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Deep Clean in the Deep Freeze

Wiping new freezerWhen spring arrives, we typically deep clean for the coming season. With the cold weather outside, it’s a good time to clean the freezer. It’s important to keep the freezer clean of frost and food debris. Here are some tips for cleaning and maintaining your freezer:

  • Remove all frozen food items.
  • Check items for expiration dates and for freezer burn.
  • Consider throwing out any food that appears old and dried out. It may still be safe to eat, but the quality may be poor. Ice crystals on the inside of packages may indicate thawing and refreezing—those packages may need to be thrown out. Frozen food can be stored up to 1 year.
  • Pack food items you are keeping in another freezer or a cooler until you can return them to the freezer.
  • Wipe down the freezer with one tablespoon of baking soda in one quart of water. Then wipe with clean water before turning the freezer back on.
  • Let the freezer cool down for about 30 minutes before placing the frozen items back into it.
  • Put a freezer thermometer near the door of the freezer and check it periodically. Adjust the temperature control as needed to keep foods at or below 0°F.

You can see a video on how to clean your refrigerator on the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/cook/organize-your-space/.
Source: Michigan State University Extension, www.msue.msu.edu.

For more information, visit www.FoodSafety.gov.

A New Face for Spend Smart. Eat Smart.

sses1-web-new-lookYou can choose healthy foods and stick to your budget—Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website is here to help!

Spend Smart. Eat Smart. has helped shoppers save money and make healthy choices for more than seven years. We are proud to announce a brand new design for the website that is more modern, simpler to navigate, and functional on all your devices.

Whether your goal is to eat healthier, plan your family’s meals, or save money at the grocery store, you can find tools to make it easier on Spend Smart. Eat Smart. The website is home to the following:

  • More than 150 recipes that are delicious, inexpensive, and easy to prepare
  • How-to videos featuring recipes, kitchen organization tips, and basic food-prep techniques
  • Strategies for saving money in each part of the grocery store
  • Meal-planning templates and resources

Visit the website, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu, today to connect with us through our blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Snowshoeing! An Easy Way to Enjoy Winter’s Beauty

Couple crouching in the snow wearing snowshoesMany people who enjoy a walk in the woods stay away from parks and nature preserves after a heavy snow. If you don’t know how to cross-country ski, it may seem that the trails are impassable.

Unlike skiing, however, snowshoeing is a way of getting around in the snow that nearly anybody can do almost anywhere. Snowshoeing allows you to enjoy the crisp, cold air and the sparkling beauty of a new-fallen snow while burning more than 400 calories an hour!

Snowshoes can cost from $50 to $300. If you want to try them out, you can rent them for as little as $10 a day from some county conservation offices, and also, for a little more, from bike, ski, and sport shops.

To learn more, visit www.polkcountyiowa.gov/conservation/things-to-do/snowshoeing/ or read how a woman discovered the joys of snowshoeing with dogs at extension.unh.edu/articles/Snowshoeing-Dogs

Take Safe Food to the Potluck

Irish stew in a slow cooker potPotluck meals are a fun, low-cost way to celebrate the holidays at friend’s homes and in offices, classrooms, and churches.

During the rush of the holidays, show your concern for others by following these food transportation safety tips:

  • Car seats are often contaminated with germs that can cause illness. Cover your car seat with a clean sheet or large towel before placing the food container on it.
  • Keep cold foods cold, 40°F or below. Take cold foods out of the fridge just before leaving home. Keep them in insulated containers with a cooler pack.
  • Keep hot foods hot, at least 140°F. Put your piping hot food in a slow cooker set on low. Just before getting into the car, unplug the slow cooker and put it in a quilted carrier or insulated bag. Do not keep the food in the car for more than an hour. At your destination, plug in the slow cooker immediately.
  • If hot food has cooled during the car trip, or if you brought refrigerated food that needs to be served hot, do not try to reheat it with a slow cooker. Reheat the food in a microwave or on a stove top until it is 165°F. (For more tips on slow cooker safety, visit www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsafety/content/slow-cookers.)

Healthy Gifts from the Heart

img_1836_r1-low-resGiving gifts of homemade cookies, cakes, and candies is a happy holiday tradition. But for many people, the gift of a plate of high-sugar, high-calorie goodies may not be as welcomed as it used to be. Two-thirds of adult Iowans are overweight, and many of them are struggling to keep a healthy weight. For them, the holidays can provide too many temptations to overeat.

So how can you give a delicious food gift from your kitchen that will also support the health of your loved ones? Think outside the cookie box. You can make these healthier treats packed with good flavor and loving care:

Snowshoeing! An Easy Way to Enjoy Winter’s Beauty

Couple crouching in the snow wearing snowshoesMany people who enjoy a walk in the woods stay away from parks and nature preserves after a heavy snow. If you don’t know how to cross-country ski, it may seem that the trails are impassable.

Unlike skiing, however, snowshoeing is a way of getting around in the snow that nearly anybody can do almost anywhere. Snowshoeing allows you to enjoy the crisp, cold air and the sparkling beauty of a new-fallen snow while burning more than 400 calories an hour!

