Refrigerator

You Won’t Believe How Easy Meal Prep Could Be! And how Much Money It Can Help You Save!

Dealing with getting lunch at work can be a real downer. If you don’t plan ahead, you’ll be stuck with the often unhealthy and unnaturally large portions available at fast food joints and other restaurants.

If you’re trying to eat healthy, you’ll find limited options, and expensive ones at that.Leave your days of $12 salads behind by doing meal prep in advance so you can bring your own healthy — and delicious — lunch to work every day.

How to Meal Prep Like a Pro

The key to getting started with meal prepping is to not try to do too much too fast. If you’re accustomed to never packing a lunch, start with prepping a couple of days a week. Once it becomes a habit you can work on packing lunches every day.

Think about what kinds of foods you like to eat that can be eaten cold or easily reheated. Because we’re talking healthy lunches, think about salads, soups, grain dishes, beans, sandwiches and wraps. We’ve got 10 great recipes to get you started below, but you’ll definitely do better sticking to your healthy lunch plan if you’re making things you like.

Another great idea is to choose items that will freeze well. Many soups, grains and beans do well in the freezer, so you can make a big batch and freeze it in lunch-sized portions to be pulled out in future weeks. Score!

Check your kitchen for supplies you can repurpose to help with your meal prep. You’ll need small plastic or glass food storage containers (Mason jars are excellent for this purpose). You may also want a bento box or divided lunch box if your meal will consist of multiple items. They’re also adorable.

Prepping once for the whole week of healthy lunches is a great habit to get into, and a great way to spend your Sunday afternoon or evening. But be aware of food safety and don’t keep foods for too long after you prepare them.

How long can you keep your food?

Salads will be best in the day or two after you make them. Meat can hold in the fridge for three or four days. Vegetarian items can go longer, and things that have been kept in the freezer are good for at least six months in cold storage and for a few days after thawing.

Here are some great starter recipes to get you excited about meal prep and healthy eating.

Maybe the classic meal prep lunch is the Mason jar salad. There’s a good reason for that: they are cute, easy to make and you can make a great variety of salads, both with greens and with pasta, by following this same basic structure.

Organize Yourself Skinny has the lowdown on what makes a Mason jar salad work — basically, you put the dressing on the bottom, then some hard-vegetable barrier between the dressing and the greens or pasta — and links to more than a dozen ideas you can make yourself.

Her Greek Mason jar salad, pictured above, calls for chicken but you could also sub chickpeas to make it vegetarian and to save money, though either way these salads are only a couple of bucks a serving.

Homemade Instant Noodles

Ramen is a meal you might have left behind in your poor college student days (or not), but you can give that classic broke food a serious and healthy upgrade with the tips from Serious Eats.

This homemade instant noodle…

The Funniest Tweets From Parents This Week

Kids may say the darndest things, but parents tweet about them in the funniest ways. So each week, we round up the most hilarious 140-character quips from moms and dads to spread the joy. Scroll down to read the latest batch and follow @HuffPostParents on Twitter for more!

2-year-old: *stares at a pregnant lady in church*

Me: She has a baby in her tummy.

2: *whispering* She ate it.

— James Breakwell (@XplodingUnicorn) April 30, 2017

*checks kid’s backpack*

*finds papers from September and a liquefied banana*

*zips backpack and walks away*

— Tiffany Neal (@tiffanyaneal) May 3, 2017

Five Little Monkeys jumping on the bed

One fell off and bumped his head

Mama sipped wine and said, “told ya.”

— ThisOneSays (@ThisOneSayz) May 1, 2017

Welcome to my home! No you’re mistaken, it isn’t a mess, it’s just gallery-style so you can see everything we own at once. Watch your step.

— Ash (@adult_mom) May 2, 2017

My son prayed that his fidget spinner would come a day early and it did so I guess we worship at the church of Prime.

— Valerie (@ValeeGrrl) May 1, 2017

Nurse: *handing me a newborn* You got this?
Me: Sometimes I have to dig through the trash to re-read the instructions for mac ‘n’ cheese

— Mommy Cusses (@mommy_cusses) May 2, 2017

I’ve never been a zoo-keeper, but I can’t imagine being the mother of small children is much different.

— Mommy Owl (@Lhlodder) May 5, 2017

The expression “do what I say not as I do,” was probably coined by a parent eating ice cream before…

How to Shop for Food Once a Month and Save Big

I’ve changed my grocery shopping habits quite dramatically, and it’s really paid off. First, I’ve saved several hundred dollars on food in a single month. And beyond that, I’ve saved a ton of time. What exactly did I do? Well, I started shopping for the majority of my groceries on just one day each month. It may sound overwhelming, but it’s definitely doable, and has worked well for my family.

