“Waste not, want not.” Wise words from a bygone era that prove useful in these times of soaring fuel and grocery prices! “Extreme frugality” has made a comeback it hasn’t seen since the thirties, when it was a habit borne of necessity.
If your own grocery budget is being stretched to the limit (and crowded out by the gas budget), you may be tempted to try a little extreme frugality of your own. Take a few lessons from previous generations and ask yourself, “Can I use this for something?” before you throw it away.
Citrus, for example. Most of the time, we eat the fruit (or juice it) and throw away the wrapper without a second thought. But consider the cost of citrus in most areas of the country, you may want to reconsider. There’s an awful lot you can do with the peel of a citrus fruit, not to mention the rest of it!
I happened to have a whole bunch of limes I bought on sale the other day, and I challenged myself to make the most of them by using every last bit of each one. Next time you have your own stash of citrus, try some of these ideas... and save some money in the process!
(I used limes, but most of these ideas are applicable to all citrus fruits.)
1. To start with, remove the peel first, before eating or juicing the lime. You can do this by using a microplane grater, or simply peeling it into strips with a vegetable peeler (try to get as little of the pith as possible). If your recipe doesn’t require the zest, pop it in the freezer and save it to use another day in one of the following ways:
- Grind up some lime peel (a couple small strips) with your coffee beans. Or if you have zest (1/2 - 1 tsp), add it to already-ground coffee. If you’re skeptical, just give it a try: it’s amazingly delicious! I also added a little dried ginger to my coffee grounds, and experienced some gourmet coffee for practically pennies.
- Make some simple syrup. Lime simple syrup is delicious in iced tea or coffee, sparkling water, punch, cocktails, etc. The possibilities are practically endless! All you have to do is combine equal parts sugar and water (although I have used half as much sugar with good success, and some people use 2 parts sugar to water) with some citrus peel (I used 2 small limes in 1 cup of water and ½ cup of sugar.); bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for about 15 minutes or so. Strain and store in the refrigerator. Use about a tablespoon of the syrup for each serving.
- Make lime sugar. Use the peel from one lime (either zested or in strips, doesn’t matter), and mix it well with 1 or 2 cups sugar. If the lime peel is in strips, press on them with the back of a spoon a bit as you are stirring it into the sugar, to release the oils. Allow to dry for an hour or so, then store in an airtight container or jar at room temperature. Sweeten hot beverages with it; bake cookies, cakes, and even pancakes with it; sprinkle desserts with it; or top your fruit salad with it. Once again, the possibilities are endless!
- In a similar vein, make Lime Salt. I’ve personally never tried it, but I just came across this easy recipe at I Have a Lemon Tree, and I can’t wait to try it with my next batch of citrus!
2. Now that you’ve used every last bit of the peel, you’ll want to juice the limes, and you’ll get a lot more juice if you pop them in the microwave for about 20 seconds, then roll them around the countertop while applying pressure with your palm. Once you’ve got the juice all loosened up, you can slice it in half and either squeeze with your fingers or use a juicer.
3. So, you’ve used up the peel, and you’ve maximized the amount of juice, now what to do with that shell of pulp and pith? Unfortunately, it’s not really edible, but don’t worry; it hasn’t run its course yet! You can still use it for cleaning; in fact, it is so perfect for that task, it almost seems made for it!
- Use one lime half like a sponge, and scrub your wooden cutting board with it. This is especially useful immediately after chopping garlic or onions on your cutting board. Wipe the board with a damp rag and then dry thoroughly.
- Make a lime-scented cleaner (just as effective as homemade vinegar sprays, but a lot more pleasant to smell!): place whatever’s left of your lime (including any peel you might still have) in the bottom of an airtight container, preferably a jar. Pour vinegar until the fruit is all covered. Seal and store undisturbed for 2-4 weeks, or until the vinegar smell is replaced by a citrus smell. Strain and pour into a spray bottle. This is particularly useful for scrubbing stubborn stove-tops, but is a multi-purpose cleaner than can be used anywhere.
- Clean your oven. Place the limes in a shallow pan and cover with water. Turn your oven to 350F, and “cook” your pan of citrus for 15-20 minutes. Allow the oven to cool until it is safe to touch, then use a damp rag to wipe all the surfaces. I was amazed at how quickly some built-up grease on the oven door just wiped right off!
4. There is still one more task your limes can do, even if there’s just a pile of pulp left. With their last gasping, final breath, run them through the garbage disposal, inhaling the fresh aroma as they descend to their watery grave.
Now, if only I can find a use for those banana peels...
When she’s not busy concocting something new in her kitchen, Anne Simpson can be found blogging about it at Quick and Easy Cheap and Healthy, where she shares how to make healthy food without wasting any time, money or energy. You can also find her at When Food is Dangerous, where she blogs about life-threatening food allergies.