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Wrap the Meat

Soon we will celebrate the first days of spring, and in spring a young girl’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of … meat.

Well, meat’s an appropriate topic all year round, actually.

We’ve been buying spiral hams at Costco – they last us for weeks with all kinds of meals: ham and eggs, ham sandwiches, ham in salads, and of course just plain ham. (That’s my husband’s dinner.)

We’re still trying to figure out how best to dissect the thing when we get it home. Last time, my husband cut all the spiral part off immediately, put it in a lock ‘n lock in the fridge, cut the rest of the dribs and drabs of meat (quite a lot, actually) off the bone, then put the dribs and drabs in another lock ‘n lock in the freezer, and the bone in the freezer in a ziplock bag as well.

We make sure to use the bone, too – it makes good soup. I put the bone in a crock pot with two cups of soaked navy beans (two cups when dry, much more when soaked), two chopped carrots, a chopped onion, a very little salt (ham’s salty!), pepper, and some appropriate herb (I like a little thyme), and voila!, bean soup. (Stir or blend for your preferred texture – we need to talk more about blending!) If there are any bits of meat left on the bone after all the cooking I pick them off and toss them in the final product too. Check the seasoning and add a little more salt or pepper if it needs it.

I recently took the dribs and drabs out to heat them through and add them to my meal.

One piece of ham especially had that dry look that you often get on meat quicker than anything else in the freezer. I’m sure you know what it looks like and you probably know: it’s freezer burn. If you want to see what it looks like, check out this page which not only shows clearly a bunch of freezer-burnt chicken breasts, but gives a great recipe for how to turn them into Mexican-style shredded meat for enchiladas or burritos.

You’d be surprised how few pictures people seem to have posted to the internet of freezer-burnt meat. I guess no one is proud of having it.

Freezer burn is dehydration, primarily. The meat is perfect safe to eat (though eventually it won’t be – meat only lasts 6 months to a year in a freezer, tops, freezer burn or no freezer burn) but it often has a nasty dry texture. That’s why the above recipe is such a good idea for resuscitating the freezer-burned chicken breasts – it rehydrates them as well as cooks them.

Freezer burn happens when there’s air next to the meat in the freezer. Moisture condenses out of the air and forms ice, and draws moisture out of the meat. There’s a simple way to prevent it: remove the air from the package.

Now a vacuum sealer is great for this purpose, and that’s why you see a lot of commercially frozen and sold meat vacuum packed, especially fish, which is a delicate flesh. But a vacuum sealer is an expensive tool and we can’t always invest in one or store one.

Somewhere along the way (my grandmother?) I learned as a kid how to freeze meat. I still do it the same way, and I’ve never had a problem.

When I bring home bulk meat (ground meat or chicken breasts especially), I divide it up into cooking-size servings (whatever I will use for a meal) and wrap them in plastic wrap. This isn’t as tough to do as it seems: I tear off big squares of the plastic wrap and lay each one on the counter or stove or wherever I can, then portion the meat into each one.

Then I wrap the plastic tightly around the meat.

Then I wrap THAT package in foil, also tightly wrapped around the meat. I fold the ends of the foil together and then down to make an envelope, push all the air out the ends of the envelope, then roll up the ends. (I should make a video of this, maybe.)

Pushing all the air out twice, and giving it two layers to help it be impervious to evaporation (and yes, things can evaporate in the freezer – it’s really dry in there!) seems to do the trick. I use a Sharpie permanent marker to write the date and the contents on the package (since this method renders, say, ground beef indistinguishable from chicken breasts) and put them immediately in the freezer.

Anything you want to put in the freezer should have as little air in the package as possible. If it’s leftovers, see if you can put it in a baggie and press the air out before you seal it. The longer you expect to keep it, the better job you need to do at getting the air out and keeping the moisture in the meat in.

Very irregular hard things, like a ham bone, just will not wrap tightly enough to prevent freezer burn. So use them relatively quickly and as is and just don’t worry too much about it.

And make sure you riffle through your freezer to the back or the bottom at least once a month, and use things from the bottom. Check the dates and make sure that when something’s getting old, it gets used!

Squash and Fear

I have to share with you, I had butternut squash sitting in my kitchen for literally three months before I could summon up the courage to try peeling one.

