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updated: 6/14/2011 2:56 PM

Dry pack flour and other household tips

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Q. In a recent newspaper article, a lady inquired about dry-pack canning. How long will flour keep using this method? Also, will this method prevent weevils from hatching out in flour, as they sometimes do? Does it matter if it is bleached or unbleached flour? Thank you.

Jim Smith, email

A. You can use bleached or unbleached flour. It will have a shelf life of about three to five years. This is a conservative long-term approximation, so I should probably clarify and say that it's best if used within that time frame. Bugs can't live without oxygen (keeping in mind that you're using oxygen absorbers with the jars), so no worries about that. Some people add foil on the outside of the jars to prevent any sunlight from decreasing the shelf life. Visit www.simplyprepared.com/dry-pack_canning_in_jars.htm for step-by-step directions.

Frozen flour has a shelf life of two years. Another alternative is to store flour in a food-grade bucket lined with mylar with an oxygen absorber added.

Q. My (almost) 3-year-old is going to preschool three days a week this summer. We have to pack his lunch. He won't eat sandwiches, other than PB&J, and the school is a nut-free zone. Do you have suggestions for what to feed him? He won't really eat meat, so I am at a loss for what to send. Food that must stay cold or be heated is not allowed there. It has to sit in a lunch box in his cubby for three to four hours.

Tanya N., Texas

Q. You can use an insulated lunch box and a reusable ice pack to keep things cold (or freeze a drink that will thaw by lunchtime). That leaves you open to plenty of options. Here's a lunch idea list to get you started (exclude any nut-related suggestions): www.frugalvillage.com/forums/food-kids/134225-mix-match-lunchbox-ideas.html. You can also pack foods that don't need to be cold or hot, such as crackers, fruit, applesauce, homemade muffins, raw cut vegetables, popcorn, bagels, croissants, beef jerky, etc. Try a thermos or food jar to add a variety of hot food items, too. Preheat the thermos with boiled water before filling it with hot food, and it will stay hot longer.

Q. I'm making my first cheesecake and have a crust question. I've found an interesting and yummy-looking cheesecake recipe, but it calls for a graham cracker crust. We hate graham cracker crusts. Can I use a standard pie shell crust?

Ramona

A. Yes, you can use a pie shell crust. You can also use crushed vanilla, ginger or chocolate wafers as a crust, or Oreos or animal crackers. You can use no crust at all. Some people use a shortbread or chocolate brownie crust, too.

Since it's your first cheesecake, you might like the ease of a bar recipe rather than making a traditional cheesecake. Some cheesecake recipes look easy to make, but aren't. It doesn't take much to make a cheesecake crack, overbake or burn, explode over the sides, etc. Many cheesecake recipes work best using a water bath, which isn't always mentioned in the recipe.

How about cheesecake bars with an oatmeal cookie crust? Visit theartoftwotarts.com/2010/02/01/blueberry-cheesecake-bars-with-an-oatmeal-cookie-crust/ for the recipe with photos. If you do decide to make a traditional cheesecake recipe, read a few cheesecake tips before you start. Visit dianasdesserts.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/bakingtips.cheesecakes/Cheesecakes.cfm.

Remove fruit stains: If you lay your shirt in the sink and slowly pour boiling hot water over the shirt, the stain will come out. But you need to do it before washing, otherwise you have a stain forever. I have done this many times with many kinds of fruit juice. Recently, I got some apple juice on a shirt and did not do this for a couple of days, and it still came out.

Donna L., Louisiana

No-waste bread: It seems that not many people (especially children) like the bread ends. To use these in my family, we simply turn the crust side inwards and make a sandwich. This works best with PB&J or grilled cheese. I also use them to make bread crumbs, croutons and garlic bread.

B.F., Pennsylvania

• Sara Noel ows of Frugal Village (frugalvillage.com), 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 sara@frugalvillage.com.

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