Here’s how you can try this method, too.

Take stock

Before I even began meal planning or thinking about shopping, I took a look around my pantry and refrigerator shelves. We actually did a “use-it-up” meal week before the big shop. We ate the remaining pasta, cooked all the beans, and snacked on that rogue pudding cup in the back of the fridge. You know, just so we’d be down to basically nothing.

You don’t have to clear out all your food to get planning. Still, it’s a good idea to take stock of what you have before you start making grocery lists. That way you’ll avoid buying duplicates. Heck, you may also realize that you mindlessly pick up a can of salsa or jar of jam every week even though you don’t need them.

Begin meal planning

After you’ve assessed your situation, you can get to meal planning. This part of the process is the most important. It may even be the most time consuming. Taking time to plan your meals, though, is the key to success. You don’t want to buy a mega load of groceries and then not know what to do with them.

What I do is sort of old school. I have a regular notebook and I write down the number of weekdays and weekends for that month. From there, I’ll start planning the dinners. I write out how many we’ll cook at home and how many nights we might eat out (or be out of town, in meetings, etc.).

Last month, I ended up with a total of 23 dinners at home.

Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks are a bit different. We tend to fall into habits with those. I’ll eat oatmeal every day, my daughter likes cereal, and my husband noshes on eggs and toast for breakfast. On weekends, we may do something like pancakes.

Lunches are pretty much the same: PBJ, pretzels, and applesauce for my daughter. My husband packs salads and big Greek yogurt creations. I usually eat leftovers. The baby eats bits of what we eat since she only just started eating solid foods.

How to plan your meals

So, how exactly can you plan meals efficiently? We have a running list of the dinners that have been hits in our house. I’d say there are 15-20 meals on this list. When I’m meal planning, I choose maybe six of these meals to incorporate into our month.

For example, we may…

It’s The Era Of Avocado! Try these 50+ Super Easy Avocado Recipes At Home Now!

Avocados are gaining popularity because of their rich nutritional value plus it’s mild and unique taste. It’s a versatile food that works with all kinds of dishes. Avocados are not only nutritious and delicious, they seem to be the hipster icon of the year. I have seen so many avocado tattoos on calf muscles and biceps that I’ve lost count. So if you love that green berry (yes, avocados are berries) so much that you would eat it for every meal and get a tattoo of it, stay tuned. The potential to add them to everything from smoothies for a rich and creamy texture, to desserts in order to substitute unhealthy fats, is endless! Avocados are super nutrient-rich, and the fact that they taste delicious makes it easy to get all your vitamins and healthy fats with every bite.

How to shop for avocados:

I love a good life hack, and luckily there are plenty for picking avocados. It’s difficult to base your decision on color alone (though you should observe any discoloration and bruising,) so it’s better to squeeze the berry gently and see if it’s firm but gives just a little. Don’t use your fingertips though, because you could wind up bruising it! If the avocado yields to firm, gentle pressure, then it’s ripe and ready. But if it just feels kind of tough, it’s going to need a couple more days 1

My favorite life hack for avocado selection is this one: peel back the stem! If you scratch off the tiny little stem on the top of the avocado, you’ll be able to know if your choice will be delicious or just brown and slimy inside. If the stem comes off easy and what’s underneath appears green, then it’s ripe! If you find brown underneath, then it’s overripe and won’t be good. And if the stem doesn’t come off and all, then the avocado is under ripe and won’t be ready for some time.

If you’re buying avocados for an event, such as a party that absolutely needs guacamole, purchase unripe avocados 4-5 days in advance. That should give you a nice window and help to ensure you won’t wind up with over-ripe berries at your party.

Taking off the steam is the easiest way to tell whether it’s good to eat or not!

It’s not ripped yet!

How to store avocados:

Once you’re a pro at choosing avocados, you still have to be able to store them. If you’re like me, you don’t always use the entire berry in one sitting; sometime’s I’ll put half into my smoothie, and sometimes I spread a quarter on toast. I typically put my leftover avocado in Tupperware before sticking it in the fridge, but there are better ways to store the green goodness and ensure it won’t be gross by the next morning 2.

No matter what form it’s in, cut, sliced, mashed, or even guacamole, put the remainders in a bowl and sprinkle some lemon, lime or even fresh orange juice on top. The acid slows down the oxidation process (that’s what leads to the brown slime) and prolongs the life of the avocado. But if you do start to see some browning, just scoop those parts out and toss them.

