Handy Kitchen Tips

You've heard the saying that time is money, right? Well, if you are clever, you can invest just a little time to save a lot of money. It's just a matter of knowing when it's smart to take a little time and when you're just going to be running in circles.

Over the years, I've put together a few go-to money savers that take little-to-no extra time. Since these are tips I use nearly every week, I thought it might be a good idea to share them with you, in hopes that they can help you out as well:

  • Make your own brown sugar. That's right. It's very easy. All you do is put 1 cup of white sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of molasses into a mixing bowl or the bowl of your food processor and then mix or process until you get brown sugar with the look and consistency of the stuff you buy at the market. Light brown sugar will require less molasses, while dark brown sugar will require more molasses. I use my stand mixer with the whisk attachment and find it takes 3-5 minutes to obtain the right color and consistency. Not only does it work incredibly well, the brown sugar you make will cost less, pound for pound, than bags at the market and you get the added benefit of being able to mix it to your liking in amounts that are appropriate for you and your family. Since my husband and I love it in our coffee, we can even make specialty blends just for that!

  • Make your own fudge. Rich, decadent fudge is two ingredients and five minutes away. Easy chocolate-peanut butter fudge consists of 1 package of ready-made frosting (I adore using the darkest chocolate variety available) and two cups of peanut butter. Microwave the frosting in its container for one minute and then pour it and the peanut butter into a bowl. Mix until well combined and then pour it into a dish, spreading evenly. Allow it to cool, cut into small squares, and enjoy! It costs less than ready-made fudge and, again, you can choose whichever kind of frosting you'd like to use. Opt for creamy or chunky peanut butter, too. For something entirely chocolaty, try pairing chocolate frosting with something like Nutella. Yum!

  • Think beyond ice cubes. It's summer and that makes cold drinks are part of our lives. But don't just grab ice cubes whenever you need to cool a drink. Freezing heavy cream, coffee, fruit juice, or small pieces of fruit for ice cubes means not diluting your drinks with water and giving them that extra flavor kick. For instance, I love adding frozen peaches and raspberries to my favorite iced tea and sangria. Or a combination of cream and coffee cubes to my iced coffee. Even if you aren't looking to add another flavor to your drink, adding frozen cubes of juice to the same kind of juice means you are set for a cool drink that's not watered down. So toss leftovers into an ice cube tray or the like and count yourself clever for thinking ahead!

  • Save your bacon grease. Bacon bread crumbs, fried rice, popcorn, and even croutons flavored with bacon are all within reach if you simply pour off your bacon grease into a glass jar and save it in your refrigerator. I pop popcorn with just a tablespoon and it leaves a fantastic flavor in my bowl. Fried rice just isn't made in my house unless I have a bit of bacon grease to fry my leftover rice in as well. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to add a little extra flavor and how little it takes to make a dish just a bit more special. This can especially be a treat for anyone who is lactose intolerant and has had to say goodbye to butter. If you can cook your eggs in a little bacon grease, it makes not being able to use butter for the purpose easily tolerated, after all!

Those are just a few of my favorite kitchen tips for small time investment/big money savings. I'd love to hear about what you do to save time, money, and/or effort in your kitchens as well. Let's share the ideas!

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