Why, I wonder? It’s not a grenade; it’s not likely to explode if I cut into it wrong. I just had a picture of myself, sweating and sticky and cutting my fingers as I attempted to peel the stupid thing with a conventional peeler.

The truth could not have been farther from my fears. In fact, the squash peeled quite easily with the peeler. It has a very thin, though tough skin. I was careful to peel it down to the orange squash itself, making sure I didn’t leave any of the skin on. I cubed up the squash, spread it on a cookie sheet to put in the freezer (individual quick frozen cubes!), and boom, there you go.

How much does fear keep us from doing something new in the kitchen? I enjoy cooking but even so there are some tasks I dread. Sometimes it’s because I don’t know exactly what I’m getting into before I start. In such cases, there’s nothing for it but to try it. Designate one squash a sacrificial squash, and give it a go.

If you’re like me, you’re probably also at least a little afraid of wasting food. It’s really rare, as we’ve said tons of times here at cookcheap.org, that you mess up food so badly it really can’t be eaten. But you don’t want to end up with something unappetizing either. In fact there’s very little that’s worse than food that you just don’t want to eat but could. If it’s clearly burnt, you might feel bad throwing it away, but no one can really blame you. If it’s mushy or flavorless, or you just plain don’t want it in your mouth, you feel way worse about tossing it out and trying again. And when the item represents an investment in your food budget for the week, well, it may make you feel downright sick to your stomach to contemplate ruining it.

That’s why we’re doing this here. Commit to killing that squash. It’s got to go. It’s either it or you. It may be a sacrificial squash; it may be the squash upon which you learn, only to go forward to tastier, better squash and thus upward and onward to a life of good nutrition, cheaper eating, and many a squash conquered by you. But you can’t get there unless you start somewhere. So slaughter that squash.

Here’s a perfectly good video on cleaning and peeling butternut squash I found on youtube. Other types of squash won’t really lend themselves to peeling this way – but butternut, a very common and often inexpensive American squash, works just fine. The cubes cook quite quickly, as in the squash stew previously posted, a pureed soup as we’ve also previously discussed here, or even just as a buttered, roasted side dish more nutritious than potatoes.

American stew

For me, soups are to winter what salads are to summer. “Here’s some random food, let’s put it in a bowl and eat it.” Because I prefer raw veggies to cooked ones, I never get as excited about soups and stews as I do about salads. Nonetheless, it’s cheaper to eat local veggies in soups than it is to eat veggies flown in from South American countries (or worse, the other side of the world) just to get a salad. Plus, this year I have stores of dried and frozen veggies that need to be eaten before more start arriving!

So I’ll still buy a cucumber as a treat, but I’ll consider it as such, and in between I’m trying to eat the food that I’ve saved. It’s nutritious and of course it’s cheap.

I crave bright, sour foods this time of winter: Greek salads with lemon and dill and olives. But that’s not what grows around here. Oddly enough, what grows around here – and therefore what’s cheap and available – are American foods.

I have a couple of butternut squash that have survived the winter just fine sitting in my kitchen. I’ve finally broken them down – peeled them (this works well with just a plain peeler, don’t be scared!), scooped out the seeds, chopped them into cubes, frozen them on a cookie sheet and popped them in a bag in the freezer to save. Squash are a lot more nutritious than plain potatoes. But I don’t always like the texture and these have almost no flavor. I’m tired of pureed soup. What to do?

Well, in soups as in salads, it usually works well to pair foods with things that, again, come from their home region.

Where does squash come from? Right here! Native Americans planted squash with corn and beans, the three sisters that formed the backbone of many farming tribes’ diets. Why couldn’t I do the same? They did it because it worked, producing a lot of nutrition from the most efficient use of land, but it also provides a great complete nutrition profile. Why shouldn’t I?

So I put some of my frozen squash cubes in two cups of water on the stove, and added a chopped up (seeded) adobo chile (from my spice buying trip, documented previously!). I added some dried leek and dried red pepper from the dried food stores, and a can each of tomatoes, pinto beans, and corn. All of these things are things that grow, if not in my neighborhood, at least on my continent. A little olive oil gives the soup body and richness, and a fruity aroma that went well with the squash (it is, after all, a fruit – thus all those seeds! And hey, the tomatoes are fruit too!) I added salt, pepper, some garlic powder, and cooked at a brisk simmer for twenty minutes – and hey, I had food! Pretty tasty, too, and quite nutritious. And enough for about five meals. I can add meat on the side if I want, stir it in (ham goes very well with this American mix), or eat it as is – the beans are a source of partial protein.