If your avocado is simply sliced in half, you can just run some water over the cut surface and put it in the fridge. It’ll most likely develop a little brown film, but it’ll peel back easily and can be tossed.

If your avocado is perfectly ripe but you don’t have the time to use it, don’t throw it away! Puree your avocado with a food processor or blender and store it in the freezer. When you are ready to try out that new dip or spread recipe, you can take it out and use it.

How to ripen an avocado:

I think we’ve all been there: in the produce section of our supermarket standing in front of the lousy selection of avocados and being forced to find the best of the worst. Obviously you want to choose one that is under-ripe and not over-ripe, but it still means you are going to have to wait to be able to eat it. Maybe as long as four days! Or does it?

It turns out, there are some simple and effective methods to ripening an avocado quickly.

  1. Place the under-ripe avocado in a paper bag. Make sure the bag is in good shape and there aren’t any rips or tears. The bag is going to seal in the ethylene gas and ultimately ripen the berry.
  2. Add a banana in the bag with the avocado. You can use an apple or a tomato if you don’t have any bananas lying around, but the banana is your first choice. These fruits emit more ethylene gas than others, and the more they produce, the faster they’ll ripen.
  3. Close the bag by rolling it down and keep it at room temperature and away from sunlight.
  4. Check in often. The avocado will ripen as quickly as one day, so be sure to check it out. As it ripens, it will get some hints of deep purple and black. Once it’s ripe, store it as discussed, but only fora few days.

How to ripen a cut avocado:

If you forgot to check for the ripeness of the avocado and went straight to slicing it open, you may be disappointed to realize it’s not read to eat. Luckily you can take a couple steps and ripen the halves in no time.

  1. Sprinkle the avocado…

8 Recipes That’ll Clean Out the Fridge

“Mom, there’s nothing to eat!”

Ah, the cry of the hungry child. But there is plenty of food in the fridge, even if it looks like a collection of mismatched ingredients. Maybe instead of hitting the grocery store, you need to get into frugal mode and whip up something delicious and easy with those leftovers. Handy items to have around that can bring any assortment of ingredients together are whole-wheat tortillas, spring roll (rice paper) wrappers, biscuits, panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), and eggs. Here are eight easy meals that’ll clean out the fridge. (See also: 10 Cheap and Easy Meals That Make Even Better Leftovers)

1. Fried rice patties

Got fried rice? Make crispy fritters. Stir an egg or two (start with one, and see if that is enough to bind the rice). Add some chopped onion, a tablespoon or two of panko breadcrumbs, and a little garlic. Heat up some oil, add the patties, and fry on each side until crispy. This will be delicious with a fried egg on top or some peanut sauce.

2. Fried chicken salad

Lucky you, if you have fried chicken leftovers. Dice the chicken up, toss…

Frogs and Milk- How to Keep Milk from Spoiling Without Refrigeration

frog-cup

For centuries, before refrigeration, an old Russian practice was to drop a frog into a bucket of milk to keep the milk from spoiling. In modern times, many believed that this was nothing more than an old wives’ tale. But researchers at Moscow State University, led by organic chemist Dr. Albert Lebedev, have shown that there could be some benefit to doing this, though of course in the end you’ll be drinking milk that a frog was in.

Ice boxes first became available to consumers in the early to mid-19th century and, with that, the ice trade became big business. New England and Norway became major purveyors of ice, but anywhere it was cold, ice was a major export. Usually made out of wood with tin or zinc walls and insulation material like sawdust, cork, or straw, ice boxes were popular until they were rendered obsolete by the electrical refrigerator starting around the 1930s.

Jacob Perkins invented the first version of the refrigerator in 1834 when it was discovered that the hazardous compound ammonia, when liquefied, had a cooling effect. But it wasn’t until the late 1920s when Freon was developed by General Motors and DuPont as a “nontoxic” cooling agent, and replaced ammonia, that refrigerators for consumers started to gain traction.

Despite the prevalence of ice in parts of Russia, in certain small rural Russian villages many didn’t have access to ice boxes, so they had to find ways to keep things cold and unspoiled. A practice developed, that continued into the 20th century, as described by Dr. Lebedev from memories from his childhood,

[For] small portions of milk to drink, they used to put [a] frog inside… A small frog over there could prevent the milk from being spoiled.

