Frugal living: Freezing fruits and using up pasta

Posted7/10/2013 6:00 AM

Q. I love all your freezer tips and have used many. I bought bags of lemons and limes on sale and have frozen the juice in ice-cube trays, but how can I freeze the zest without it drying out?

Evelyn, email


A. Use a microplane to grate the lemon zest, then place a tablespoon in each cubby of an ice-cube tray, top it off with water and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer storage bag, making sure to remove as much air as possible. To use, thaw and remove excess moisture by patting it dry with a paper towel.

Q. What do you do with those little bits of leftover spaghetti, fettuccine, penne, etc. after a meal? It's not enough to save for tomorrow's lunch, but I hate to toss it. Being pasta, it will cook to mush in a soup. It's covered in sauce, so it might not be complimentary in a bread or baked good. Can you suggest any alternative uses?

Leona, Canada

A. It might not be enough for an entire meal, but you can still eat it as a side for lunch or dinner. Instead of trying to be creative with such a small amount (especially difficult because it already has sauce mixed in), I'd simply make sure to eat it later that evening or the following day. I would add some vegetables to it.

Q. Where can one purchase coconut oil? In one of your recent articles, a reader mentioned that she used coconut oil for her feet, but she didn't mention where she got it from.

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Allison B., email

A. Check health food stores, Trader Joe's, Costco, Whole Foods and Wal-Mart. Many grocery stores carry it. If you have trouble finding it in the store, ask the manager.

Q. Do you know of any way to unseal envelopes? I bought several at a flea market.

Linda W., email

A. Place an envelope in the freezer for at least an hour and it should unseal with ease once you take it out. I wouldn't do all of them at once; try one or two at a time as needed, so they don't reseal.

Q. Sometimes I make pork chops in cream of mushroom sauce in the slow cooker. I always make a veggie and a pot of rice with it. I'm wondering if I can simplify this even more by tossing the rice (I use Minute Rice) in the slow cooker to cook in the soup. If so, should I toss it in, in the morning when I throw the soup and chops in, or should I wait and toss it in about an hour before dinner?

Amy, New Jersey

A. I suggest that you continue to make the rice separately. It's not that you can't add rice to the slow cooker -- you can add it toward the end of the cooking cycle -- but it tends to get mushy. You have to add extra liquid for it to cook in, too. For Minute Rice, I'd add it in the last 15-30 minutes of cooking time. You might enjoy a rice cooker. I love mine. Not that Minute Rice is hard to cook, but you can add rice and water to a rice cooker and walk away. The rice tastes better and is cheaper, too. I always made rice on the stovetop in a saucepan, but I was gifted a rice cooker, and I love having perfect rice every time and not having to watch over it as it cooks.

• Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (, a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. Send tips, comments or questions to Sara Noel, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106, or email

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