Cooking for the freezer, eating well on a budget and preventing waste!

Hi everyone. I have mostly been hibernating with my little one since the start of the New Year. Keeping busy but being quite lazy (down to tiredness) in relation to what we ate. I have to admit I have been seeing a lot of toast and salad these last few weeks. Quick, easy snacks that take minimal time and effort. Luckily my girl is more of a grazer so has been happy with picnic style nibbles. Everything is fun when you’re three. 20170125_1232071

Above: Love a no cook tuna sandwich but its time to get cooking again!

Lack of motivation is a real killer! Apart from a very generous friend and neighbour who invites me round to sample her yummy food once in a while, I really had lost all my passion for cooking and eating. (If you know me, you know that’s just not right ;-).)Especially having had limited funds to eat well in the first place. The last few weeks (the dreaded after christmas reality check) have been some of the worst for me financially since managing on my own. However, seeing how rough things had become, it was the kick up the arse I had needed to take stock of my freezer situation and general attitude towards meals and planning ahead!

For the first time in ages, my freezer was almost completely bare. No back ups. No handy extra ingredients to make a meal more interesting. Nothing but a bag of frozen spinach and some bread! Dire! When you are having a hard up week as a single mom, to not have a freezer full of healthy meals ready to go is a big mistake. It’s a life saver and saves you turning to a highly salted ready meal or the local chip shop when there’s nothing to eat in the house! It’s quite easy to do too if you change your mind-set and include it into what you’re doing anyway. You always need to eat and cook. It makes perfect sense to cook something that will keep for another meal too. 20170125_2020171

Above: Getting my cook on….

So, with that in mind, I started doing something about it. A little research online and a few helpful answers from mom (who has managed in a similar situation with three kids to keep alive!) I am well on my way. Now whenever I cook im thinking will it freeze? Things now only seem worth making if I can freeze a portion for a rainy day! There are some things that simply don’t taste as good once frozen, such as pasta, and can have its quality damaged. And some things just taste damn good made fresh and that’s how it should be. However, for most of my meals, I am now using the method of eat some now and freeze some for later. With a nearly four year old daughter to feed, who always wants something, it’s the best way forward for me. It also helps on days when she’s at nursery as I don’t want to stand for an hour cooking when she gets in, ive missed her, I want to spend time with her!

Above: Precious time

So here are a few things I have found freeze really well and a few ideas of what I will be doing to inspire you to be a bit more thrifty too ;-).Nothing goes to waste now in this house!

Cake!

Yes, you heard me, cake freezes! How I have not come across this bit of amazingly delicious information before I will never know but cake freezes really well, for at least 3 months. To be fair, my mom had told me this before but I didn’t believe her , thinking the quality would be effected, but its great! Now if im in the mood to bake, I don’t have to eat it all or feel I have to give loads away. I have one slice and the rest goes in my newly appointed cake freezer drawer (honestly) and its there for when people pop round for tea or when Emi wants a bit. It will take less than half hour to defrost at room temperature (sliced) or you can take it out the night before or warm in the microwave. Instant cake! I have tried all sorts from wholemeal fruit tea loaf to orange drizzle to cake full of fresh fruit. It all works well. And it works out much cheaper to make your own. Everyone should have a cake drawer ;-).

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Above: To think I have lived my entire adult life without a supply of frozen cake 😉

Bread!

I love bread. I have always frozen it but usually just buy a loaf and freeze it sliced. I have started teaching Emi how to make bread lately and she loves it. She bashes it about, loves the end result and makes her own labels for them to store them in the freezer. Making your own is also much cheaper as you will get 2 or 3 loaves out of one bag of flour, which is about the same cost as a standard loaf. I agree there’s not always time to make ones own bread (before you snigger) but if you do have a spare hour or two its well worth a try. Fresh bread straight from the oven with real butter oozing all over it is AMAZING! Slice it up and freeze the rest for some rustic eggs on chunky homemade toast or late night snacking at a later date.

Above: Emi making her bread and her homemade labels x

Pasta Sauce!

This is one of the most versatile things to make. You can use any meat, any veg, whatever you want or that is in stock and it is such a handy standby for midweek meals to have in as you can just lift it out and reheat it alongside some fresh pasta which takes minutes to cook. I just made a batch tonight using turkey mince, mixed frozen peppers, spinach and oregano, which took less than 40 minutes and has provided my freezer with three meals for the coming weeks ahead. It’s a  great way to use up cheaper meats too, I bought turkey thigh mince instead of turkey breast mince, which is about £1 cheaper to buy and probably is packed with more flavour anyway. Make it in a big batch in a large pan to go even further and in the long run it will work out even cheaper again. Perfect budget cooking and pure comfort eating to boot. Pack it with healthy ingredients and you’re onto a winner for both taste and health!

