Q. I just saw another news item about contaminated produce. I know we're supposed to wash everything we buy, so I'm wondering what you use to wash fruit and vegetables. Is there something effective other than the pricey bottled stuff?
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A. You can use water and a vegetable brush. If you want, you can also wash produce with a tablespoon or two of lemon juice and a tablespoon of baking soda in a large bowl of water or a clean sink. Scrub and rinse. Or simply use a combination of one cup of vinegar and one cup of water in a spray bottle or bowl to wash produce. Then dry it. You can peel some of your produce, too. I know, I know, "What about all the nutrients?" I'm only offering another option. Buying the bottled fruit and vegetable wash isn't necessary, but to each his or her own.
Q. I canned spaghetti sauce last week. After canning, I let them cool on the counter overnight. I checked the lids in the morning to make sure they all popped, but did not remove the rings and really check to see if there was a seal. A few days later I finally got around to putting them away. I took off all the rings and on one of the jars, the lid came off, too. Ugh! Can I use this jar, or should I throw it away?
A. Please throw this away. The jar clearly did not seal and it's been left unrefrigerated for too long to take chances.
Q. I froze a few loaves of quick bread, and I plan to bake more and freeze them for family gift-giving or to serve guests during the busy holiday season. How long can they be kept frozen and still taste good?
A. I'd eat them within three months of freezing them. It won't be unsafe after that time period, but the taste and texture starts to decline. You might not mind the taste after three months, but for gift-giving or serving to guests, I wouldn't freeze too far ahead. I'd aim for freezing no sooner than September for serving during the holiday season.
Q. I bought a 4-pound marinated pork loin roast from Costco and cut it into fourths before freezing. I want to thaw one of the fourths and serve it with roasted potatoes and carrots, but I don't know how long to cook it. Any guesses?
A. It will take about 19-22 minutes at 350 degrees degrees. You can use a slow cooker, too. Slow cook on high for 4 hours.
Q. What were the first few frugal things you tried?
A. I focused a lot on meal planning and cooking. I stopped eating out as often (packing lunches and snacks and having at least a weekly menu for dinners) and cut sugary drinks and a lot of prepared foods from my diet. From there, I started to pay closer attention to my electricity usage and any unnecessary driving. I started to track all of my spending, too.
• Sara Noel is the owner of Frugal Village (www.frugalvillage.com), a website that offers practical, money-saving strategies for everyday living. To send tips, comments or questions, write to email@example.com.)