Are you trying to feed a family on a budget? Do you resent having to throw out scrappy bits of food that you can’t do anything with?
I can answer yes to both of those questions. There’s nothing like a young family to suck up your finances and suddenly dialling out for a pizza isn’t an option – you need to ensure you get value from money and good old fashioned nutrition from your food choices.
Living on your own and cooking for one can be just as challenging for a whole heap of reasons. Recipes are always for four or six so it’s easy to end up with waste, and we throw out too much food in this country as it is.
So what can you do to make the food in your cupboard and fridge last longer. How can you make the most of what you’re buying and make the leftovers something you’ll want to use again?
Here’s some of my tips!
- Zip lock bags– These are brilliant because they keep scraps fresher for longer but also take up less room in your freezer than storing portions in Tupperware or boxes. Pour in leftover sauces, soups and chilli and flatten them with your hands. Lay them flat in your freezer drawer and you’ll be amazed at how many you can stack up.
- Buy in bulk – As with most things, it’s cheaper to buy meat and poultry in trays or larger packs and split them up. I do this a lot with sausages and chicken. Again, zip lock bags are great for this as it means you can keep them protected from freezer burn but remove what you need as and when you need it. To stop the meat sticking together in the freezer pop in a tablespoon of olive oil or rapeseed oil and massage the meat – it won’t stick together once it’s in the freezer and you can take out however many you want.
- Cook sausages and chicken breasts in batches before you freeze them! This is a life saver for me. All I need to do is whip out a couple of cooked sausages from the freezer in the morning and by tea time they’ve defrosted and only need to be warmed through. Same goes for chicken breasts, although I tend to dice them first so I can just chuck in some cooked chicken in to a sauce or with some pasta.
- Freeze left over veg – it’s great to add to other dishes as an instant veggies boost or base. It’s often cheaper to buy veggies in bulk but you don’t want them sat in your fridge just getting limp or wrinkly. Finely chop or dice onions and stick them in a box or bag in the freezer. They’ll cook right through from frozen. Scraps from bags of frozen veg can be stored together in a bag which you can add to all the time – just grab a handful and add to chillies, omelettes, bolognese, cottage pies – you name it. Celery, peppers, sweetcorn and carrots are particularly great for this.
- Invest in good cheese. Sometimes more is less. Rather than opt for a cheap cheddar in your meals, try using a parmesan – you’ll use less.
- Freeze plonk! Anything left in that bottle of red wine? Pour it in to ice cube trays and freeze. Drop them into a sauce for a quick boost of flavour.
- Always make extra potatoes. Spuds are your friend. Whenever you’re making them, make more. Extra mash is particularly helpful. Mix with onion and a can of tuna for fishcakes the next day. Fry new potatoes with garlic and onion and whack on an egg for a tasty lunch. If like me you are feeding a toddler, you can keep it as plain old fashioned mash and heat up the next day with some of your precooked frozen sausages. Can’t beat it!
- Peel and par boil potatoes in advance for quick and easy roasties. This is also a Christmas survival tip for me. I’ll peel all my spuds in advance, boil them for about 5 minutes and then pop them in a zip lock freezer bag with some oil. I can either keep them in the fridge till I need to use them (later that day or the next one), or I freeze them. It’s much cheaper than buying frozen roast potatoes and they’re much tastier. It’s also a great time saver.
- Grate and freeze cheese. What is it it with cheddar? You get that bit at the end which is impossible to slice but too big to eat on its own. I’m loathe to throw away so grate it and pop it in in a bag in the freezer. You can add to the bag with all the other bits and bobs of leftover cheese. They’re handy for sauces or to top dishes and you can leave your lovely slice-able cheese in the fridge.
- Plan your meals The best way to ensure you have leftovers you can use is to plan your meals for the week. This way you’ll know what ingredients you can roll over to other dishes, and what can be used from dinner for lunch the next day.
I really could go on and on. I’m passionate about minimising my food waste but also making the most of what I have. What are your best leftover tips and recipes?