and don't buy winter squash if it is soft or if the rind is shriveled or dark in places.</p> <h3>Zucchini (and Summer Squash)</h3> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-ways-to-preserve-zucchini">Zucchini</a> and summer squash are very similar, and you will often find them displayed near one another. Like most items on this list, avoid anything with mushy brown spots or that is too pale. Depending on the variety, the color should be bright and consistent. You can tell by the ends as well. Don't buy anything that has dry or squishy tips. The skin should also have a nice sheen and rubbery texture.</p> <p>From avocados to zucchini, you can always rely on color, texture, and size to help ensure freshness and quality when buying produce. Just remember three basic rules to guide you along the way: Ask questions, buy in season and local if possible, and don't be afraid to handle the goods. As long as you are gentle and not causing more damage, you have every right to inspect your produce before you buy it.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ashley-watson">Ashley Watson</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-produce-workers-guide-to-choosing-fruits-and-vegetables">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-off-season-foods-that-are-destroying-your-grocery-budget">5 Off-Season Foods That Are Destroying Your Grocery Budget</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/is-a-farm-share-a-smart-buy-for-your-household">Is a Farm Share a Smart Buy for Your Household?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/buy-this-not-that-at-the-farmers-market">Buy This — Not That — at the Farmer&#039;s Market</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/wise-bread-reloaded-is-eating-more-produce-the-secret-to-happiness-and-wellbeing">Wise Bread Reloaded: Is Eating More Produce the Secret to Happiness and Wellbeing?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-by-the-month">Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, By the Month</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink Shopping eating fresh fruit grocery shopping produce vegetables Mon, 18 Jul 2011 10:36:16 +0000 Ashley Watson 615096 at http://www.wisebread.com Fresh vs. Frozen: 5 Dinner Comparisons http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-vs-frozen-5-dinner-comparisons <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/fresh-vs-frozen-5-dinner-comparisons" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/frozen food aisle.jpg" alt="frozen food aisle" title="frozen food aisle" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="145" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I really love to cook. Recently, however, my work schedule was ridiculously busy, and I was getting home later and later. To get dinner on the table, I decided to try something completely out of character: frozen food. If you read my posts, you know that I&rsquo;m usually a die-hard do-it-yourself-er. I <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cut-rate-condiments-homemade-mayo">make my own mayonnaise</a>, for crying out loud. Also, frozen foods tend to be high in sodium and fats, so I have, in the past, stayed clear.</p> <p>The beauty of frozen meals, though, is that they take about 15 minutes or less to heat. So on one of my dead-tired days, I took a trip down Walmart&rsquo;s frozen food aisle. There were a surprising number of frozen bags of food that looked pretty darn appetizing. I decided to give one of them a try. My husband and I thought it was fine for a busy-day dinner, rounded out with bread and salad. That experiment led me to wonder about the other brands and varieties, and we ended up trying five &ldquo;bagged&rdquo; dinners. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/twenty-five-ways-to-use-frozen-spinach">25 Ways to Use Frozen Spinach</a>)</p> <p>At first I wrote a post about my frozen-dinner taste-tests. In all honesty, it was pretty boring. Then I had an epiphany: I would make home-made versions of all the dinners we had tried and compare them to the store-bought versions. There was a challenge, and I do love a challenge.</p> <p>So, here are the results of my experiment &mdash; reviews of the frozen versions and their fresh counterparts. Of course, I could not find the <em>exact</em> recipes online, but I thought these versions were very close. Also, I live in Hawaii, so my prices are likely higher than mainland prices.</p> <h2>Stouffer&rsquo;s Teriyaki Chicken Skillet</h2> <ul> <li>Cost: $6.18</li> <li>Servings per container: 2</li> </ul> <p>My husband pronounced this entrée &ldquo;eminently edible.&rdquo; He has a good vocabulary. I don&rsquo;t, and I would say, &ldquo;It was okay, but next time I&rsquo;ll try microwaving it.&rdquo; This is because although I followed the directions exactly, the rice wanted to stick to the bottom of the skillet. I finally just let it steam for a few minutes, and then it came off. Also, the vegetables were a little overcooked.