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posted: 7/10/2013 6:00 AM

Frugal living: Freezing fruits and using up pasta

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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.

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 (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 email sara@frugalvillage.com.

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