Posts Tagged ‘tips for saving money’

I’d like to make a case for owning a dedicated freezer.  Somewhat outrageously, we have two, but that’s only because Pete keeps refusing to build me a coolroom.

Yes, it does cost us extra electricity to run the freezers, but they save us a fortune.  Plus we switched over to 100% green energy a couple of years ago, so I’m feeling a little less angst-ridden about our consumption now.

What the freezer does is this: it enables us to process more of our food at home.  So in mid-winter, we can have home-frozen plums to use in a dessert, rather than having to purchase tinned ones.   And when roma tomatoes are out of season, we’ll still be eating homemade passata, made when they were just $1/kilo.

We store all our bread and flour in the second freezer, and because we’re able to do that, we haven’t had to buy a loaf for over three years.  I once calculated that we save about $40 a week on sourdough by baking our own.  Over 156 weeks, that comes to $6,240!  Even if we were only buying supermarket bread, we would still have saved nearly $4,000.  And that’s just the saving on bread alone!

Here are some of the other things we freeze:

  • we buy fresh garlic in bulk from Diana and Ian, and freeze it broken into unpeeled cloves.  It lasts well in the fridge for ages.
  • when stone fruit are in season,  we buy it in boxes.  We eat some, jam some and freeze the rest, cut in half and stoned, vacuum sealed.  Then in the depths of winter, we can make an apricot slice, or another batch of plum jam.
  • baked goods always freeze well, and at any given time, our freezer is packed with cookies, meringues, leftover cakes (for trifle) and various other sweet treats.  We also keep rolls of cookie dough, ready to bake for an instant dessert as needed.
  • frozen berries – we keep raspberries, boysenberries, strawberries, blueberries and cherries in the freezer.  Most of these we buy frozen in bulk, but the strawberries and cherries are purchased from the markets when they’re in season and washed and frozen.  This is where the freezer really comes into its own – being able to store and extend the life of seasonal produce.
  • we keep an entire freezer drawer full of tomato passata.  Pete will now only make it when roma tomatoes are in season, and we freeze it in small takeaway containers.  As we eat a lot of Italian food, we’ll go through several tubs every week.
  • precooked meals and sauces – when we have time, we’ll make a double batch of bolognese sauce, or chicken curry.  There’s also a healthy supply of pesto, frozen in little ziplock bags. Having these tucked away in the freezer means we’re less likely to order takeaway when we’re tired and exhausted.
  • juice and rind -we buy a box each of lemons and limes once a year, squeeze them all and grate the rind, then freeze the lot.  The juice is stored in ice-cube bags (trays would work as well) and the frozen rind keeps brilliantly in a small tub, from which it can be scooped out as needed for cakes and desserts.

If you have any suggestions for things I can add to this list, please let me know.  There’s always room to squeeze a little more into the freezer…

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I was going to call this post “Waste Not Want Not”, but that’s a hard maxim to live by in the modern first world.  We try not to waste anything, but it’s almost impossible to never throw anything out, and I’m not about to force my boys to eat mouldy bread for the sake of a principle.

I think what’s important, though, is to make a concerted effort not to waste anything – and to feel a little angst when you do.

There are two persuasive reasons for training yourself to think like this. The first is obvious – it saves a bit of money.  It won’t necessarily be much though, and as an incentive, that alone will be unlikely to sustain a permanent change in thinking.

The second reason, to my mind,  is more convincing.

As many of you know by now, I’m a big River Cottage fan. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall often talks about treating food with respect – in the case of an animal, he interprets that to mean ensuring the beast has had the best  possible life prior to slaughter, and then making use of every last bit of the carcass.

By adopting an attitude of “waste with angst”, I feel that we’re showing respect for the generous bounty we’ve been given.  It ensures that we don’t take our food, or the energy and resources put into creating it, for granted.    It helps us to view what we have through grateful eyes, and reminds us to always give thanks for what we have.

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Here are some of the little things we do to minimise wastage (and therefore angst!) in our kitchen – I would love to know your suggestions!

  • Don’t throw out old bread, unless it’s mouldy or just too gross to eat.  We turn our stale loaves into panzanella salad (great recipe here), bread and butter pudding, and breadcrumbs (which we use in meatloaf, hamburgers, and occasionally just deep-fry and scatter over pasta).
  • Keep an eye on expiry dates, particularly on refrigerated items.  If  cream is nearing its use-by, turn it into custard, icecream or ganache.
  • Turn leftover cream into a little butter.  There is nothing quite like eating homemade bread smothered in freshly churned butter.  You don’t need a lot of equipment to do this – we use either the mixer or our mini food processor (with whisk attachment).  A little salt will help the butter keep a bit longer.  Here are some photos which might be of use.
  • Freeze your garlic – break it into unpeeled cloves and put them in a double layered ziplock bag (to prevent it stinking up your entire freezer).  Not having to throw out mouldy garlic  ever again is good for your soul!
  • Freeze all your excess egg whites, or turn them into meringues and then freeze them, for use in either trifle or Eton mess.  My friend Dan makes meringues on mass, freezes them, then pulls them out one at a time to make a “parfait” for little T – crushed meringue topped with strawberry jam and Greek yoghurt.  Perfect princess dessert!
  • Recycle leftovers – I know this is terribly clichéd, but it really does make a difference, especially when you’ve put a lot of effort into the original dish. I made my scotched egg meatloaf a few days ago, and the following night, Pete turned the leftovers into a simple pasta sauce, by breaking them up and adding his homemade tomato pasatta.  It was literally the work of minutes, and it felt like a totally different meal to the one we’d had previously.
  • Learn to preserve – a great way to store surplus produce, as well as creating gifts for your loved ones.  Start by turning all your apple leavings into homemade pectin, which you can then use to create the most delicious jams ever. Since Pete took over this process (which I must say, he’s become very good at), we’ve been giving jars of homemade jam away as presents, and it’s made Christmas gift giving a joy rather than a chore.
  • Finally, spread the love around!  Get to know your neighbours and share your bounty with them.  We regularly cook too much dinner, but we also have friends and neighbours who work very long hours and are usually happy to have a homecooked meal.  It works out brilliantly for everyone!

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Anybody that’s got more than a passing interest in British food should really look at Dorothy Hartley’s book, Food in England…one thing in it about mutton that I find quite funny really, but also quite nostalgic, and it comes from a time when you had your roast and it had to last, so it said:

Sunday, you have your mutton hot
Monday, cold
Tuesday, hashed
Wednesday, minced
Thursday, curried
Friday, broth
Saturday, shepherd’s pie

….presumably back to Sunday and another joint!

Chef Rick Stein, Rick Stein’s Food Heroes

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