</p> <h3>Fresh Version</h3> <p>As far as time went, the homemade <a href="http://caloriecount.about.com/teriyaki-chicken-rice-recipe-r2941">teriyaki chicken with rice</a> lost, because you begin by marinating the chicken for two hours. Once the chicken was marinated, though, it went together in about a half an hour. For flavor, the homemade version won, hands down. I added a cup each of carrots, broccoli, and red peppers, plus one can of water chestnuts (and was careful not to overcook the vegetables). I was able to make dinner <em>plus</em> lunch the next day.</p> <h3>Cost Per Serving</h3> <ul> <li>Frozen: $3.09</li> <li>Fresh: $2.41</li> </ul> <p><strong>Winner</strong>: Fresh</p> <h2>Birds Eye Voila! Garlic Chicken</h2> <ul> <li>Cost: $4.18</li> <li>Servings per container: 2</li> </ul> <p>We both really liked this frozen dinner. With a tossed salad and some French bread, it was just great. The vegetables (assuming you follow the directions) are not overcooked, and the chicken really, um, tastes like chicken.</p> <h3>Fresh Version</h3> <p>The homemade <a href="http://caloriecount.about.com/garlic-chicken-pasta-recipe-r134">garlic chicken</a> tasted a LOT like the frozen version. It was very good and easy. However, I did a lot of tinkering with this recipe, starting by cutting it way down (1/4 lb. pasta and 1/4 lb. chicken). I also reduced the garlic to 1 tbsp and used a combination of 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil in place of 4 tbsp of butter. I added a cup each of broccoli, corn, and carrots. This went together fairly quickly, in under 45 minutes. Again, it made enough for four servings.</p> <h3>Cost Per Serving</h3> <ul> <li>Frozen: $2.09</li> <li>Fresh: $2.25</li> </ul> <p><strong>Winner:</strong> Draw</p> <h2>Birds Eye Voila! Three-Cheese Chicken</h2> <ul> <li>Cost: $4.18</li> <li>Servings per container: 2</li> </ul> <p>Basically, this is macaroni and cheese with vegetables and chicken. That is not a complaint! We both liked it and ate it all. Plus, the Birds Eye folks have this frozen veggie thing DOWN. No mushy stuff. Two thumbs up on the frozen.</p> <h3>Fresh Version</h3> <p>To use a texting expression, OMG. It was so good. Birds Eye calls their version &ldquo;three-cheese&rdquo; chicken, but if you look at the ingredients, there are actually four cheeses: Romano, cheddar, Parmesan, and blue cheese. I could not find a recipe close to this online, so I made up my own, adding 1 1/2 cups each of broccoli, corn, and carrots to 10 oz. of pasta. I sauteed 2 boneless chicken thighs and tossed the mixture with 1 cup of the mixed cheeses. My husband thought the blue cheese &ldquo;made&rdquo; the dish, and we could have eaten a ton of it. But we didn&rsquo;t, since there was enough for leftovers. It took about 45 minutes to put together.</p> <h3>Cost Per Serving</h3> <ul> <li>Frozen: $2.09</li> <li>Fresh: $2.24</li> </ul> <p><strong>Winner: </strong>FRESH, definitely</p> <h2>Bertolli Mediterranean Garlic Shrimp, Penne &amp; Cherry Tomatoes</h2> <ul> <li>Cost: $6.88</li> <li>Servings per container: 2</li> </ul> <p>The Bertolli packaging looked great, which convinced me to try it. (Yes, sometimes I buy wines by their labels and books by their covers, too.) This tasty meal contained swanky asparagus and shrimp, plus cherry tomatoes, in a great buttery garlic sauce with penne. The vegetables were surprisingly good. I hesitated a little when I saw the price &mdash; but I had also recently priced both frozen shrimp and asparagus, so I knew they were expensive. We would have liked to have more shrimp, but that is probably asking too much.</p> <h3>Fresh Version</h3> <p>&ldquo;Fine.&rdquo; How is that for a resounding review of this <a href="http://caloriecount.about.com/shrimp-asparagus-pasta-recipe-r5495">shrimp and asparagus pasta</a>? To keep it frugal, I bought raw shrimp. That meant deveining and peeling, a cooking chore I don&rsquo;t enjoy. No, wait &mdash; I hate it. It <em>looked</em> a lot like the frozen version, but next time, I&rsquo;ll let the Bertolli people do all the work. Also problematic &mdash; it took forever to make. Well, maybe not forever, but the stupid shrimp alone took 20 minutes, and then it was another roughly 30 minutes of chopping, grating, and cooking. Sure, it made enough for leftovers, but it was only &ldquo;fine&rdquo; the second time around, too. I added a half cup of grape tomatoes to the recipe.</p> <h3>Cost Per Serving</h3> <ul> <li>Frozen: $3.44</li> <li>Fresh: $3.70</li> </ul> <p><strong>Winner:</strong> FROZEN. (Who wants to eat &ldquo;fine&rdquo;? BOR-ing.)</p> <h2>T.G.I. Friday&rsquo;s Sizzling Chicken Fajitas</h2> <ul> <li>Cost: $6.88</li> <li>Servings per container: 2</li> </ul> <p>Of all the packaged meals we tried, I was the most hesitant about this one. My husband is a big fan of fajitas, and I was worried that a frozen fajitas meal would not meet his criteria. I followed the directions exactly and heated up some fat-free refried beans to go on the side. Surprise! The fajitas were tasty. His words: &ldquo;Hey, it&rsquo;s not Chevy&rsquo;s, but it&rsquo;s good.