What’s expensive now? Lemons, olives, oranges, fresh delicate herbs and tomatoes – things that don’t grow around here, at least not now, probably not ever. What’s always cheaper? Things that DO grow around where you are. If you visit a farmer’s market, if nothing else you’ll get a better sense of what grows in your state, and your county. If you’re trying to figure out what to mix with what from your food stores – try to mix like region with like region. You’ll probably like what you get!

Amazon’s subscribe and save

I know I say at CookCheap.org that you can buy any ingredients you want (and still cook cheaper than eating processed food). But I think there’s some value to sharing some of my shopping tips for more specialized ingredients for people with different eating needs.

A friend, for instance, just found out she has to try to eat gluten-free. Well, that ain’t easy (or cheap) if you rely on processed foods (which also taste – well, just awful). If you want to buy almond flour (which I highly recommend, as I do Elana’s Pantry, the website and cookbook on cooking gluten-free with almond flour), then you might well have to buy it online. I have to buy some ingredients online even here in the larger New York area – it doesn’t make sense for me to drive an hour for ingredients from an energy consumption or time consumption point of view. Plus, if they’re products that even a health food store gets only a few of at a time, there’s not much more carbon footprint to having them shipped to my house versus having them shipped to a local store.

I’m really enjoying Amazon’s Subscribe and Save options for these types of ingredients. I subscribe to a two-pack of agave nectar, for instance. If you participate in Amazon’s Subscribe and Save plan, you get 15% off the cost of the item, plus free shipping. I purchased Wholesome Sweetener Organic Blue Agave, which Amazon already lists at a discount of the retail price: $16.89. (This is for two 44-oz bottles.) On Subscribe & Save, I get 15% off, so the cost to me is $14.35, or $7.17 a bottle. I have shopped at many stores and you cannot find organic 44-oz bottles of agave for $7.17 in any store around here.

On the Subscribe & Save plan, I can choose it have it shipped every month, or every 2, 3, or 6 months. I already use similar services from QVC (I get our vitamins that way) so it’s nothing to me to check it every month or so, when I’m doing the bills online, and see if I want to cancel or delay or skip a shipment.

I would buy something this way even the first time I buy it, because you can always cancel the Subscribe & Save, but if you like it, you can keep going. In a small family like mine, it is going to take me a while to go through a bulk order of whatever it is – choosing 6 months right off the bat lets me move up an order if I want, but I don’t get inundated in products I don’t want and don’t want to pay for!

I buy tea, agave, and stevia this way, and I’m looking at this four-pack of whole grain dry foods – rice, mixed rices, and whole-wheat couscous. I’m looking at making a lot of soups with my dried food this fall and winter and some nice rice I can throw in by the handful would be a good addition, but I don’t want to eat white rice. And variety is key when I have to work my way through a bunch of bulk ingredients.

Couscous is so incredibly easy to cook – have you ever used it? It is much quicker than rice and is so good – we need to do some couscous recipes here at CookCheap.org!

What cooking ingredients might you have shipped to your house, if it would save you time and money?

The glory of beets

Roasting beets
This is the time of year when root vegetables are coming in. I’ve developed such a passion for beets, I feel I have to share some thoughts about cooking them.

I never knew what to do with beets until a friend actually told me how to cook them. “Just wrap them up in foil and roast them,” she said. “Perfect.”

It really is that easy. If I have a small bunch, I wrap them in foil (you’re keeping the steam in, so you’re not really roasting them, but this makes them cook very thoroughly and evenly,) and bake the foil-wrapped packet on a cookie sheet for about 45 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

Here I got very excited for fall beets and bought two bunches at the farmer’s market. They cooked just perfectly in a small cast-iron pan with a tight-fitting lid and an oven-safe handle. I let them cool on the counter for a while, then peeled them.

Peeling beets

As you can see, I just snip off the tops and the stringy bottoms with scissors, rinse them well in water, then bung ’em in the oven. There’s no point in scrubbing or trimming them further, because you’re going to peel them as soon as they’re cooked.

When I’ve roasted the beets later in the evening, I’ve even been known to bung the whole package (cooled on the counter, of course) into the fridge for peeling the next day.

