Dear Sara: We’re having about 20 guests for Thanksgiving. In order to make this more manageable and frugal, we have turned it into a potluck Thanksgiving dinner. We do not have a dishwasher. So, what kind of disposable plate holds up best to gravy? I don’t want guests sitting on the couch with soggy plates in their laps. Any ideas? — Jean, Canada
Dear Jean: I would buy Chinet paper plates. They’re larger (10 3/8-inches) and stronger than the average paper plate. They do cost more, but you can go to a wholesale club to buy them. Paper plate holders would also be a nice investment. You can reuse them, and they make carrying and holding the plates a bit easier, not to mention dressing them up a bit. You can find paper plate holders in rustic colors and made from materials such as wicker or rattan, which would work well for Thanksgiving.
Dear Sara: The little girl I provide day care for was here today. Her mom came to pick her up and asked if we wanted a bunch of homemade spring rolls, pork dumplings and noodles with chicken made by one of her employees (she and her husband don’t like Chinese food). So I thought, “Free food! I don’t have to make supper!” I tried a spring roll, a pork dumpling and a bite of noodles when she left. Later I was feeling yucky, with indigestion, a headache and an overall feeling of ick. Clearly, something was wrong with the food, so I threw it out. So, was it a mistake to be so trusting of my friend’s judgment of her employee? Would you have offered food to a friend if it was made by someone else? — N. Curran, email
Dear N. Curran: No, I wouldn’t have accepted it. I don’t want to seem overly picky about where the food came from (conditions or cleanliness of a stranger’s home) because I’m sure at some point, I’ve eaten restaurant food from questionable conditions. But I do tend to lean toward packaged foods such as fruits and veggies at potlucks, unless I know the people who brought the food. I eat a plant-based diet at home the majority of the time, so it would be easy for me to decline. My greater concern is that you don’t know how well it was stored before it arrived at your home. It’s not worth the risk.
Dear Sara: I have had chicken spaghetti and barbecue beans with ground beef in the freezer for I don’t know how long -- maybe nine months to a year for the chicken spaghetti and six months or so for the beans with beef. Should I eat it or toss it? — Lindsay, email
Dear Lindsay: I’d give it a try, but I think you’ll discover the chicken spaghetti will need to be tossed. Typically, pasta doesn’t do well when frozen long-term. It should be consumed within 30 days. The taste and texture might be off on the beans and beef, but you won’t know until you try it. It depends on how well it was stored when put into the freezer. The beef and beans are at the very end of their shelf life, in my opinion. I give frozen meats six months in the freezer.
Dear Sara: Can you freeze garden beets? — Kim, Ohio
Dear Kim: Yes, you can freeze them. Trim off the stems and leave about an inch of stem and a bit of the root. Wash them and then boil in water for approximately 45 minutes. Let them cool. Cut off the stems and roots and remove the skin. Slice and freeze in a freezer storage bag.
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 Sara Noel, c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO, 64106, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.