Food is one of the largest outlays in any household budget. It is easy to waste key ingredients if you don’t plan your meals and over time, this is both expensive and wasteful.
Before you shop; plan your meals, and once you get home, plan your fridge, freezer or pantry to save time and money long term.
Start with your basic ingredients
If you keep a few staples in your pantry, it will always be easy to whip up a quick meal. Every home needs good quality oil, some simple spices (bayleaves, garlic, onion, ginger, lemon, mixed herbs, cinnamon and chilli for example), a few condiments (soy sauce, relish, tomato sauce, sweet chilli), flour, tinned tomatoes, fruit, nuts, and stock.
In your fridge; eggs, milk (it’s a great idea to keep a container of milk powder in the freezer in case you are ever caught short, or have a long life milk in the pantry), cheese, butter and fruit and vegetables and possibly a bottle of wine in case you have unexpected guests.
Prepare before you freeze
Freezers are amazing things, but occasionally they can become daunting, filled with large items that need attention once they are defrosted to create anything interesting.
If you live alone or in a couple, try these tips to make meals times easier – if you buy schnitzel (chicken pork or beef), crumb it before you freeze it and freeze it on a baking tray and then transfer it to a plastic bag. It makes it faster to defrost and is fast to cook if you come home late – simple add a salad and you have dinner in a flash.
Don’t freeze large trays of mince – cook it first, with tomatoes, garlic, onion and your favourite spices, then freeze individual portions in plastic bags. Add a can of drained rinsed lentils to add fibre and make it go further. That way, one tray of mince can become lasagna, cottage pie, burritos, tacos, or many other things, with just a few additions before serving.
If you like beef or chicken marinated, mix a marinade and put in in a plastic bag with the meat and then freeze it. It will marinate as it defrosts and save you a job another day.
Make enough soup for several servings and freeze it for winter lunches or easy dinners.
Corn fritters (with added grated vegetables or sliced ham to glam them up a bit) also freeze well if you make a large batch and can be easily reheated in the microwave.
Real fast food
Planning and cooking larger portions every now and again (a rainy afternoon is a great time to get busy in the kitchen and ‘food bank’). It is a lovely tradition to shop every couple of days for a few meals, but it often more expensive in the long run. It is a wonderful feeling to have a couple of meals stored in the freezer – healthy and cost effective ‘fast food’ instead of takeaways!