Sunday, December 9, 2012

Making the most of my food dollars

I was going to post this tomorrow but decided to go ahead and do it tonight because I have another canning project tomorrow and may not have much time for the computer.

I hate food waste. Every time I see one bite of food go into the trash I see money being thrown away. For years there was not to much I could do about some of the food that was wasted since I was working a full time job outside the home. Between work and travel time I was putting in 60-70 hours a week away from home either at work or on the road. Then back in 1994 I was hurt in a car  accident and was no longer able to do the work I had been doing for almost 17 years. And having teens at home eating when they wanted.

But all that changed when I could no longer work. I went back to the frugal ways I had learned as a child watching my grandma and my mom. My grandma could take little bits of this and little bits of that and make a mouth watering, belly warming meal that was also very filling. You never walked away from her table hungry unless it was your own fault because she was a great cook.

By watching my grandma I learned to always scrub vegetables before peeling instead of throwing the peelings away, save them up in the freezer until I had enough to make a big pot of vegetable stock which then was canned. She would save potato peeling, carrot peelings, celery tops, onion peelings and any other veggies she prepared for meals in freezer boxes in the freezer. When she had enough she would make a big pot of vegetable stock and then either can it as is or turn it into a big pot of soup which she would then can.

Lately I have been into canning more and more and in the last year have gotten into canning fresh citrus. I was heart broken every time I throwed all those peelings from oranges, grapefruit and lemons away until this last time when I had a light bulb go off in my head. Yeah that does happen to me every once in a great while. LOL

I decided this time I was going to try to dehydrate any citrus peelings from the fruit I canned this year. On Friday night when I peeled the oranges for canning I carefully peeled the peel off with a very sharp knife leaving most of the white pith still on the oranges. I put all the peelings in a bowl, covered then with lid and placed them in the refrigerator until yesterday morning. When I got up yesterday I took the peelings and laid them out in single layers on my Excalibur dehydrator. I filled up 8 trays. Set the temp for 135 degrees and plugged it in.

Don't they look so nice and pretty with their bright orange color?

This shows you just how little of the white pith I left on the peelings.

After drying for 6 hours I took them out of the dehydrator. They were nice and crisp but still had a lot of their orange color.

All eight trays dumped on to one tray.
After they all cooled I ran them a few at a time in the blender to grind them into orange zest for baking and cooking. After all the peeling were ground up I came out with almost a pint jar of orange zest. Seeing as a tiny bottle of zest in the store can be pretty pricey I think I came out on the better end of the deal for the little extra time I spent carefully peeling the oranges and running the dehydrator.
I was giving a bottle of vodka by my uncle when he moved in with us and since we don't drink I had put it up and forgot about it. I remembered I had it while I was peeling the oranges the other night so I pulled it out and pulled out three small canning jars. I put some of the fresh peelings into each jar and then pour in enough vodka to cover the peelings. So I shook it up a little and sat it in a cool dark place. I opened on today and smelled it. It already has a good orange smell so of course I had to take a taste. It does have a taste of orange but not as much as I want so am going to let it sit for a few more weeks before using it. I have a feeling this is going to come out tasting great!

Now if only I could find a use for all that white pith I threw away I would be very happy. Then there would have been no waste at all from my canning oranges. :)

Not bad from $9.98 of oranges is it. I got 4 quarts, 6 pints, one half pint of canned oranges, almost a pint of orange zest and a pint of orange extract for my money. Think I got my moneys worth on this deal?? I sure do!


  1. If you put orange peels in a jar with white vinegar, leave it to sit for 2 weeks and then use a 50/50 mix of the orange vinegar and water, you can use it as a nicer smelling green cleaner than just straight out vinegar :)

    You can make the Vodka thing with any citrus peels and infact any fruit or herb you wish! You can then use it as a drink or for using in cooking as an essence (Vanilla is particularly easy to make and great to use). Or you can mix the flavoured Vodka with a simple syrup (to taste) and VOILA... a liqueur :)

    1. Thanks for the info on the cleaner. I will be sure to do that the next time I buy oranges. :) I have lemon extract going right now. Can't wait to see how it turns out. :)

  2. Thank you for the info. I have not been as frugal as I would like to be in the last few years.

    Will be saving many more orange and lemon peels.