Why you Should Make a Meal of Leftovers

LeftoversI was shattered when I got home from work yesterday, so I was happy to have a quick and easy dinner planned. Jacket potatoes with leftovers from the freezer; in this case some bolognese sauce and/or beef casserole. It may sound an odd combination but it was filling and tasty. A can of Smart Price sweetcorn ensured at least one of our five a day. With a little planning it is so easy to make a meal of leftovers.

How to make a meal of leftovers

I rarely throw food away. Even small amounts of mash or veg can be frozen to use to thicken soups and stews. Wrinkled apples make an excellent puree to mix with yogurt or serve with custard. Bread pudding is better made with stale bread (and I use the crusts). I also whizz up slightly stale bread into breadcrumbs and leave a bag in the freezer – you never know when you might need these. If yogurts are getting near their use by date I freeze them – when the kids were small I would put a lolly stick in the bottom of small fromage frais pots for a treat on a warm day. If I roast a chicken I usually deliberately get a larger one than I need and turn the excess into curry or make a creamy chicken pasta sauce. The carcass goes back into the freezer and when I have a couple I make stock.

Ignore best before dates

I ignore best before dates (and frequently buy from Approved Food, which sells food near or past its best before date at a hugely reduced price. In addition, I use my eyes and nose before chucking anything out that has a use by date. If you use my referral link I will earn a small commission.

I shop with a list and always have at least a week’s meal plans, so I don’t buy food that won’t be used. I do a regular stock take of my fridge, freezer and larder to see what needs using up, then plan meals around what is there. If I am working late, my plan will take that into account and I will either throw a meal together in the slow cooker or defrost something from the freezer. This way I am never tempted to get a take away when I get home late and tired. We will also eat something healthy.

I never guess how much rice or pasta to cook – I always measure 3 ounces of pasta and 2-3 ounces of rice, depending on how hungry we are. Sometimes I cook too much on purpose so that I can take some for lunch the following day.

Love Food Hate Waste

It is shocking what people throw away, not just because it is a waste of money, but because it seems immoral to be so cavalier about food when so many people in the world don’t have enough. There is lots of information, guidance on how to avoid wasting food and recipes at Love Food Hate Waste.

If you have stale bread to use up, here is my favourite bread pudding recipe, from my trusty and ancient Cranks Recipe Book. They don’t sell this fab book any more but Amazon has the one below, which according to the reviews has a fab selection of classics from the original (disclaimer – this is an affiliate link).

Spiced Bread Pudding (I always double up this quantity – it gets scoffed very quickly)

Stale bread, 8 oz (225g); half a pint of milk (284ml); mixed dried fruit 4 oz (100g); grated butter 2 oz (50g); brown sugar 4 oz (100g); mixed spice 1 tbsp (15ml); 1 egg; 4 tbsp milk (60ml); pinch of ground nutmeg

Break up the bread and place in a mixing bowl with the milk. Leave to soak. Add the dried fruit, butter, suga and mixed spice. Beat well. Whisk together the egg and milk and add to the bread mixture. Turn into a greased shallow ovenproof dish, level the surface and sprinkle with ground nutmeg. Bake at 180 C (350F/Gas mark 4) for about 45 minutes, until set (in my fan oven 35 minutes will do). Really delicious!!

There are more ideas for how you can make a meal from your leftovers, here, here and here.

 

My frugal bookshelf: Delia Smith’s Frugal Food

If anyone ever doubted the awesomeness that is Saint Delia (as I call her), think again. This book is a classic with good reason.

First published in 1976, At a time of inflation, rising prices and world food shortages. Sound familiar? Those problems persist,  but add to those our current issues around austerity, benefits cuts and  the uncertainty around Brexit and you realise that hard times and financial pressures are an increasingly common reality for many people.

This book, with its reliably cheap and tasty recipes, is still relevant. It was actually republished in a glossier format in 2008 but I have a copy of the original, with yellow pages and spillages to testify to its regular use.