This rather curious practice was an inspiration for a study and, then, a discovery that may lead to a significant new source of antibiotics. In 2010, scientists from United Arab Emirates University made an announcement that the secretions from certain frogs’ skins have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Using species native to…

Freezer Malfunction Melts Precious Arctic Ice Samples

When your freezer breaks down, you might lose some leftovers or a box of your favorite popsicles. But when a scientist’s freezer malfunctions, the world stands to lose thousands of years’ worth of stored history. That’s what happened last week, when an equipment failure at the University of Alberta (UAB) melted ancient samples of Arctic ice.

An ice core is kind of like the vertical equivalent of a tree’s rings. The gas bubbles, sediment, and chemicals trapped in each of its many layers tell a story about the world at that particular moment in time.

UAB’s Canadian Ice Core Archive holds 12 cores—nearly 1 mile of ice—representing roughly 80,000 years of our planet’s history. Some of the samples have been in storage since the 1970s. Many of them are now considerably smaller than they were a few weeks ago.

Each long,…

Cold Comfort: How to Best Use Your Freezer

The following article is from the new book Uncle John’s Uncanny Bathroom Reader.

Did you know that you can keep eggs in your freezer? (There’s a trick to it.) Here are some tips on how to freeze foods you probably thought couldn’t be frozen, and how to better freeze the stuff you’re already freezing, preventing waste and saving money in the process.

FRESH VEGETABLES

• Before freezing, chop raw vegetables to the size you are likely to use when cooking. Thawed vegetables are more difficult to chop.

• Vegetables tend to lose color, favor, texture, and even vitamins when they’re frozen, thanks to the activity of enzymes in the veggies. Blanching the vegetables (immersing them in boiling water for a short period of time) before freezing interrupts the activity of the enzymes, and will keep the frozen vegetables fresher longer.

• Blanching times vary from 11⁄2 minutes for peas and 11 minutes for large ears of corn; consult a cookbook for the correct amount of time for the vegetable you want to freeze.

• After blanching, quickly immerse the vegetables in cool water to prevent them from overcooking.

• Leafy greens, tomatoes, and watery vegetables like zucchini and squash can be frozen without blanching. If you plan on making zucchini bread, grate the zucchini before you freeze it.

GROUND MEAT

• Ground meat is suitable for freezing, but the Styrofoam tray covered with plastic wrap that it comes in is not. The container leaves too much air in the package, causing freezer burn.

• Remove ground meat from the container and place it in a plastic freezer bag, taking care to squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible before placing it in the freezer. Press the bag of meat as flat as you can before freezing—the flatter the meat, the faster it freezes, preserving quality.

• If you want individual servings, lay the unfrozen bag of meat flat on the kitchen counter and press a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon lengthwise against the outside of the bag to create indentations that divide the meat into single-sized squares. Now when you need some but not all of the meat, you can easily snap off as many squares as you need and return the rest to the freezer, instead of having to thaw out the entire bag.

EGGS

• Eggs expand while freezing and should not be frozen in the shell. Instead, beat raw eggs just until the whites and yolks have blended together, then pour the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze. Each compartment of a standard ice cube tray will hold about one egg’s worth of the mixture. When the eggs have frozen, they can be popped out of the ice cube tray and stored in a freezer bag for up to a year.

• Yolks and whites can be separated before freezing if you expect to use them separately. Separated whites will freeze just fine as they are, but separated yolks can become gelatinous over time. To prevent this, beat in 11⁄2 teaspoons of sugar (if you plan to use the yolks in a dessert) or 1⁄8 teaspoon of salt (for other dishes) for every four egg yolks before freezing. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.

THE CUBIST MOVEMENT

• Fresh herbs and spices can also be frozen in ice cube trays. Fill each compartment about two-thirds full with chopped fresh herbs or spices and cover with your choice of water, chicken or beef stock, olive oil, or melted unsalted butter before freezing. When the cubes are frozen, remove them from the tray and store them in freezer bags.

• Two more candidates for ice cube freezing: coffee and leftover wine (for cooking). Coffee cubes can be used to keep iced coffee cold without watering it…

Scientists 3D Printed Cheese

These days, you can 3D print anything from a house to your breakfast. And as 3D-printed pizza becomes a thing, food scientists are examining what exactly happens when you print yourself some cheese.

A recent study in the Journal of Food Engineering explores how 3D printing affects the structure of processed cheese. How gross would 3D-printed Velveeta nachos be? A bevy of researchers from University College Cork in Ireland decided to find out.

They melted a commercially available processed cheese (think American cheese, not cheddar) and put it through a modified 3D printer that printed the cheese out at either a fast or a slow speed. The cheese was printed out into cylinders that were then cooled for 30 minutes and put in the refrigerator for a day. After that 24-hour refrigeration period, the researchers took the cheese out of the fridge to check its texture and chemical structure.