Peeled cooked beets last a good long while in a sealed container in the fridge. I’ve kept them up to five days or so. They are cooked vegetables, after all, so they won’t last forever.

I add them to a green salad with cooked chicken and onion and cheese and they are brilliant. Probably one of the best salads of all time is sliced roasted beets, goat cheese, walnuts, and chicken. You could also eat them with meatloaf, or just about anything else you wanted.

Beets are so good for you. As you might guess from their rich red color they are packed with nutrients, including antioxidants. And they are filling and slightly sweet and rich. But my favorite thing about beets is their gorgeous color. I love the slippery feel of beets, I love the purple-red color that clings to my fingertips. They’re such a luxurious food.

Beets are perfectly cooked when they’re tender but not mushy. If you’re not sure if your beets are cooked, take a sharp paring knife and see if it slides gently into the center. If the beets resist any knife entry, they could use more cooking. If it slides all the way through, they’re already a bit overcooked. If they need more cooking, just wrap them back up or put the lid back on and bake some more. Remember that they’ll continue to cook a bit on the counter while they’re still wrapped and hot.

Small beets like these I think are perfect after 45 minutes – maybe even a touch less. The bigger your beets, the longer they would take to bake. Very big beets – fist-sized or bigger – will be tougher and not as tender to eat. I hate peeling a ton of tiny beets, though, so pick a size that looks easy to live with.

I peel with a sharp knife, but when the beets are done most of the skin just slides right off.

And if you live in an area where eggs pickled with beets are available (I went to high school in Pennsylvania Dutch country – I love purple pickled eggs!), don’t pass them by. And eat the beets too.

Bulk Spices!

For various reasons of the plot we spent several hours driving home through New Jersey today, and we stopped at a large flea market. There were no fleas but the highest-turnover store appeared to be primarily produce and imported goods like spices.

Putting what I’ve said before about spices to good use, I spent quite some time perusing the spice buying options. These bottles were 2 for $5, and they were pretty sizable.

This is the time of year when my family tends to go through a lot of “fall spices” in mixes, so I picked up a bottle of Apple Pie spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, and clove) and Pumpkin Pie spice (similar but with the addition of ginger). If you’ve ever tried to cook squash or apple dishes in the fall you know how expensive these spices are, so I was thrilled to get them! I’m going to try to figure out how to use them in home-brewing coffee to make a sugar-free pumpkin pie latte without selling my soul to Starbuck’s.

You gotta read the labels. A great deal on poor food is no deal. There was a bottle of “cock seasoning” which attracted my eye for obvious reasons. The second ingredient was sugar, the third ingredient was MSG. No thanks! But these labels indicated they held only the spices indicated. They’re already ground, so they won’t last for years and years, but they’re cheap enough that you can use them even for experimental cooking and they’ll last you through the season and you can’t feel bad even if your Mocha Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Souffle doesn’t turn out the way you hoped!

I also got a bag of chipotle peppers for $1.99. Chipotles add a great flavor to chili and the dried peppers last virtually forever. Just snip off pieces with scissors, scrape out the seeds if you want to minimize the heat, and snip into the dish. Magic!

This is also the best kind of store to get dried goods in bulk. I couldn’t help but notice the pinto beans:

If you want to buy such items cheap you can’t beat a place like this. If you’re worried about the freshness or quality, look to make sure the items aren’t too dusty and that the store is busy. This store was in a flea market mall that was almost dead – but there were four to eight people waiting to check out at any given moment. Lots of turnover. Another store down the hall was selling expired cans of sardines (which I would NOT EAT) but this store was selling fresh, new sardines that wouldn’t expire for another FIVE YEARS (that’s a significant difference in the age of your canned goods, people!) for 4 for $5. Good deals!

As we go into fall don’t forget to look for a store you’ve never tried before and check out their deals! Stocking up on items that won’t go bad on you is like money in the bank, as long as you remember to use them every once in a while. You’ll rotate through such long-lived storage goods and the savings will offset your regular food bill every week!

So let’s say in a regular week I made chili once (using my chipotles and my pinto beans) and refried beans once (using the beans). There’s two meals where a significant bulk ingredient is already on hand and therefore reducing my immediate food bill.

This buying ahead doesn’t reduce your food bill immediately but it does down the road, once you have a stock built up. Just remember to rotate through it! Go “shopping” in your stores once a week; look through your goods and take out a couple of things to cook with through the week and you will reap the benefits of storing wisely.

