Make the most of your grocery haul with these food-saving tips

Elena Besser shares expert tips, tricks and techniques to make your produce last longer and taste even better.
/ Source: TODAY
By Elena Besser

With restaurants largely closed or operating at half capacity, there's never been a more urgent time to support our local farmers.

Shopping at the farmers market gives money directly to small businesses that really need it instead of large grocery chains, and you're still getting the same healthy, fresh produce. And since many farmers markets are held outdoors, they can be safer than going to the grocery store.

These smart produce tips will help you save money, make your groceries last longer and create flavorful, healthy dishes from your farmers-market or grocery finds.

How to regrow vegetables

Extend the shelf-life of produce and triple their use. All you need is a glass of water and a space that gets sunlight — any windowsill will do. You can also do this with fennel, leeks, garlic, lemongrass, scallions and basil.

Elena Besser

Romaine lettuce: Reserve about 3 inches of the butt of the lettuce. Place, bottom down, in a cozy mug or bowl that will allow the lettuce to lean without falling over, will hold enough water to cover the bottom half of the lettuce and will allow sunlight to reach the lettuce. Fill with water until the bottom half of the lettuce is submerged. Put the container in a sunny window. You should see growth by the next day, and you may even have enough to cook with in a week.

Celery: Cut about 1½ to 2 inches above the root base of the celery and place the root in a shallow bowl filled with water and put it in sunlight. After about a week, you should see little leaves beginning to sprout from the middle.

Carrots: Place a carrot top or tops in a bowl, cut-side down. Fill the bowl with about an inch of water so the top is halfway covered. Place the dish in a sunny windowsill and change the water every day. The tops will eventually sprout shoots. When they do, plant the tops in soil, careful not to cover the shoots. Harvest the greens to taste.

Pickling

Pickling is a perfect hobby to pick up right now because it you can stretch the contents of your fridge, like wilted fruits and vegetables. Plus, it's a great way to maintain crunch, infuse flavor and add acidity to your food. You can even use the leftover pickling liquid to make salad dressings or marinades.

Elena Besser

Combine water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pot and bring to a gentle simmer until the sugar and salt is dissolved. Once the mixture is cooled, add in vegetables, fruits, eggs, watermelon rinds or whatever you want to pickle. Add in a beet or turmeric to your pickling liquid to dye your pickles vibrant colors.

Pickled onions

These onions are a summer staple in my kitchen, Enjoy them on sandwiches, barbecue, salads or scrambled eggs. Heck, you can honestly put these bright onions on anything.

Ingredients

  • 1 small or 1/2 medium red beet, cleaned, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (white wine, rice wine, red wine, champagne, apple cider or distilled white)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sweetener (granulated sugar, honey or maple syrup)1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

Method

Combine beets, vinegar, kosher salt, sugar and 1 cup of water to a boil, stirring until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat.

Place onions in a mason jar or resealable container. Pour the liquid mixture over the container. Cool at room temperature, seal tightly and store in the refrigerator. Onions will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Make a dessert out of fruit scraps

This two-ingredient watermelon dessert is one of my favorite things to make in the summer. Just freeze watermelon chunks and blend. The water content in the watermelon will transform your watermelon into a delectable frozen treat similar to Italian ice! If your watermelon tastes a little bland, add in a squeeze of agave to enhance the flavors.

Make your own smoker

High-end barbecue smokers can cost hundreds of dollars. Instead, you can make your own version using things you probably already have lying around. This is a great way to add that smoky flavor that is often absent from a traditional gas grill.

Elena Besser

Make your own smoker and herb infuser by creating little aluminum foil baggies of wood chips and fresh herbs. Poke holes in them and place them on the grill when you are cooking food to add a nice smoky flavor to it.

Equipment

2 large sheets of tin foil (8-10 inches long)

1 cup wood chips of your choice (hickory, mesquite, etc.)

Method

  1. Take one sheet of tin foil and fold it in half. Next, fold two of the open sides over 1-inch thick, twice, leaving the top open. You should now have a square pouch. Fill with wood chips, making sure you have at least 1 inch on the top of the packet to seal the pouch. The wood chips don't need to soak because they are not going to make direct contact with the grill.
  2. Seal the pouch by folding over 1 centimeter. Repeat.
  3. When ready to use, take a small, sharp knife, and cut a couple slits on the top of the pouch to release smoke. Place on the grill, after about 5-7 minutes the pouch should start to smoke, Use the pouches for 15-20 minutes.
  4. When finished, let cool inside the pouch for 1 hour, then dispose.