&rdquo; (Chevy&rsquo;s is a west-coast chain of Tex-Mex restaurants.) He also thought I had to buy <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/ten-tortilla-tips-for-mealtime-madness">tortillas</a> to go with them. Nope. I did take out some of the onions from the vegetable mix (there were just too many for me). These frozen fajitas were something you could really dress up, if you wanted, with guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, etc.</p> <h3>Fresh Version</h3> <p>The homemade <a href="http://www.food.com/recipe/chicken-fajitas-91860">fajitas</a> really had a WOW factor. I was left wondering &quot;Why the heck haven&rsquo;t I been making these, all along?&quot; I had this incorrect idea in my head that they were hard to make. Not so. My husband said, &ldquo;Frozen, pretty good...versus fresh, VERY good.&rdquo; It went together in about 45 minutes, and I have to admit there was a lot of chopping. I cut it down to a four-serving size, though, and we made breakfast burritos the next day out of the leftover filling and scrambled eggs.</p> <h3>Cost Per Serving</h3> <ul> <li>Frozen: $3.44</li> <li>Fresh:&nbsp;$2.73</li> </ul> <p><b>Winner:</b> &iexcl;FRESCO!</p> <p>My ending thoughts? Unless you are the <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4X4MwbVf5OA">Enjoli woman</a>, go ahead and give yourself a weeknight break with one of these frozen meals.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/marla-walters">Marla Walters</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-vs-frozen-5-dinner-comparisons">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-3"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cheaper-and-healthier-than-store-bought-10-great-freeze-ahead-burrito-recipes">Cheaper and Healthier Than Store-Bought: 10 Great Freeze-Ahead Burrito Recipes</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/oodles-of-noodles-25-ways-to-prepare-pasta">Oodles of Noodles: 25 Ways to Prepare Pasta</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-quick-cheap-lunch-ideas">25 Quick, Cheap Lunch Ideas</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-produce-workers-guide-to-choosing-fruits-and-vegetables">The Produce Worker&#039;s Guide to Choosing Fruits and Vegetables</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/breaking-the-bread-code-how-to-get-the-freshest-loaf">Breaking the Bread Code: How to Get the Freshest Loaf</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink cheap dinner recipes eating fresh frozen food quick meals tv dinners Tue, 19 Apr 2011 13:37:34 +0000 Marla Walters 522987 at http://www.wisebread.com Breaking the Bread Code: How to Get the Freshest Loaf http://www.wisebread.com/breaking-the-bread-code-how-to-get-the-freshest-loaf <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/breaking-the-bread-code-how-to-get-the-freshest-loaf" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/targetbread.jpg" alt="Bread on a store shelf" title="Bread on a store shelf" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="165" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Bread.</p> <p>In America, we each consume around <a href="http://breaddaily.tripod.com/fun_bread_facts.htm">53 pounds of it every year</a>. It&rsquo;s the one food eaten by people of every race, culture, or religion. And we all want the freshest loaf whenever we buy it.</p> <p>But is there a way to spot it, other than squeezing, tapping, or simply guessing?</p> <p>Well, it turns out that there&rsquo;s a simple visual code that can take you straight to the freshest loaf in seconds. And it&rsquo;s all contained in the twist ties or plastic clips around the top of the bread bag. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/fresh-fruits-and-vegetables-by-the-month">Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, By the Month</a>)</p> <h3>The Color Code of Freshness</h3> <p>I often wondered why they used different colors on those tags and ties. When I was a kid, I had hundreds of bread clips on the spokes of my bicycle tires, but I just figured the colors were for variety.</p> <p>As it turns out, they indicate when the loaf was baked. The standard is as follows:</p> <ul> <li>Blue: Monday</li> <li>Green: Tuesday</li> <li>Red: Thursday</li> <li>White: Friday</li> <li>Yellow: Saturday</li> </ul> <p>And here's a quick color key that you can keep on you, if you so desire:</p> <p><img width="600" height="228" alt="" src="http://i.imgur.com/gCCmE.png" /></p> <p>An easy way to remember it, though, is to simply recall the alphabet. The colors run in alphabetical order, so the earlier they appear in the alphabet, the earlier in the week the bread was baked. And it&rsquo;s true. Even the <a href="http://www.snopes.com/food/prepare/breadtag.asp">ever-cynical Snopes.com</a> backs it up.