There are some recipes I wouldn’t class as frugal. I think meat and fish may have been cheaper when the book was written so I don’t cook lamb or beef much. However, there are lots of recipes for those on a budget.  My favourites include pork sausages with cider sauce, spaghetti with tuna and olives, bean and lentil chilli, souffle’d jacket potatoes and liver casserole. There are some great puddings too. Classics like bread pudding and spotted dick alongside blackberry cheesecake for the forager.

You can still pick up various versions of this book secondhand, but if you use my link to Amazon to make a purchase I will receive a small commission.

Another Goode Book

Reader Rosemary reminded me of this one for my frugal bookshelf.  The Goode Kitchen was written by the late Shirley Goode to accompany her BBC series of the same name in 1986.

Shirley had a precise and logical approach to saving money in the kitchen, which has barely dated. In fact her approach to her kitchen decor (open shelves and a mix of charity shopped mixed crockery) seems positively on trend . Think shabby chic! She believed in spending more on the essentials, such as some quality knives and pans.

I first read the Goode Kitchen years ago and clearly absorbed this approach to cooking. Shirley can take a lot of the credit for much of my kitchen behaviour now – reusing yogurt pots and margarine pots to freeze soup or store leftovers, keeping old bread bags and making stock from bones and chicken carcasses.

She takes an interesting approach to budgeting that makes me think she was an influence on Jack Monroe, carefully costing her ingredients to easily calculate the price of any meal and adjusting ingredients to always get the best possible value.

The recipes are straightforward, nutritious and tasty. They use ingredients likely to be in most cook’s store cupboards or easy to find in a supermarket. For example, you will find recipes for fish chowder, Somerset rabbit casserole, poor man’s jugged hare (actually made with beef) and pauper’s pottage (a healthy vegetable stew) – great, no frills family food.

It is sadly out of print now but you can still find the odd copy secondhand on Amazon, as I did. If you see it at a reasonable price, grab it! There is a link below but you may have to go through and do a search.
goode kitchen

 

Got the L plates on!

So, I am now a driving instructor! Not a qualified one – it is Mum’s Driving School. DD3 has been out several times with her instructor but this was the first with me and, once she got used to the clutch, she did well. I’m going to take her out at least once a week so that she can get through her test as quickly as possible.

My friend at work brings me food from time to time – I don’t know why, maybe I look under nourished! His mum is a great Jamaican cook and he has given me Jamaican patties a couple of times now. They are delicious, like Cornish pasties but with a kick. The pastry is also spiced and golden yellow. This is good frugal food with a difference and worth exploring I think. He is promising me rice and peas next which sounds right up my street. I am going to check out some recipes.

I am off to London tonight on the train to see my old college friends. I don’t enjoy going into the city much but I am looking forward to having our annual catch up. Should be fun! I shall report back…

The best things in life are free

Fabulous weather in Essex today! I had my parents over for lunch and we were out in the garden all day, first enjoying the sun and then moving around  looking for some cooling shade as it heated up. We looked like the Ministry of Funny Hats at points as I had to find as many as I could and we were swapping them about. I used sun cream but still got a little pink.

Our free bench and charity shop table and chairs proved their worth today. Now we need to look out for a parasol for hot days like this. The story of the bench is here.

We had red dragon pie, which everyone seemed to enjoy. The hardest thing about this recipe is finding the aduki beans! I tried three different supermarkets and in the end my daughter bought canned ones in a health food shop. 

I used Sarah Brown’s recipe from a very old and well used cookbook, Vegetarian Kitchen, so worth buying if you are ever lucky enough to find a copy. I mentioned a link to this the other day but here it is again. It makes a change from shepherd’s pie and even a can of aduki beans only cost 75p. Dried beans would be even cheaper.

Darling daughter no 2 graduates from university this week so we got her some champagne. Such a clever girl, if I say so myself 😀😀.

