As busy working mums who love to cook and value family mealtimes, we are forever hunting for short-cuts in the kitchen as well as ways of reducing costs and going a bit easier on our planet. We’ve put our heads together on this one to bring you some of our top tried-and-tested tips.
Save time & money
- Roast butternut squash whole (180 degrees/gas 4 for 90 mins) – the flesh can then be scooped out and used as mash or in hummus etc without the timely and tiring task of peeling and chopping!
- Make “roll-overs”, not “left-overs”. Each dinner time make extra of one item to use in the following day’s meal. E.g. Day 1 = bean chilli and rice, Day 2 = rice biryani with roasted veg, Day 3 = roasted veg soup.
- Just before going to bed, soak porridge oats in a bowl of 1/2 water, 1/2 milk, cover and put in the fridge overnight. In the morning, just heat with your favourite fruit mashed in for a healthy and super-quick breakfast.
- Avoiding salt for your little one means you’ll want to introduce other delicious flavours – this is easily done with herbs and spices, but the little jars can be expensive! Look in the ‘world foods’ isles or find your local ethnic supermarkets to buy big bags and simply decant into airtight containers at home.
- Sometimes you can pick up great bargains by shopping at the end of the day (either at food markets or supermarkets).
- If you have the space, buy the largest bags of pasta and rice as it will save you money in the long-run.
- Buy seasonal! Buying fruit and veg in season is much cheaper and reduces your carbon footprint as it comes from closer to home. They’ll also be fresher and richer in nutrients!
- Buy large bunches of fresh herbs from a local market, chop and put in freezer bags ready for cooking – this saves having to buy the small supermarket portions every time and also saves needless plastic
…You can also put the herbs (e.g. coriander, parsley, rosemary) into ice-cube trays, top up with oil and freeze – ready for starting a variety of recipes.
- Slice old bananas, lay on a sheet of baking paper and freeze – put in a freezer bag/tupperware once frozen ready for smoothies/porridge/healthy ice-cream/healthy banana bread etc – in fact this can be done with lots of old fruit to save it going to waste (e.g. pears, nectarines, peaches, berries etc).
- Prepare whole meals for slow-cooking (such as veggie stew or chilli) in advance by putting all the ingredients (including the chopped veg, herbs and stock!) into a large zip-lock freezer bag or tupperware. Freeze until the day you need it. Take it out before lunch and slow-cook on low for 6-8 hours to be ready in time for dinner.
- Stock up on frozen fruit (blueberries, raspberries etc), vegetables (peas, sweetcorn, spinach, broccoli etc) and beans (edamame, green etc) – cheaper and just as nutritious!
- During a spare bit of time, pre-chop garlic and onions and freeze in zip-lock bags ready to use at the beginning of loads of different dishes!
- Cook in bulk and freeze any leftover portions in labelled freezer bags (we’ll always let you know which of our recipes are freezable!). Remember to cool the food as quickly as possible before freezing and defrost in the fridge before using.
- If you have bread that is going stale, freeze and use it for toast later – little ones often find toast easier to manage than fresh bread as it is less likely to turn into a stodgy, thick lump if being sucked!
- Collect the peel of potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips to make healthy veggie crisps… Pat with kitchen paper to absorb any excess moisture, place in a baking tray, drizzle a small amount of rapeseed oil and mix to coat (add optional flavouring e.g. paprika), spread evenly in a single layer and bake for 20 mins at 200 degrees/gas 6, remove and place on kitchen paper to absorb any excess oil.
- Use the skins, ends and peel of vegetables to make your own salt-free stock (see our post Love stock, hate waste).
- Don’t disregard fruit or veg that is reduced because it is nearing its sell-by date. Fruits can be chopped and frozen, and tomatoes can be turned into sauce, and other veggies into lovely soups etc.
- Look for wonky fruit and veg! It’s totally natural for carrots to not be perfectly straight or apples beautifully cylindrical. They are usually thrown away as most people don’t buy them, so can often be cheaper. They can also now be found in a special section in some larger supermarkets.
- Plan specific meals for the week in advance of going shopping so that you only buy as much food as you need when you’re in the supermarket
- Do you buy bagged salad leaves and always end up having to throw the last bits away? Decant the leaves soon after purchasing into an airtight container with a piece of kitchen roll in the bottom to keep them fresher for longer and stop the leaves wilting and turning sludgy.