The need to save money becomes very important where food items are concerned. This is probably where quite a large amount of the family budget is spent. Savings can be made without sacrificing quality.
When entertaining friends, you will be able to produce a first class meal with no one noticing how you are saving money on food.
Good meals are important not only to your body but also to your morale.
If you make the time and effort and bring the family together around the table to enjoy this good food, you will also find many other advantages.
Switch off the TV and talk to each other, exchange pleasures or thrash out a problem, seeking advice from each other.
Best of all, you are together with good food, good company and you will save money.
For the sake of those who are in a rush, each tip has the subject matter highlighted so that you can quickly search for your particular need saving you time and energy, plus keeping to your budget. Remember, our joint aim is to save time and money.
Concentrating first of all on anyone who is pushed for time – Time poor – the following two quick tips on storing food are bound to be help to save money, time and effort.
1. Store bread in the refrigerator. Stored this way it stays fresh for a week and does not go mouldy. This tip is particularly useful during the summer months. Always make sure the plastic bread bag is tightly closed otherwise the bread will dry out. Now that the price of wheat is increasing making bread very expensive, this tip will save you money.
2. When storing cheese in the refrigerator, place it in a small plastic lidded container, but before closing the lid, put a sheet of paper kitchen towel inside, folded to the correct size. This will help to absorb all the excess moisture the cheese produces and keeps the mould away for a longer period. Check periodically to see that all is well.
3. For a quick supply of roast potatoes, par boil and roast as usual. When cooked, drain them on kitchen paper. Cool and store in plastic bags in the freezer. This is a form of batch cooking food and handy for having roast spuds ready at any time of the year. Parsnips can be treated in the same way. If you do a double sized batch you will save money because of the energy saved.
4. That most basic food – creamed potatoes can also be frozen. Prepare a batch, then using an ice-cream scoop set out individual portions on a plate or chopping board. Flash freeze as they are on the board or plate, then remove from the board and store as above. This tips is a life-saver when you are in a desperate rush to get a meal on the table. Defrost them in the microwave, then beat with a spoon and serve. Again cooking a double portion will save money, time and effort.
Even humble creamed potatoes, see picture right, can be made to look like a very special food for a dinner party. Buy a large piping nozzle and bag, and pipe your potatoes into shapes or mounds, then decorate with chopped parsley. Yes, it takes a bit of effort, but the result can be amazing.
The variations on mashed potatoes are almost endless. Try adding a little grated nutmeg. Or horseradish. Or grated cheese. Or finely chopped garlic. Or cooking a small onion in with the potato and mashing it all up together. Or chopped spring onions. Or mustard. Or an egg. The choice is yours – just think good food!
5. Another way to save money on time and energy (fuel) that will give a different look to the food you are serving is – instead of cutting potatoes in the normal fairly large quarters prior to boiling, try slicing them cross-ways into slices maximum ½” thick. Cook in the normal way. This method will cut cooking time down by at least a 1/3rd of the normal time. Any left over potato slices can be sautéed for a future meal. Not only is there the advantage that you will save money, time and energy, but this method makes the potatoes easier to mash and cream. Two tips for the price of one here! When entertaining these sliced potatoes have a different eye appeal. Put a couple of springs of mint on top of the potatoes as a garnish, or sprinkle with chopped parsley.
6. Keep some cooked rice in the freezer. This can be used when you buy a take-away (as a monthly treat?) instead of spending money and ordering the shop’s cooked rice. Think of your budget and save money. Thanks to Julie of Southampton for this tip.
7. To save wasting lemons, slice them, flash freeze on a plate and when frozen just remove from the plate and store in a clear plastic bag. Use these for G & Ts, cold lemon drinks, garnishes on fish, hot lemon drink for treating a cold adding a spoonful of honey and maybe a small tot of whiskey if you like it, etc. This way you always have a ready supply and no wasted lemons are left mouldering in the fridge.
8. Another way to save money and food is put left over lemons cut into small pieces in a jug, cover with ample hot water. When cold store the jar in the fridge. This way you always have a refreshing cold drink to hand.
9. Health Experts advise the best way to start the day is a hot lemon drink before you have anything to eat. They maintain it wakes up the system.
10. Freeze any surplus eggs you may have left over. This is done by whisking two eggs gently together in a small bowl using a fork, with 1 level teaspoon of sugar. Store in small plastic containers and freeze. These eggs can be used in cakes, omelettes, scrambled egg dishes, pancakes etc. The small, plastic containers used by manufacturers for humous etc., are ideal and they stack well in the freezer.
11. If you are fortunate enough to have a Slow Cooker, use it to cook the cheaper cuts of meats. Take a look at these recipes.
12. Pearl Barley will help to bulk up a winter casserole, just rinse and add two heaped tablespoonfuls to the dish when you start the cooking process. Left over baked beans etc. can also be added or used up in a casserole. Extra tip: The Pearl Barley takes on the flavour and colour of the meat and is really appetizing.
13. When you are next in your local butcher or deli ask if they have a ham bone to spare. The chances are that there will be sufficient meat left on the bone to make a delicious meal at very little cost. If you smile sweetly you may even get the ham bone free – just think of the budget, save money and have a chuckle! Ham, eggs and chips for supper – Delicious.
14. Don’t waste the leftover juice from a can of tinned fruit. This can be used if you are making a jelly. Substitute it for part of the water you would normally use.
