Waste not want not ...
Now that you’re menu planning proficiently, how can you make the most of the food that you have bought so that you squeeze every last cent of value out of them?
Restaurateurs and head chefs have been getting the most out of their ingredients since the invention of restaurants. Getting the most value out of the food they’ve purchased can mean the difference between profit and loss.
Our mothers and grandmothers were also experts at ensuring every last scrap of food was used, eliminating waste and saving money in the process.
Somewhere along the way in this modern world, we seem to have lost this skill in our homes. If you look on the shelves of our supermarkets, they are filled with convenience products that are charged at a premium. Salads in bags, ready meals, pre sliced chicken stir fry and jars of pasta sauce are all value added products where shops charge you more because they’ve done part of the work for you.
The more processed the food is, the higher premium you will pay. Obviously there is a fine balance here. Not everybody has the time to make everything from scratch (I for one am not interested in milling my own flour for example), but there are many practical and simple things you can do that don’t take too much extra time and will save you money.
Buy whole chickens and break them down.
It might seem rather daunting to go at a chicken with a knife, but it’s a lot simpler than you might imagine. There are some great online tutorials for breaking down chickens but it’s as simple as cutting the chicken into legs, thighs, breasts and wings. Buy 4 chickens at once, portion them up into their components then freeze them in their different groupings. When you’re menu planning you might use the breasts one night and the thighs later in the week.
Make your own stocks.
All those leftover chicken carcasses make the best stock. You can also use any vegetables you find at the bottom of your crisper that are past their prime to boost the flavour in your stocks. Keep any trimmings from vegetable preparation in ziplock bags in the freezer until you have enough to throw in your stocks. This is what restaurants do all the time and it’s not really that consuming. You can even do it in a slow cooker so that you don’t have to be home all day whilst your stock makes itself.
Stop buying bags of salad leaves.
You will save so much money if you buy a couple of different lettuces and make your own mix. When you get them home, simply tear off the leaves and throw into a clean sink filled with cold water. Soak the leaves for 10 minutes and gently swirl around in the water to get rid of any dirt. Dry them in clean tea towels or a salad spinner and it will keep in the fridge in a container lined with paper towel for a whole week.
Get creative with stale bread.
I always seem to have bread that is going stale, those last few pieces that nobody wants or the end that gets hardened and dried before anyone can enjoy it. Breadcrumbs are an obvious solution to using these up but there are some great meals that use stale bread such as fattoush salad, panzanella salad, polpa pomodoro, ceasar salad and of course gazpacho.
Use the freezer to keep things longer and in convenient portions.
A bottle of red wine that’s been opened and sitting on the bench all week is not that pleasant to drink so instead of letting leftover wine go bad, freeze it in ice cube trays then decant the cubes into ziplock bags for long term storage. You can then pop a few cubes into your cooking as needed. The same can be done with leftover tomato paste (don’t let it grow a mouldy fuzz in the fridge). Surprisingly leftover cream can also be frozen like this. If you whip it lightly before pouring into ice cube trays, it prevents the cream becoming grainy when defrosting. Chopped herbs mixed with a little water and frozen into cubes are also convenient to add into soups and stews and much nicer than dried herbs.
Keep an eye on the fruit bowl.
Catch fruit before it turns and use it in baking. We all know about banana bread but apples and pears are equally as versatile in muffins and cakes as are berries and stone fruits. Then portion the baked goods with plastic wrap and store in the freezer for convenient school lunch box fillers or to whip out when unexpected friends pop in.
If we simply place greater value on the food we buy and make a little extra effort, the savings can be enormous. We wouldn’t dream of throwing $20 notes in the bin, but when we waste food that’s exactly what we’re doing. Using these tips and a bit of our own creativity and imagination, we can challenge ourselves to make the most of our food and reduce food wastage.
Kristy is a mother of three who loves feeding her family wholesome, nutritious and above all delicious food. She has her own food blog called The Life She Made where she posts family style recipes and talks about life as a stay at home mother.