</p> <p>This whole system was set up to help the supermarkets and grocers identify which bread was new, which was getting old (so it can be put on sale), and which was out of date and needed to be removed from the shelves. As a general rule of thumb, you should only see two colors of tags on the shelves at any one time, or three maximum for those days when bread wasn't delivered. But that doesn&rsquo;t stop the old bread from sneaking in though. Do a check next time and see for yourself.</p> <p>So when you go to the store for your next loaf, make sure the color of the tag is the same as the day on which you are shopping. Blue for Monday, green for Tuesday, and so on. Please note that if it&rsquo;s Wednesday, you also want green. Sunday, you want yellow. For some reason, the system does not include those days. Some say it&rsquo;s because bakers did not used to bake on Wednesdays and Sundays.</p> <h3>There Are Exceptions to the Rule</h3> <p>Of course there are. Life would be too easy if everyone followed the same rules, made the same chargers for every cell phone, and used the same bread code.</p> <p>So in some rare instances, you may see bread tags that are one color regardless of the day on which they were baked.&nbsp;They may simply contain a date. In that case, here&rsquo;s what you need to remember:</p> <p><em>The date on the tag is the sell-by date, not the date it was baked.</em></p> <p>Ahh, but what if there&rsquo;s just a twist tie that&rsquo;s always the same color? Well in that case, you should see a date somewhere on the bread bag. The same rule from above applies.</p> <h3>Some Bread Makers Have Their Own Color-Coding Systems</h3> <p>Again, this is not the norm, but some companies have created their own color codes for various reasons. This is not helpful for them, because it makes the task of restocking that much more difficult for the supermarket.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re really anal about having the freshest bread, and you want to check, just call the maker of your favorite loaf of bread and ask what their color-coding system is. It will usually be the one in this article, but better safe than sorry.</p> <p>Now go, get your <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/what-to-do-about-the-rising-cost-of-bread">fresh bread</a>. Unless you&rsquo;re making bread-and-butter pudding, in which case buy the oldest loaf you can find.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/paul-michael">Paul Michael</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/breaking-the-bread-code-how-to-get-the-freshest-loaf">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-10"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-is-gasoline-so-cheap-a-cost-comparison-of-40-common-household-liquids">Why is Gasoline So Cheap? A Cost Comparison of 40 Common Household Liquids</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/buy-this-not-that-at-the-farmers-market">Buy This — Not That — at the Farmer&#039;s Market</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-5-credit-cards-for-groceries">The 5 Best Credit Cards for Groceries</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-and-worst-times-to-go-grocery-shopping">The Best and Worst Times to Go Grocery Shopping</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-9-easiest-food-budget-wins">The 9 Easiest Food Budget Wins</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink General Tips Shopping bakery bread eating fresh groceries Mon, 21 Feb 2011 13:36:21 +0000 Paul Michael 491547 at http://www.wisebread.com The Great Coupon Debate http://www.wisebread.com/the-great-coupon-debate <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-great-coupon-debate" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/free_grocery_coupons_prod_image.gif" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="324" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p> My husband and I approach grocery shopping as if we are from entirely different worlds. My ways of cutting corners are: going to Trader Joe&#39;s, buying fruits and veggies in season, trading for them (see earlier post Fresh Fruit for Rotten Cheapskates), and doing lots of dishes that require rice, beans, lentils, etc. I have a juicer so I go that route, or drink tea, or water---all cheaply acquired. Shopping for the kids&#39; lunches takes me into milk, cheese sticks, juiceboxes, and other lunch fare. Couple of nights a week I try to make something interesting that might require a special effort to purchase organic free range chicken or galanga root or tempura mix. And sure , I&#39;ve flipped through my mom&#39;s Sunday Sacramento Bee but I&#39;ve never found coupons that I could use for products I normally buy or am trying to buy except for some Aleve. Sure, there are Organic brand coupons every once in awhile, but when I&#39;m at the market and there is locally grown spinach versus a package of pre-washed from a hundred miles away, I go with the local--even if it means .25--.50 more. </p> <p> Enter my husband who has, on more than one occasion come waltzing in the front door at dinner time with a two for one deal on Lucky Charms cereal under his arm. They were on sale he says! And I had a coupon! The kids of course run up to him as if he were Santa Claus with his bag of goodies. (My kids didn&#39;t even know they existed until he sat them down and had a bowl with them. Geez, thanks honey. Talk about your gateway drugs...).