It’s so good to spend time with the family. Aside from the champagne it cost almost nothing. The best things in life really are free 😀.

My best cheap and easy dinners

June and July have been financially taxing months, with seven family birthdays, including my daughter’s 21st, a new car which had then to be taxed and insured, and our recent holiday to Wales. I had money put by for all of these things but now I have completely used up my reserve and need to start saving straight away. So I am tightening the belt!

Fortunately I have some language students booked in over the next six weeks and yesterday I sold 4 dresses in one day on eBay – kerching! It will all help but I need to stop any inessential spending and stretch the groceries as well. I always revert back to a few cheap and easy dinners when I am saving money. These are my top ten:

Jacket potatoes with tuna and salad or veg from the garden.

Chick pea curry and rice.

Omelettes filled with cheese and whatever is sitting in the fridge – I often have mushrooms or sweetcorn lurking that need to be used up.

Vegetable bake – again this uses up the veg in the fridge or freezer. I add cheese sauce to cooked veg, cover with cheese and breadcrumbs and stick it under the grill to brown, or I might stick some cooked sliced potatoes on top and out it in the oven.

Liver and bacon casserole. I enjoyed this Hairy Bikers one recently.

Sausages and mash – easy comfort food. I use Aldi sausages and serve with beans or peas.

Macaroni cheese. I will add bacon to this if I have any.

Red dragon pie from my old Vegetarian Kitchen cookbook by Sarah Brown. I found it online here. It’s not quite so quick so I would make this at the weekend rather than after work. It’s really tasty!

Smoky chicken and chick peas, recipe here.

Vegetable paella or risotto. This Slimming World one is nice.

What are your go to cheap and easy dinners?

Bootstrap cooking

I am trying to eek out this week’s groceries by being creative and using things up. It’s good to do this every now and then as it makes me look properly at what is in my freezer and cupboards and use ingredients that have been hanging about a bit. I am lucky that we still have broccoli, spinach and chard in the garden too so I haven’t had to buy much veg. I did pop out to get milk from the local Co-op yesterday though and picked up parsnips and peppers reduced to half price. I will make a spicy parsnip soup for lunch today.
  I don’t have much meat though so we are eating more vegetarian dishes. The other night I made a stew out of pretty much everything we had in the fridge: celery, sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, mushrooms, peas and garlic with a tin of tomatoes, brown lentils, dried herbs and some vegetable stock. It was lovely with brown rice and a bit of grated cheese. I do like easy, no fuss dinners when I have been at work all day.

Last night we had some chicken thighs from the freezer in chicken chasseur as I had red wine that was a bit old for drinking but fine for cooking. I always use the recipe from A Girl Called Jack. This is one of my favourite cookbooks ever. I have the second one but it doesn’t appeal to me as much. I have also signed up for her third which was crowd funded through Kickstarter. I should receive a signed limited edition copy for my money next month some time. I know Jack has become a vegan on the last few months so it will be interesting to see how this affects the recipes on offer. It wasn’t billed as a vegan cookbook but I don’t mind as lots of meat makes cooking more expensive. It is called Cooking on a Bootstrap. 

As with anything related to Jack Monroe there is an interesting story behind the use of crowd funding to get the book out. It will actually come out with a ‘proper’ publisher in 2017. You can read about the saga  at https://cookingonabootstrap.com

Off to the garden now as I have more seeds to start for the garden. Happy Sunday!

Low Fat On A Budget?

  I made this yummy Slimming World recipe over the weekend, crustless bacon and mushroom quiche. The recipe says it will serve two but I would say  three as two of us couldn’t eat it all: recipe here.

So-called ‘slimming foods’ can be dear in my experience, but all of the ingredients for this came from Aldi and it was quite a cheap supper. We had the left over cottage cheese and bacon over the weekend, so no waste there. 

