Many of us are currently being more imaginative with our cooking than every before – a mixture of having a little more time, and not being able to get our usual ingredients as readily. With shopping being more difficult and time consuming than usual, we thought we’d share these meal planning and food saving tips to help you get the most out of your ingredients.
- Freeze more. If you’ve got space in your freezer, you can freeze lots of leftovers so as not to waste them. You can freeze whole bottles of milk (although the liquid expands and may pop the top off the bottle, so it’s best to put it in a large plastic bag as well), butter, cheese and a whole lot more. The texture of cheese can go a little crumbly when it’s thawed out (it still tastes fine), so if you’re really organised grate the cheese before freezing and use it straight from the freezer for cooking with. Cream also freezes well – if you’ve only got a little left, put it in an ice cube tray and pop out cubes to add to sauces as you need them. You can do the same thing with lemon juice, too! Most vegetables freeze well, as well – for example, fresh spinach can be washed, shredded and frozen ready to make sauces or soups. You can also freeze bananas – just freeze them whole in their skins then defrost and use in smoothies or baking.
2. Improvise. Although stocking levels are pretty much back up to normal, we still seem to be sort of the odd item on the shelves – most notably, flour! If you can’t get hold of any but still want to bake, search the internet for recipes using polenta, cocoa powder, ground almonds or porridge oats instead. Try searching for ‘gluten free cake recipes’ – some of these will use specialist gluten free flour, but a lot of others will use store-cupboard alternatives instead.
3. Plan plan plan! Most of us are trying to go to the shops as little as possible at the moment which means being organised with meal planning. Eat fruit and veg in ‘shelf life’ order – potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes and other root veg will happily live for weeks in the fridge so there’s no rush to eat those, while salad, soft fruit and more delicate veg like beans needs to be eaten first. Lots of meals freeze well, so if you’re making something like chilli, lasagne, pasta sauce or stew you can always make an extra portion for the freezer for an easy meal. Plan your household meals before you go shopping, so that not only can you be sure you’ve got everything you need and avoid waste but you can also see at a glance that you’re getting enough variety.
Toast and nuts and flavour them with soy sauce for a healthy snack
4. Keep healthy snacks in. At the moment, there’s a temptation not to have much in the way of structure to the day. Lack of routine can lead to a lot more ‘grazing’ than most of us would normally do, so keep a few healthy snacks. To make a savoury snack, toast mixed nuts or seeds for a few minutes in a hot oven, then sprinkle with a small amount of soy sauce. Leave until dry then put into an airtight container. You could try making your own vegetable crisps – use a vegetable peeler to cut really thin slices from carrots, parsnips and beetroot (this is messy!), lay them flat on a baking tray and sprinkle with olive oil and seasalt. Bake for around two hours at 150 degrees C until dried out and ..er..crisp-like.
5. Try something new. If you’re anything like us, you’ll have a few ‘unusual’ ingredients at the back of kitchen cupboard – some unusual spices, carob powder or candied fruit that you once bought in a fit of enthusiasm and hasn’t seen the light of day since. Search for a suitable recipe (some websites, such as BBC Good Food, will let you search by ingredient) and have a go! Or why not just trying making something you’ve never made before, such as bread, omelette or pizza?