Depression-era frugal tips still work today

14 Frugal Food-Rescuing Tips from Grandma

by Irene Helen Zundel

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My grandparents, and maybe yours too, lived through the horrors of the Great Depression and two world wars. Times were hard, money was scarce, and sometimes foods were rationed. They simply could not afford to throw away slightly stale groceries, or toss a recipe that wasn't turning out right.

As a result, Grandma learned how to keep things from spoiling or how to "revive" foods that were older and losing their freshness. The results were perfectly edible, and these simple tricks sure helped to stretch an already strained food budget. Why not try a few of these time-honored and tested tips yourself?

  • If you are one egg short when baking a cake, substitute one teaspoon of cornstarch instead.
  • Do you want to prevent mold from growing on cheese? Wrap it tightly with a sugar cube and store it in the refrigerator.
  • Living Better Tip: Using Up Leftovers to Make the Most of Your Meals

  • Are you out of oil and need to grease a skillet? Rub it with half a potato. Pans "greased" with potato don't smoke at high temperatures like oiled pans do.
  • Does your brown sugar harden like a concrete block? To keep it soft, store it in a glass jar in your refrigerator or in a plastic bag with a piece of bread or apple inside.
  • Don't let insects ruin your dry foods! Put a bay leaf into containers of pasta, flour, rice and dry mixes to keep them away.
  • If your mayonnaise separates or curdles, mix 1 teaspoon mustard and 1 tablespoon curdled mayonnaise in a bowl. Beat it with a wire whisk until it is creamy. Add the rest of the mayonnaise slowly and blend well.
  • To keep a fresh fruit salad from turning brown, sprinkle the sliced fruit with lemon juice.
  • Is your granulated sugar lumpy? Place several saltine crackers in the container and cover it tightly.
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  • If you have a block of cheese that has dried out, don't throw it away. Store it in the freezer. When you need to grate it for a recipe, slice it thinly, without thawing. Frozen cheese crumbles easily. It is perfect for making macaroni and cheese.
  • Do you need to freshen dried out coconut? Place it in a strainer over a steaming pot of water for a few minutes.
  • If you don't want to throw out a stale loaf of bread, sprinkle it with water or milk and wrap it in aluminum foil. Bake it at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes to soften it. Loaves of Italian or French bread need to be baked for 3-5 minutes more, with the foil open for the last few minutes.
  • Related: 17 Ways to Use Stale Bread

  • Sticky rice? Rinse it thoroughly with warm water to wash out the excess starch. This will cause the grains to easily separate.
  • Sticky pasta? Add salt or oil to noodles while the water is boiling.
  • Take the TDS Pantry Challenge.
    Clean out that pantry, fridge and freezer and see how much extra cash you can free up this month!

  • Did you over-salt a recipe? Add a little vinegar and sugar and then taste. If it is a recipe for stew or soup, add a raw potato to absorb the excess salt.
  • Does your recipe have too much sugar? Add a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar.

Reviewed July 2017

Ms. Zundel is a freelance writer, homeschooling parent, and publisher of a monthly educational newsletter. She specializes in writing educational and family-oriented articles.

Take the Next Step

  • Burned dinner? No worries! Just use these guidelines for saving overcooked meats.
  • Run out of a recipe ingredient? Refer to these ingredient substitutions that will work in a pinch.
  • Continue to trim food costs by visiting our food & groceries section to get tips and tools for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.
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