Have you heard? We are heading into a recession. Britain, no sorry the world, is in the midst of a credit crunch and the economy is spiralling downwards. It’s Armageddon!
Sorry, I don’t mean to sound too sarcastic (well I guess I do) but if you hadn’t seen any credit crunch news then you will have been living down a small badger hole for the last year.
But seriously this is affecting all of us whether we want to admit it or not and while I am not one for being gloomy and saying my life is over now I can’t afford a new pair of killer heels, I am one for making small cut-backs to ease the pressure of mounting bills.
Any regular readers will have seen an earlier post about thrift and how we have forgotten the good old art of thriftiness that our mothers and grandmothers knew. Below are a few more helpful hints and tips on how to save money and stop wasting food – without stopping enjoying food.
I would again usher you to look at the Love Food Hate Waste website, which is absolutely packed with great tips for storing and using up leftovers.
This credit crunch, or whatever you want to call it, has served to remind us that waste is, well, very wasteful. Why then, when we have lots of money do we think it’s ok to use half a bag of lettuce then throw it away, or buy large packs of good quality meat, use half, then realise the rest is off and bin it? Why have we only just been told that a third of the food we buy, we throw away? This to me was a real wake-up call. So with much struggling and for-thought and planning and discipline I have embarked on a lifestyle of thrift, but without sacrificing good taste and healthy meals.
I try to devise frugal meals using cheaper (but not poorer quality) ingredients, instead of splurging on chicken breast three times a week and use up all my leftovers in canny ways – and there are lots of leftovers when there are any two people in a household. So I hope the following tips will help you cut down waste and save a few extra pennies.
1. Half a can of coconut milk left after making a curry? Either mix with pineapple juice for a delicious drink (add rum for a retro Pina Colada cocktail, yum) or pour into ice cube trays, allow to freeze, then tip the cubes into a bag and keep in the freezer for up to three months.
2. Stock up on good store cupboard ingredients such as canned pulses and beans, pasta, rice and canned chopped tomatoes. Then if you have a few left-over vegetables you have all you need for my vegetable chilli recipe below. Also, make sure you have lots of non-perishable condiments and a well stocked spice rack so you can jazz up the most boring of leftovers. For example a few leftover bits of meat or frozen prawns can be transformed into a delicious bowl of fragrant special-fried rice. Try my recipe below and just add whatever you have to hand, including chopped up pieces of chicken, prawns, ham or vegetables.
3. To breathe life into that slightly stale bread run it under the tap for a few seconds then bake in oven for 10 minutes or until crisp and fresh again. Magic!
4. Found some spuds languishing in the bottom of your larder? Just cook them, mash them and freeze in portions. You can also use up other root vegetables this way (squash, carrots, celeriac, sweet potato ect). Then defrost on a night when you have some sausages in the fridge. All you have to do it re-heat it in the microwave and you have bangers and mash in minutes.
5. Being a household of just two we often have leftover vegetables, especially half a head of broccoli or a few carrots. Just chopped them up, blanche them and let them cool, then freeze in a bag. You can gradually build up the amount of vegetables and after a month or so you will have a bag of mixed vegetables in the freezer ready to throw into your steamer to accompany a nice piece of fish.
Chilli con vegetables (vegetarian chilli)
This recipe has no exact quantities and I suppose the same goes for all ‘using up left over meals’ because it is using whatever you have to hand. But this is a good outline that you can to or swap around. You also may end up making quite a large batch in which case it is brilliant to freeze. Add any vegetables that you have to hand that would be suitable but I wouldn’t recommend missing out on the red onion or red pepper (sometimes if I have a jar of the char-grilled peppers in oil I just use those).
Fry one chopped red onion and two garlic cloves in a little olive oil until softened. Add half a chopped red pepper, half a courgette chopped into little cubes and half a small aubergine in cubes. Cook these for about 10 minutes on a moderate heat stirring regularly. Add a can of chopped tomatoes and fill the can a quarter of the way with water and add that. Then had half a teaspoon of smoked paprika, a teaspoon of mild chilli powder (the blended stuff you can buy in the supermarket, which is a mix of chilli, garlic, salt and cumin), half a teaspoon of cumin, a sprinkle of oregano and plenty of salt and pepper. If you like it spicy add a few good shakes of Tabasco sauce. Simmer for 10-15 minutes with a lid perched half-way across the pan. Then add a tin of mixed bean that includes kidney beans or whatever canned beans you have in the house and continue to simmer for a further 10 minutes. Either serve on rice, on top of a jacket potato or I like to put mine in bowls with some strong Cheddar cheese grated on the top and serve with some potato wedges with melted cheese on the side. A blob of sour cream wouldn’t go amiss either!
Egg fried rice
This is my basic recipe for egg fried rice, you will probably see similar recipes everywhere, it is pretty much the universal way to make it I think. The recipe can then be added to, to create special fried rice, which I find is a meal in itself.
For two people I usually measure out 200ml of rice because it is easier to measure it in volumes instead of weight. If you want it as a meal not a side dish perhaps increase it to 250ml.
Here is the important part: If you want really delicious, authentic tasting egg fried rice you must buy a fragrant rice. Buy either a good quality basmati, or as I like to a Thai fragrant rice, which smells and taste so beautiful and delicate. You can buy Tilder Thai rice in the supermarket but it is very expensive. If you have a Chinese food market near you they usually sell large sacks of it for around £5 – £7. I have used half my sack and I bought it about six months ago.
Anyway cook the rice, rinse it and strain so it is dry. Whisk two eggs in a cup. Heat a wok or large frying pan until it is very hot, add a good slug of tasteless oil, such as sunflower oil, and throw in the egg. Swirl it around into scrambled egg very quickly and as soon as it starts to solidify tip onto a plate. Add a little more oil to the wok and throw in the rice and fry for a few minutes. Add two finely sliced spring onions and then throw the egg back into the wok. Stir round to combine and turn down the heat. Add a good drizzle of soy sauce and a small drizzle of toasted sesame oil – don’t go mad with sesame oil it is very strong but it is imperative to the dish, you only need to buy and small bottle and it will last you age. This is the egg fried rice done.
To turn it into special friend add you extras towards the end to heat through. Some cooked chicken and small prawns with some frozen peas is nice.
Or turn it into a meal by serving it with sticky Chinese chicken as I did below by marinating chicken breasts in three tablespoons of Hosin sauce, one tablespoon of soy sauce, one tablespoon of soft brown sugar and a dash of sesame oil. Fry in a pan then finish in the oven until cooked through.