Food safety

Here at CookCheap.org we’re always interested in not killing people. You may remember our interest in not killing people from such web pages as our warnings and disclaimers page. But since I started this blog I’ve worried about giving people food advice that won’t kill them. That’s why I look up USDA recommendations if I’m going to tell people that you can store eggs at room temperature (you can) and put the links in the posts, and stuff like that.

But in the interests of greater food safety, I am pursuing certification from the ServSafe ™ food safety training program. This certification is usually for people who work in kitchens or who serve a lot of people food. The program trains you with some basic info regarding safe food handling, preparation, and storage.

This will make me, at least, feel better about the advice I’m giving you regarding food. You will all make your own decisions about when to throw food out, for instance, but I’d be happier knowing what the industry standard is supposed to be even as I tell you what I do in my own kitchen. And there’s no doubt that making big batches of food and eating it over several days is cheaper than relying on takeout – but not if you give yourself food poisoning and have to go to the hospital on the last day.

So stay tuned for posts informed by a more academic understanding of safe food practices. Even if I don’t get certified (I do intend to!) I will complete the training materials. My brain will probably be spinning with food safety info! Or maybe just spinning. I’m reading the fourth edition textbook and it’s the kind of lists and charts of info that I know is supposed to be really educationally useful but just make me fall asleep. In between sleeping bouts, though, I know I’m learning a lot.

Further developments in not killing people as they develop!

Eggs as fast food

scene from Woman of the Year

If you’ve never seen the Hepburn/Tracy movie “Woman of the Year”, I recommend it. I love it because Hepburn and Tracy are awesome in it, and the script is great, not because it’s a reassuring portrait of either femininity or feminism. As a historical document it’s fascinating.

If I’m not mistaken there’s a scene in that movie where Hepburn’s character offers to make her husband something if he’s hungry – a couple of eggs. It’s a great moment and an insight into a time when food still didn’t come in freezer boxes or cans, it came in the form of food. And eggs were the perfect fast food. Cooked in minutes, eggs are an easy to store protein that can be used in tons of ways. In a time before microwaves and freezers, if you were hungry and you only had a couple of minutes, you had eggs.

As I’m constantly trying to eat more vegetables I try to remember this on nights when thawing out a hunk of meat to include with the meal is just too much trouble. If you have any sort of cooked vegetables, the addition of an egg makes it dinner. If you’re stir-frying rice and scallions, the egg makes it a complete meal. If you’re sauteeing a pan of veggies, the egg still makes it a complete meal.

random bowl o' food

I had some swiss chard that needed to get used up tonight, so I tossed it in a pan with half an onion and sauteed it up with some salt and pepper in some oil. When it was relatively cooked, I added eggs – just plopped them down on top of the greens, three in the pan, not mixed or anything, just plop, egg. I then covered the pan to let the steam from the greens and onions cook the top of the egg.

You can see in this photo the delightful fork marks I made as I prodded one of the yolks to make sure it was done. I needed the yolks to be cooked through so I could put some of this bowl o’ food in the fridge to eat for tomorrow’s lunch. You cannot save and eat or reheat partially cooked eggs or meat. If you want to save leftovers, fine – but the protein really has to be cooked. (Less-than-totally-well-done beef can be an exception to this but you have to be quite careful with it – cool thoroughly and as quickly as possible! But egg yolks really can’t. They have to be cooked through.)

I topped this bowl with some grated cheddar cheese and what was left of a chopped tomato. This is going to be my lunch tomorrow. I tried out the new deli near my workplace today. Over $11 for a skimpy salad and a small bowl of black bean soup. I think that would have been about $5 of ingredients tops. The price is certainly an encouragement to keep up with packing my lunch every day!

Movie still photo ruthlessly kyped from Alison Kerr and why do the beauty bloggers have all the great photos of classic women?

Buying lots of things to cook one

Have you ever been at the grocery store and been seduced by a great deal on, say, a fresh August tomato? And then have you decided you just had to go and get some fresh mozzarella and some fresh basil and a new vinaigrette dressing to go with it?

Well, if you haven’t, then you’re better than me because I totally have. I used to frequently get excited about $2 worth of tomatoes and end up spending $12 just to eat the tomato.

I don’t do that any more for one reason and one reason only:

When you do that you end up with a lot of odds and ends you can’t use in anything else.

