So this is it, it looks like we could be in this for the long haul and we need to start getting used to the fact that going to the supermarket has become a much more difficult and dangerous task. Popping to the shop for a missing ingredient or doing a daily-food shop for tonight’s dinner is now off the cards and we must all try to make the food we already have at home stretch further to limit the number of trips to the supermarket we need to make in order to protect those who are most vulnerable.
I’m not going to pretend that I’m some super savvy or thrifty food blogger, but I do have a boyfriend with seemingly hollow legs and living through some lean times has helped me to learn ways of making the food I do buy last longer and go further. So here are my tips to help you get more out of your shops during this lock-down period and who knows you may even change the way you cook and eat when all of this over.
Firstly, we need to have an honest conversation about portion control. I for one am definitely guilty of cooking too much of virtually everything I make and I bet you are too. If we want to make our food go further, then the simplest thing that we can do is to start being more conscious of the amount we cook in order to stop unnecessary overeating and food waste. I now measure out pasta, rice and oats per person and look at what a serving of other foods such as nuggets would be rather than just tipping out half the bag and eating whatever’s there. By doing this you not only help to curb the number of calories you and your family may be eating at a time when your activity levels are reduced, but you also stop yourself from using an entire bag of pasta in one meal when it would have stretched to two with a little portion control. After a while, I found that I had readjusted to what a normal portion size actually was and now I can eyeball a pretty accurate serving of pasta or rice without having tons leftover.
Befriend your freezer
I’m sure that many of you are already using your freezer but when you’re trying to make your food shop go further, the more that you can freeze, the better. We switched from buying fresh veg to frozen to allow us to continue to eat things such as peppers, green beans and broccoli for longer without needing to top up at the grocery store. Similarly, we began freezing pitta bread and those Warburton’s thin bagels, they take up less room than a loaf of bread and are easier to separate one portion at a time. Rather than using fresh fruit in our oatmeal, we also began buying the big bags of frozen berries from Aldi or Tesco, these last way longer than punnets of fresh raspberries or strawberries and are so much cheaper too. If you have time on your hands, or food that is going to expire, then cook it up and freeze it in containers so that it doesn’t go to waste.
Eurgh – meal planning – a lot of people can’t stand the idea, but it does really help if you’re trying to ensure that you are making the most out of the food you buy. We meal plan loosely, i.e we make a list of meals we want to eat but the order that we eat them in does tend to depend on what we fancy eating first. Meal planning stops us from impulse buying at the supermarket and also gives us peace of mind that we have enough food for whatever period of time we are trying to eat for. I promise you, even just scribbling down your main meals and what you need for them will help, and you won’t find that you end up with a random, sad and lonely bag of salad at the back of the fridge that you bought out of habit but that no-one planned to eat.
Turn to tins
I feel like Covid-19 has reignited the UK’s love for tins, which I, personally, am a big fan of. Tinned food basically never expires and even if the date were several years out, you’d probably still be completely safe to eat whatever was inside. Tinned tomatoes can be used as a base for pasta sauces, curries and stews, tinned beans add protein and bulk to chilli or soup and tinned vegetables really aren’t as bad as you’d think – toss a tin of carrots into a frying pan with a knob of butter and some salt and pepper and they’re actually delicious. If you need more inspiration for what to do with your tins then check out Jack Monroe’s new book Tin Can Cook, I bet you already have at least 3 days worth of meals in your cupboard just using tins alone.
Bulk out meals
This trick is great all of the time and can really help you to make more expensive or harder to come by ingredients go a little further. I like to bulk out my meals as much as possible with easy to come by and cheaper ingredients such as bread, potatoes, mushrooms, or other vegetables such as carrots, which helps me to use less meat whilst still making an ample portion for two. In bolognaise, I always start with a base of grated carrot and finely diced mushrooms before adding my mince and making my tomato sauce, the mushrooms and carrot dissolve into the sauce adding a delicious flavour, extra nutrients, and most importantly, volume, meaning I can use half the mince whilst still making the same portion. When making curries or stews I always add in potato, either sweet potato or regular potato and I serve almost everything we cook with a side of freshly toasted pitta bread or garlic bread to help fill Ed’s legs. If I had to choose my most versatile bulking ingredient it would be mushroom, as they take on the flavour of everything you put them in, but right now we are primarily using potato as we are eating a lot of soups, stews and curries.
Love your leftovers
In our house, leftovers are as prized as the main meal itself and rarely hang around in the fridge for longer than 24 hours. Although we’ve gotten a lot better with portion control, we do still sometimes have leftovers, and no matter how small that portion may be, we pop it in a pot and into the fridge and it usually gets eaten as a part of lunch the next day. Lockdown or not, we really shouldn’t be carelessly throwing away food, so invest in some different sized tuppawear containers and start loving your leftovers.
Make it a game
Finally, when things get low and you’re starting to prepare for your next supermarket visit, try to string things out a little further by playing an at-home version of the MasterChef mystery box challenge. Make it a game to create a meal using only what you have left, get creative, make it fun and you may be surprised at what you can come up with. I’ve made lentil meatballs out of tinned lentils and dried spices, used all sorts of vegetable odds and ends in a chilli, and have even made a curry using leftover roast potatoes, carrots and parsnips (which was delicious btw). If you are a couple then it gets doubly fun to have the game last over two days, play rock paper scissors to see who goes first and then take it in turns to complete the challenge.
So there you have it – these are the ways in which I try to make sure my food is going further. What else would you add? Share any suggestions in the comments and I’ll add them to the post with a credit!