Logically if you are eating less you shouldn’t be spending more….I guess people tend to buy more healthy fruit and veg and lean meat and less of the cheap stuff like sausages and processed food when they are dieting. But if they also purchase fewer treats, less alcohol and gave up the takeaways you would think it would even itself out!

 I am encouraged at the number of nice looking veggie meals that are either low fat or can be adapted to be lower fat than usual. A meal based around pulses, vegetables and grains will generally be cheaper than eating meat. 

Another nice dish which happens to be vegetarian is vegetable paella, another Slimming World one. Delish and packed full of peppers and other veg so lots of antioxidants too. Replace the saffron with turmeric, use dried parsley and use ordinary rice instead of risotto  rice to make it a bit cheaper. I used mushrooms instead of courgettes as that was what I had. Use frozen instead of fresh peas and beans.
   

1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1.5 pints veg stock
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, sliced
2 courgettes, sliced
454 g tomatoes, skinned and chopped (I used a tin)
349g risotto rice
1 tsp paprika
0.5tsp saffron, soaked in 2 tvsp water
113g green beans
113g peas
salt and pepper
3tbsp chopped parsley

Put the onions and garlic in a large pan with half a pint of the stock and simmer until the onions are soft. Add the peppers, courgettes and tomatoes and cook gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and paprika. Pour in the saffron and add the peas and beans. Reduce the heat to a bare simmer and cook very gently, adding stock as it is absorbed and stirring regularly until all the liquid is absorbed. Season to taste and add the parsley just before serving.

I will definitely be making both these again!

Jane’s War on Waste!

Has anybody seen Hugh’s War on Waste on BBC1 at all? I watched the first one on catch up over the weekend and I heartily applaud what he is doing. 

Seeing a parsnip farmer going out of business because the supermarket they supply to will only accept parsnips of equal size and shape was painful and frustrating. This means tons of perfectly good fresh produce is being thrown away because the supermarkets insist that we, as their customers, will only accept perfect looking vegetables free of blemishes. The sad thing is I think this may be true for many people. Unless we grow our own produce we have been conditioned to think that misshapen veg is odd, when actually it is quite normal.

I was not surprised to see the amount of food that some of the households featured threw away each week. In the UK this averages £15 a week! That’s almost £800 a year -a holiday perhaps or at least a small pay rise. Our grandmothers would have had a fit – in the war it actually was illegal to waste food. It was a scarce and precious resource. They used every scrap and stretched every morsel and we were all the healthier for it.
  I don’t waste as much as the average person but have been known to forget the half a pot of hummus lurking at the back of the fridge, to chuck the last bits of the salad bag because they are looking a bit the worse for wear, to let the cereal go stale and to leave dry goods such as sugar and flour too long before I use them up.

Inspired by Hugh, this weekend I made sure we started to use some bits up. I made a banana cake with some rather brown bananas and some flour near its end date (not that I take much notice of that with dry goods), I made everyone have salad in their sandwiches at lunchtime, I made soup from the leftover cooked veg that I have been collecting in the freezer, I forced the last of a bottle of red wine down Mr S’s neck (surprisingly easy that one) and I made a large batch of apple purée from the windfalls that have been hanging around for a few weeks. 

I still have the Halloween pumpkin to use in some way but there is no rush since we went out and never actually got the chance to carve it! That will probably go for soup too as I love it and it’s good for work lunches.

It makes me mad when food is wasted, but if makes me madder if the person wasting it is me!

Little vegan number: spicy chick peas with spinach 

  I love chick peas! And I love spinach. Mostly I love frugal healthy food and this fits the bill on both counts. 

1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4-6 balls of frozen spinach
1 bell pepper. chopped
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
1 400g can chick peas, drained
half to one tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsps cumin
half pint veg stock
oil
salt and pepper

Fry up the onions, garlic and pepper  in the oil until soft, then add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the spinach and all the other ingredients and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for at least half an hour, covered. Taste and season.

A simple supper with rice or as a side dish and cheap as chips!