With supermarket delivery slots as rare as hens’ teeth and the Government asking us to revert back to once-a-week shopping, it makes sense to have a few tricks up your sleeve so that you can stretch out your provisions. So why not check out these tips to see how you can make your food last longer.
Before I begin, I would like to say a massive thank you to the supermarkets for doing a sterling job filling the shelves and to all the wonderful staff who are manning the stores so we can survive.
It makes sense to work out a meal plan and accompanying shopping list so that you know exactly what to buy at the supermarket. The benefits are minimum food wastage, less expense (as no impulse buys – or fewer of them!) and a shorter time spent in the supermarket. Plus, if you are self isolating with several family members, a little food planning goes a long way to stretching out your provisions to provide nutritional food for everyone.
One head chef. My friend Bumble and I are both big believers in one head chef, lots of KPs. Older children tend to raid the fridge when peckish or feel like cooking themselves an unsociable-hours snack – which means they are likely to use up that precious red onion or other vital ingredient you need for the next day’s lunch. One person in charge = food goes further.
Batch cooking saves both money and time. And none of us want to waste food. So, if it’s going out of date, cook it and freeze it. Items like onions and peppers are perfect to make homemade pasta sauces. Making a savoury mince means you can freeze it now and use it for spaghetti Bolognese, a meatloaf or a comforting cottage pie. Add kidney beans and you have a chilli con carne. Or make up a batch of beef burgers.
Make sure you freeze whatever you’ve cooked as soon as possible, once it’s fully cooled. Mark the date it was cooked/frozen on the container for later reference. Only defrost and thoroughly reheat the meal once.
BBC GoodFood have 46 batch cooking recipes here. And if you have any going spare, I’m sure a portion or two of your home cooked food will be much welcomed by any family or neighbours you are helping during this pandemic.
Fridge temperature. Check yours is below 5 degrees centigrade. It will extend the life of your milk and other perishable fridge contents. The average fridge temperature in the UK is 7 degrees centigrade. Click here to find out how to do this.
Don’t store fruit and veg together. Bananas, avocados and peaches produce ethylene gas which speeds up the ripening process of other products they are near to. Always refrigerate grapes, citrus fruits and berries otherwise they won’t last as long.
Maximising your fridge and freezer space. When unloading your shopping, think about which items you can store in your freezer rather than the fridge. Meat, poultry, many ready prepared meals (check the label first), fresh pasta, fish and plastic bottles of milk all freeze well. You can freeze butter too but as it tends to have quite a long shelf life, I usually keep mine in the fridge. I either defrost my stuff overnight in the fridge or take it out on the morning I want to use it and leave it in a cool place to come to room temperature.
Use alternatives Supermarket deliveries usually have at least a few missing items so be creative. Sugar didn’t arrive? Use honey or maple syrup. No butter? For cooking, oil will work just as well. You may discover new flavour combinations by using alternatives. But most importantly, you will still be able to put a meal on the table.
Best before dates. These dates are just a recommendation (with the exception of eggs) so products will usually be OK for a couple more days than the date on the label. If it smells and looks OK then it’s good to eat. However, I always reach to the back of the supermarket shelf to find the food product that has the longest best before date. Why buy, for example, a soup or taramasalata that needs to be eaten in four days when you can buy one that can be used in up to six or seven days time. Admittedly, I usually do this when I think no-one is looking! Please exercise caution and stick to Use By dates though, especially with meat fish and dairy.
Milk: All milk can be stored in the freezer and defrosted before use. Just make sure it’s still sealed. It should be defrosted fully in the fridge before using.
Cheese: Some hard cheeses freeze very well – either frozen in blocks or grated. If storing cheese in your fridge, wrap it in something porous like baking paper rather than cling film.
Bread: Most baked products including rolls, pittas, hot cross buns and crumpets can be easily frozen. I buy Tiger bread or sourdough and slice it myself, pop it into freezer bags and take out whatever slices I need either to defrost or pop in the toaster. Super handy.
Fruit: Fresh fruits like bananas and berries freeze well and can be put straight into a blender without defrosting when making smoothies.
Avocados: These seem to keep for ages in the salad drawer of a fridge once they are ripe. As do fresh herbs such as parsley and coriander.
Tomatoes, onions and garlic: Will last longer and taste better stored outside the fridge.
For a comprehensive list of foods you can freeze, Love Food, Hate Waste is a really useful website that lists ingredients from A – Z. Each ingredient has info on how best to store it, if you can freeze it and how to keep it fresher for longer.
To read Annabel’s post on clever gadgets that help you cut down on fresh food waste, click here.
Defrosting food safely: The Food Standards Agency website has everything you need to know about freezing and defrosting food safely.
If your household is anything like ours, meals are the highlight of the day. As is six o’clock when it’s time to pour a glass (or three) of something! So I hope these tips prove useful to you, in particular over the coming weeks.
You can also find recipe inspiration for your storecupboard staples here