</p> <p> My husband is the quintessential coupon user. He has absolutely no name brand loyalty so it&#39;s emotionally easy for him to go from one brand to another and back again based solely on coupon availability for said products. Something in me fights this. Why go for a product you don&#39;t know when you like the one you do know? He&#39;s willing to give everything a try for the sake of saving us cash. I have to give him credit--when I send him to our nearest major grocery store (Safeway), he goes, armed with coupons from the Sunday paper, the Internet, magazines all in his backpack. On the receipt at the end he always has a tally of $35--55 dollars saved by coupons and &#39;club&#39; membership to Safeway. Hmm...</p> <p> Meanwhile, back in the kitchen I unload the groceries and find some things we use and a bunch of things I&#39;m uncertain of. I&#39;m a make everything from scratch kind of girl. Store bought dressings? A lifetime supply of Stouffer&#39;s Mac and Cheese? Hmm...I suppose a lot of this goes down to personal taste, but the majority of coupons in your Sunday paper are for processed foods made by giant corporations. It&#39;s not like I don&#39;t like processed food that&#39;s not good for you, it&#39;s more like I&#39;m an addict and I don&#39;t want it around tempting me and the kids to indulge our collective sloth. </p> <p> I keep searching for coupons for organic fresh produce and bio degradable products. They do exist. But they are far less frequent. I use them when I find them. But I have to admit my grocery list contains what I need, then what I want, and if I happen to find a coupon, I use it. My husband shops by coupon and deal only. The kids of course, don&#39;t care at all. But I wonder what this constant search for the deal does to our quality of life. Can we just enjoy? Is his way hurting our health? Is my way hurting our pocketbook? Which should we be worried about more? Is there a happy medium?</p> <p> We are embarking on an experiment in November. He will purchase all groceries for the entire month his way. December we will go entirely my way and then we&#39;ll look at our receipts and journals of what we ate and see how we feel. So wisebread readers with spouses that lean in the opposite direction---do you have these issues? What do you guys do? What works for you? I&#39;ll let you know how the experiment went in a couple of months. </p> <p> Postscript:</p> <p>The husband offered these ebay links below where one can purchase coupons in bulk. Has anyone had experience with this as well? He also suggests </p> <p> <a href="http://discounts.shopathome.com/Discounts_And_Coupons/Default-GroceryCoupons.aspx?refer=76108&amp;src=SEPDSE" title="http://discounts.shopathome.com/Discounts_And_Coupons/Default-GroceryCoupons.aspx?refer=76108&amp;src=SEPDSE">http://discounts.shopathome.com/Discounts_And_Coupons/Default-GroceryCou...</a></p> <p><a href="http://free-grocerycoupons.net/home.html" title="http://free-grocerycoupons.net/home.html">http://free-grocerycoupons.net/home.html</a> </p> <p>Teas<br /><a href="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Tea+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Juice+Coupons&amp;_osacat=159888" title="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Tea+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Juice+Coupons&amp;_osacat=159888">http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Tea+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb...</a></p> <p>Breads<br /><a href="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Bread+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Tea+Coupons&amp;_osacat=159888" title="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Bread+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Tea+Coupons&amp;_osacat=159888">http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Bread+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromf...</a></p> <p>Free Rage Organic Eggs<br /><a href="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Egg+Coupons+-rolls+-roll&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Egg+Coupons+-rolls&amp;_osacat=159888" title="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Egg+Coupons+-rolls+-roll&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Egg+Coupons+-rolls&amp;_osacat=159888">http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Egg+Coupons+-rolls+-roll&amp;_sacat=15...