15. Another use for this is to make porridge with it instead of the usual water or milk you would normally use. Delicious.
16. If you are cooking carrots and broccoli for a meal, slice the carrots julienne style (strips) add them to the boiling, slightly salted water and bring back to the boil. When this is done toss in the broccoli (cut individually into small florets), bring back to the boil again and cook for approximately 3 minutes. (if you are using an electric cooker, make use of the residual heat here.) If you have a steamer, use this for the same effect. Test with a fork to make sure they are tender. When tipped into a serving dish or onto a plate, the colour contrast in the mixture is mouthwatering. Both vegetables retain their deep colour. French beans also combine well with carrots. Two items cooked in one saucepan saves on fuel, washing up liquid, effort and your energy at the end of a day. It also makes sticking to your ‘five a day’ routine easier. This tip works equally well if you are cooking your vegetables in the microwave. This really is a great way to save money when cooking good food.
17. On the same theme of saving fuel when cooking, in the salad or sandwich season hard-boil more than one egg at a time. Cook enough for two of three days and store the cooked ones in the refrigerator until needed. Make sure you keep them apart from the uncooked ones, or someone may get an unwanted surprise when try to use an egg for frying!
18. If you are making Yorkshire puddings and have some batter left over, quickly make a few pancakes.
Pancakes are another item of food that can be stored in the freezer packed with a sheet of greaseproof paper between each pancake and then popped into a plastic bag and sealed. Use them filled with a mixture of leftover rice and chopped chicken with a splash of tomato sauce on the top. The children will love them and they make the budget stretch further. A tasty way to save money and time.
19. If you are a watercress addict and are able to buy it in fresh bunches (not pre-packed in a polybag) you can either store it in the fridge or keep it fresh by cutting off the bottom ¼” stem and place in deep water in a wide necked jar. Keep out of direct sunshine.
20. If some of the watercress develops roots whilst it is being kept in water as above, this can be grown on if you have a source of fresh running water. A real cut-and-come-again crop. You could be ready to take a crop in about two weeks. It will survive the winter and start to flourish again in the spring. Before adding to your salad or soup, put the freshly picked watercress shoots into a bowl of cold, salted water in case there are any lurking unwanted inhabitants! A cautionary tip here – the running water must indeed be running and fresh.
21. When Brussel sprouts are bought on a stalk they also keep better in a jar of cold water in a cool place. They will last for weeks stored in this manner. Asparagus can also be kept in the same way but for a shorter time.
22. Food for Free. If you live in or near the countryside take advantage of ‘food for free’. In season you can pick blackberries, damsons, sloes, sweet chestnuts, cob nuts etc. Put the soft fruit in a plastic bag or container while you are collecting them and the nuts need to go in a paper bag. Always store the nuts in a paper bag or in an open dish. If you are really lucky, you may find watercress growing in a stream or slow moving river. Take some home and root as above. Take a walk in the country and bring home your own particular harvest of free food. What better way to save money?
23. When making damson jam to remove this stones from the jam, just pour the mushy liquid through a colander. Then add the sugar and proceed as normal. Thanks to Boris Johnson of The Daily Telegraph.
24. For the real enthusiast there are always young nettle tops which can be used in soups, salads, etc. Use the ‘dead nettle’ with little white flowers and paler green leaves than the stinging nettle. Strange though it may sound, this is possible with the addition of carrot, celery, garlic clove, some cooked rice and seasoning and the necessary very large handful of fresh nettle tops or leaves. In other words a vegetable soup with nettle tops added. These young nettle leaves can be added to salads, pizza toppings, pasta etc, and are tasty.
25. If you have loads of windfall apples don’t discard them or allow them to rot on the ground. Just wash and quarter them, cut out any insect damage or bruising. It is not necessary to remove the pips etc. Put these apples into a pressure cooker with just sufficient water to cover the base of the pan. Bring to 15 lbs. pressure. If you are using an electric cooker, switch off the hob and leave the pan in situ to finish cooking on the residual heat.
When cool push the ‘mush’ through a nylon sieve with a wooden spoon. Freeze the puree in small plastic containers. This is first class during the winter when served on the top of hot porridge. No added sugar, just the goodness of the apples – a tasty meal to start the day. This is really cheap food. Apples rescued from the ground and that would have otherwise rotted away!
This puree can also be cooked in an ordinary saucepan and on a gas hob, but will take longer.
26. Another way to use this apple puree is as the basis of apple sauce to be served with pork dishes.
27. If you make a habit of batch cooking you will save money and time.
Batch cooking is a term used for cooking a large quantity of any item or recipe then freezing it either as it has been cooked in the casserole or dividing the large quantity into individual portions.
If you do this with several different recipes such as casseroles, cauliflower cheese, pasta dishes, etc. you will have a selection stored in the freezer. These dishes can either be used if one member of the family is going to be arriving late for their meal, or if you are living on your own.
They are also very handy when unexpected guests arrive and you can quickly produce a home cooked meal. Portion(s) of pasta and tuna quickly thawed and served with garden peas looks very impressive. There are more ideas below.
Batch cooking is a real boon. You will be able to buy cheap plastic containers from the Pound Shops. These are microwaveable which is an added bonus. For extra saving you can also re-use lidded plastic food containers from take-away meals etc. but don’t try microwaving them!