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posted: 5/29/2013 6:00 AM

Frugal living: Meatless meals and more veggies at dinner

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Q. I have some cream cheese with an expiration date of almost two months ago. Is it still good?

Karol, email

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A. I wouldn't eat it. If the date is a "use by" date, you can usually still eat it three to four weeks after that date, if it has been stored properly. It can be frozen and eaten within two months, too (though the texture will be off upon thawing). Soft cheeses do not last as long as hard cheeses.

Q. I've tried to incorporate a meatless meal one night per week. I'm hoping to get some new ideas before my husband gives up on my meatless meals entirely!

Ama, email

A. Try veggie stir-fry with rice, or meatless soup or stews. Since your requirements aren't vegan and the only restriction is meat, you can try egg and cheese dishes, veggie pizzas, sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, lasagna, quiche, salads, soups, loaded baked potatoes, cheese ravioli, tortellini or burritos, to name a few. I enjoy the website findingvegan.com for meatless recipes.

Q. Does your family like brussels sprouts? Will you please share the recipe you use?

F.F., email

A. Sadly, brussels sprouts aren't a favorite in our household, but when I make them, I roast them in the oven. I toss them with olive oil, pepper and sea or kosher salt and roast them at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. You might enjoy them browned in a skillet with the same ingredients (you could add some grated cheese on top, too). If you don't like frozen brussels sprouts, try roasting fresh ones.

Q. I want my kids to eat more raw vegetables, but we are all tired of baby carrots, celery and cucumbers. Is there a vegetable your kids love that isn't too weird? My kids won't eat chickpeas (hummus), radishes or cauliflower.

Serena, North Carolina

A. Our family loves sugar snap peas, baby corn, sweet peppers and cherry or grape tomatoes. We offer a variety of raw vegetables served with dip (and fruit, too) on a regular basis. I put the leftover vegetables into a large salad. I'm not sure how old your kids are, but my kids think of raw vegetables and fruits as rainbow food because of how bright and colorful they are when they're all together.

It helps if parents lead by example. Give your kids plenty of opportunities to try vegetables, allow them to select one type in the store on their own and provide information on the importance of vegetables. You can get creative, too: serve them in smiley-face arrangements or on a special plate, or spike them with wooden skewers and make vegetables kabobs.

You can incorporate vegetables into other foods, too. For example, you can make green smoothies, shred vegetables into ground beef or puree them into soups.

• Sara Noel owns 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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