</a></p> <p>Juice<br /><a href="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Egg+Coupons+-rolls+-roll&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Egg+Coupons+-rolls&amp;_osacat=159888" title="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Egg+Coupons+-rolls+-roll&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Egg+Coupons+-rolls&amp;_osacat=159888">http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Egg+Coupons+-rolls+-roll&amp;_sacat=15...</a></p> <p>Kotex<br /><a href="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Kotex+COupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=organic+Coupons&amp;_osacat=159888" title="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Kotex+COupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=organic+Coupons&amp;_osacat=159888">http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Kotex+COupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromf...</a></p> <p>Organic Milk<br /><a href="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/Inside-the-Home__Milk-coupons-MCDOnalds_W0QQ_nkwZMilkQ20couponsQ20Q2dMCDOnaldsQQ_catrefZ1QQ_flnZ1QQ_fromfsbZQQ_sacatZ159888QQ_trksidZp3286Q2ec0Q2em282?_trksid=p3286.c0.m282" title="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/Inside-the-Home__Milk-coupons-MCDOnalds_W0QQ_nkwZMilkQ20couponsQ20Q2dMCDOnaldsQQ_catrefZ1QQ_flnZ1QQ_fromfsbZQQ_sacatZ159888QQ_trksidZp3286Q2ec0Q2em282?_trksid=p3286.c0.m282">http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/Inside-the-Home__Milk-coupons-MCDOnalds_...</a></p> <p>Morning Star food<br /><a href="http://shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Morning+Stars+coupons&amp;_sacat=0&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Morning+Stars&amp;_osacat=0" title="http://shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Morning+Stars+coupons&amp;_sacat=0&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Morning+Stars&amp;_osacat=0">http://shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Morning+Stars+coupons&amp;_sacat=0&amp;_fromfsb...</a></p> <p>Organic stuff</p> <p><a href="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Organic+coupons+&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Organic+coupons+-MCDOnalds&amp;_osacat=159888" title="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Organic+coupons+&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Organic+coupons+-MCDOnalds&amp;_osacat=159888">http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Organic+coupons+&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fr...</a></p> <p>Salads (fresh items) <br /><a href="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Salad+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Organic+coupons&amp;_osacat=159888" title="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Salad+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Organic+coupons&amp;_osacat=159888">http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Salad+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromf...</a></p> <p>Toms of Maine <br /><a href="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Tom%27s+COupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Kotex+COupons&amp;_osacat=159888" title="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Tom%27s+COupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Kotex+COupons&amp;_osacat=159888">http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Tom%27s+COupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fro...</a></p> <p>Yougurt<br /><a href="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Yogurt+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Salad+Coupons&amp;_osacat=159888" title="http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Yogurt+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_fromfsb=&amp;_trksid=m270.l1313&amp;_odkw=Salad+Coupons&amp;_osacat=159888">http://home.shop.ebay.com/items/?_nkw=Yogurt+Coupons&amp;_sacat=159888&amp;_from...</a> </p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/maggie-wells">Maggie Wells</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-great-coupon-debate">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/breaking-the-bread-code-how-to-get-the-freshest-loaf">Breaking the Bread Code: How to Get the Freshest Loaf</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/horizon-organic-milk-is-it-all-just-lies">Horizon Organic Milk: Is it All Just Lies?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-produce-workers-guide-to-choosing-fruits-and-vegetables">The Produce Worker&#039;s Guide to Choosing Fruits and Vegetables</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-only-15-foods-that-are-worth-buying-organic">The Only 15 Foods That Are Worth Buying Organic</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/baby-carrots-the-frugal-idea-that-isnt">Baby Carrots: The Frugal Idea That Isn&#039;t</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Food and Drink cutting coupons eating fresh organic Processed foods Thu, 16 Oct 2008 05:32:30 +0000 Maggie Wells 2523 at http://www.wisebread.com