Snowshoes can cost from $50 to $300. If you want to try them out, you can rent them for as little as $10 a day from some county conservation offices, and also, for a little more, from bike, ski, and sport shops.

To learn more, visit www.polkcountyiowa.gov/conservation/things-to-do/snowshoeing/ or read how a woman discovered the joys of snowshoeing with dogs at extension.unh.edu/articles/Snowshoeing-Dogs

Sponge Safety

Clean sponge in sinkSponges are great at absorbing all things…including germs! Practice these tips to use them safely:

  • To sanitize, microwave damp sponge for one minute or put it in a dishwasher with a drying cycle. According to the USDA, these methods will kill more than 99% of bacteria, yeasts, and mold.
  • Clean sponges after two or three uses.
  • Avoid using sponges when wiping up meat juices and on countertops. Instead use a paper towel and a sanitizer or disinfectant wipes.
  • Wring out a sponge after each use and store in a dry location.
  • Once a sponge starts to smell, throw it out immediately.
  • Finally, don’t forget about the dish towels and dish cloths. Launder them frequently in hot water and consider using a separate dish towel for hand and dish drying.

Source: eatright, www.eatright.org/resource/homefoodsafety/four-steps/wash/dos-and-donts-of-kitchen-sponge-safety

Less Waste, More Money

Woman Throwing Away Out Of Date Food In RefrigeratorIt’s that time of year when lots of food is made and enjoyed at holiday gatherings. However, sometimes too much food is made and then thrown away before it can be used. About 90 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten each year in the United States. Yet 1 in 7 Americans struggles to get enough to eat. On average, $370 worth of food per person per year is thrown away. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) breaks this down by types of food:

Grains (bread, pasta): $22 per year
Fruits (apples, bananas, oranges): $45 per year
Proteins (beef, chicken, pork, fish): $140 per year
Vegetables (onions, lettuce, peppers): $66 per year
Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese): $60 per year
Added Fat and Sugar (chips, candy): $37 per year
Total: $370 per year

The main reason food is thrown away is because it spoils before it is eaten. The USDA has created a resource called Let’s Talk Trash. In it they offer tips on how you can put a stop to food waste in your home.

  • Plan and Save: Plan your weekly menu. Then look in your pantry, freezer, and fridge to make a list of what you need to buy before grocery shopping. This can help you buy only the food you need and keep money in your pocket.
  • Be Organized: Keep your food pantry and refrigerator organized so you can see what needs to be eaten first. Write the dates on food containers so you know what needs to be used first.
  • Repurpose and Freeze Extra Food: Reuse leftovers in another recipe. Use leftover taco meat to make a taco pizza. If you chopped up vegetables for a salad, use leftover vegetables to make a vegetable soup. Make a smoothie with overripe fruit. Freeze extra food to enjoy at a later time.

For more tips on reducing food waste, visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart at www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings.

Source: Let’s Talk Trash, www.choosemyplate.gov/lets-talk-trash

Slow Cookers: Be safe and smart as you use this great kitchen tool

Slow CookingThere are many recipes on the internet that encourage putting frozen food directly into a slow cooker. This is not safe. The USDA does not recommend the direct from the freezer to slow cooker process because it provides an excellent opportunity for bacteria to grow as the food slowly makes its way through the temperature danger zone.

Instead, take the food out of the freezer at least one night before you want to prepare the meal and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator. If you are thawing large pieces of meat, one overnight might not be enough, so plan ahead.

As you are getting ready in the morning, put the food in the slow cooker on high to give it a jump start. Turn it to low before you leave the house. If you forget to turn it on, you will need to throw the food away when you get home because bacteria have had all day to multiply to a level that could make you and your family sick.

USDA “Kitchen Companion” available at
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/shared/PDF/Kitchen_Companion.pdf.

Planks for a Strong Core

Fitness training athletic sporty man doing plank exercise in gymNeed a way to strengthen your core muscles? Try planks. They hit all major abdominal muscles while also working the muscles of your back, chest, shoulders, glutes, and quads. Planks help to improve posture, increase flexibility, and improve balance. They can be easily modified based on your fitness level and abilities.

Traditional plank:

  1. Lay stomach-down on the ground and press your chest up until your shoulders are directly over your elbows.
  2. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your heels.
  3. Engage your core muscles to maintain this position.

Plank for beginners:
If you are new to exercise, try these modifications that will allow you to build up to achieving the traditional plank. Rather than placing your hands on the floor, you can hold on to a variety of objects, such as a bench or a platform. The further away your upper body is from the ground, the easier the exercise. Your elbows and shoulders should be in a line with each other. Make sure you engage your core to keep your hips and shoulders from dipping.

Plank for people who use a wheelchair:
Transfer onto a low bench, table, or platform. Your toes, knees, or hips can be supported by the bench depending on your level of function. This is called the pivot point. Your body should form a straight line from your head to the pivot point. Your shoulders should be directly over your elbows.

Source: Planks 101, National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability, http://www.nchpad.org/1391/6235/Planks~101