Amirite? You know, you feel guilty about the other half of that mozzarella, but what are you gonna do? Make a lasagna? Well, you can’t, because you just blew your food budget on making one day’s worth of salad. And truly fresh mozzarella doesn’t last that long.

Plus, what if you’re not in the mood for lasagna? You’ve just had a glorious salad caprese. (And that salad – tomato, mozzarella, and basil – is one of my very favorite things to eat in this whole wide world.) What if you don’t want to follow it up with more Italian food? What if you want Chinese? (Very little dairy in Chinese cooking.)

And then there’s the whole spending $12 on one meal thing. I just keep coming back to that. It gets me down.

Here’s what I now tend to do instead:

If I have a great ingredient fall into my lap, like a nice fresh tomato right about now, I might buy ONE other ingredient to go with it, but it had better be an ingredient that will store, and everything else that goes with it has to be pantry stuff – things I get out of my pantry, not buy. Things that I just store anyway because they’re versatile, delicious foods and they store for a long time, thus providing me with options but not going bad in my kitchen while I hold them on hand.

So let’s buy that tomato for $2 (it’s a doozy) and then let’s buy a red onion for another, oh, 70 cents? What do red onions go for in your neighborhood?

Red onion is sweeter than yellow or white and perfectly good, in fact almost required, in salad applications. But red onion CAN be cooked just fine, a point we’ll make use of in a minute.

So now what am I going to do with that tomato? Let’s say I take it home and dice it up and add it to:

A can of black beans
A can of green beans
Some diced red onion
Some of the shredded cheddar cheese I keep in my fridge
Some Italian dressing

Now that is a tasty salad. I might add some pasta, or some tuna, or on a day when I go totally crazy, both pasta and tuna. If you want it to keep well for more than a day you might not want to add the tuna – but then fresh tomato doesn’t last that well in the fridge anyway, so you judge. But if not meals for two days, you can certainly get a meal for two people this way. (Or more, depending on the size of your Unexpected Tomato.) If I have them, I will also add chopped olives. Because I looooooove olives. You can get as crazy as you like with ingredients you like.

Now that’s all well and good, but let’s say I only used a half or a quarter of that red onion in my salad. (Because it doesn’t take much. It IS a salad.)

On day 2, I might dice up half of whatever is left, and make an omelette with a couple of eggs, some more of that cheese, and maybe a couple of the olives if any are left.

Still got any onion? Maybe it’s time to make a batch of chili and quit messing around with this one-meal stuff. Not enough onion for a whole batch of chili? Well maybe not, but if you throw in a little extra onion (in addition to a smallish yellow onion suitable for a batch of chili), then who’s going to know?

You can also dehydrate the onion and save it for later, or even chop it and throw it in the freezer in a baggie, expecting to throw it in something (a soup or a stew – even, say, chili!) at some later date.

If you do freeze it, spread the diced onion on a cookie sheet and freeze it that way, THEN toss the frozen pieces into a baggie or lock n’ lock, so you’ll have little individual pieces of onion, not an Onion Wad, when you go to use it again. This could be a happy Stash of Ready Onion that you toss onto a baked potato, or a bowl of chili, or hamburgers or hotdogs, as the need arises.

See what I mean? You can go broke taking advantage of a sale or seasonal windfall – but only if you go seek out special recipes and end up buying lots more expensive ingredients to go with what you got cheap. I’m not saying that a salad caprese isn’t a grand reason to buy mozzarella and basil and a really nice vinaigrette. It is a great reason. But if you’re just trying to eat well, not throwing yourself a Yummy Salad Party for some reason, then try to mix what you already have plus maybe ONE more ingredient into the windfall ingredient. If you are going to the grocery store with a list of ten things to buy to make Orange Glazed Chicken, you may eat some yummy Orange Glazed Chicken, but you won’t cook it cheaply.

(By the way, a note on tomatoes: refrigerating fresh tomatoes turns off some of their flavor compounds permanently. Store them on the counter till you’re going to use them, and use them within a couple of days. But once they’ve been cut up, they need to be refrigerated, eaten, cooked or frozen within two hours. Personally when I’ve gotten a seriously big tomato that cannot be eaten all at once, I’ll refrigerate half for a salad the next day rather than toss it, and while the flavor may not have been as delicately fulfilling to the average gourmet, it was perfectly fine.)