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Above: My healthy turkey and pepper pasta sauce x

Stew!

Stew is gorgeous. Such comfort food and an excellent filler on a cold winters night. Its my perfect winter food. I love beef stew cooked down using red wine and loads of onions. Again, with the same principle as the pasta sauce, meat and veg will all freeze very well once cooked. I’ve used cooked leftover chicken to then make a chicken stew, which will then also freeze. Three meals from one chicken. I’ve also sourced the cheaper cuts of beef which are perfect in stews and equally freeze really well too.

Soups!

Any kind of soup will freeze. I have been doing mainly vegetable soups as they are really cheap to make and really quick to defrost. Carrot and coriander, pea soup, mushroom, potato and leek, they are all a great way to full up on healthy produce and get some of your five a day too without really thinking about it. It makes a great accompaniment to your frozen homemade bread too! This is the main way that I use up those scabby last onions or carrots that get forgotten at the back of the drawer. Once its cooked and blitzed, you would never have known it once looked a bit manky.

Stock!

Another way to use up the slightly gone too far manky veg lurking in the bottom of that fridge of yours. Celery, carrot, onions, anything really can be bunged into boiling water with seasoning and simmered to create a lovely stock. I always strip me chicken clean, use the left over meat for soups or stir frys and then boil up the bones with some veg to make a few pots of stock, which will be frozen and then used as the base of a new dish at some point down the line. There is far too much waste in terms of food these days and there are so many things that can be done with all those slightly less attractive bits!

Other Lifesaving tips!

Eggs!

Eggs are amazing! Dont just see them as a cake ingredient. I try to use them as much as I can as they are very cheap to use per person and they last for ages! Dont overlook these beauties! And don’t keep them in the fridge!

You can use them for:

Omlettes (You can vary with the filling such as cheese, mushrooms etc)

Scrambled eggs (On toast, with a fry up, with fresh herbs, with smoked salmon etc)

Poached eggs (on a bagel, with crushed avocado, Eggs Benedict etc)

Soft boiled eggs (With toast soldiers of course, how else?!)

Hard boiled eggs (To cut up on salads, to mash with mayo for egg and cress sandwiches, to eat whole out the fridge as a high protein snack.)

In baking

To make yorkshire puddings (these freeze too!)

To make pancakes (Cook them and freeze some!)

As a binder when making burgers

As a glaze when making pastry

Frittatas (Love a slice of this hot or cold and again can be filled with whatever you have.)

Can you tell I like eggs?!

 

Natural Yoghurt!

Yoghurt is worth so much more than just eating from the pot.

You can use it for:

Eating with honey and fruit as a healthy breakfast choice

Mixing into curries or other spicy dishes to cool down the heat!

Mixing with fresh ingredients like herbs or cucumber to make individual dips to accompany meals.

Blending with fresh fruit and honey and freezing in individual ice lolly moulds for a fun task with the kids and a healthy alternative to pudding.

Mixing into porridge for the creamy version without the cream guilt.

A day or two past its used by date is still fine, don’t waste it, pour a couple of tablespoons into the blender with frozen fruit, milk, nuts and honey to make a delicious smoothie.

Make a pasta sauce. By blending nuts, herbs, cheese, olive oil, lemon juice and the yoghurt, then you have a really healthy and natural alternative to the usual cream laden white sauces.

Above: Strawberry, Mango, Yoghurt, Almond, Banana and Honey smoothies for breakfast. Someone likes to eat the fruit frozen!

Fruit!

Always keep in a good selection of fruit! It is so versatile!

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You can use it for:

Lemons can be used to make drinks, add flavour to dishes or make the perfect pancake topping! You can use the rind and juice and both of these freeze well in ice cube trays.

Bananas can be eaten whole, eaten warm with custard (classic) for an easy pudding, left to go brown and mashed into banana bread, added to smoothies.

Apples can be baked, stewed, grated for cakes, made into apple sauce, chopped over salads, or just make a nice snack for kids!

As long as I have plenty of eggs, some cupboard basics and some fruit I know that we can  make a decent meal or two with dessert too! Hope this has given someone out there a few ideas to stretch out their ingredients that little bit further! xx

 

 

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