A slow cooker makes win­ter meals easy

Central Leader - - BACKYARD BANTER -

The last thing I feel like do­ing af­ter work is cook­ing din­ner – es­pe­cially when it’s chill­ier than a po­lar bear’s bum and dark enough to make 3pm feel like bed­time, writes Erin Reilly.

Pick­ing up take­aways of­ten seems like the eas­ier op­tion. But the nov­elty soon wears off and my wal­let and girth gen­er­ally don’t re­ally like me by the time spring rolls around.

I’m mak­ing it my mid-year res­o­lu­tion to do din­ner bet­ter this win­ter. If you’re like me and need a bit of guid­ance on the meal front, here are a hand­ful of tips in as­so­ci­a­tion with Neigh­bourly’s new­est part­ners, FreshChoice and Su­perValue, that will help you sur­vive win­ter.

1. Dig out the slow cooker. The hum­ble slow cooker is the great­est in­ven­tion ever – it kept me alive when I was at uni­ver­sity. Just pop in some meat (and/or lentils), pota­toes, car­rots and a casse­role mix first thing in the morn­ing, and Bob’s your un­cle – din­ner is all ready to go as soon as you walk in the door (just boil a few green veges to go on the side). And the best thing about the slow cooker is that there will prob­a­bly be plenty left over for lunch.

2. Plan ahead. In­stead of um­ming and ah­hing over what few in­gre­di­ents in your fridge could mag­i­cally turn into some­thing ed­i­ble, plan your meals for the week be­fore you go to the su­per­mar­ket.

3. Buy in sea­son. The win­ter fruit and veg­etable har­vest is a great time to ex­per­i­ment with your cook­ing to re­duce your gro­cery bill and treat your taste­buds. Think pump­kin soup, casse­role, or ap­ple and rhubarb pie. If you’re un­sure, ask for ad­vice on sea­sonal fruit and veg at your lo­cal su­per­mar­ket or keep an eye out for what’s most af­ford­able; this of­ten in­di­cates what­ever is in sea­son now.

Choose canned or frozen over fresh if you can’t do with­out your favourite sum­mer fruits or veges.

4. Bulk cook­ing. Ded­i­cate a week­end to cook­ing in bulk, then freeze it all in snap-lock bags or re­us­able con­tain­ers. Lasagne, casse­role, pasta, soup – just about any hearty win­ter meal will keep for a few weeks in the freezer. If you don’t have a freezer, ask your neigh­bours on Neigh­bourly if they’re giv­ing one away (or have room in theirs!).

5. Pot-luck din­ners. Avoid bat­tling the el­e­ments and save some money in the process by invit­ing friends over for a shared din­ner. There’s noth­ing quite like an over­flow­ing plate when some­one else has done a lot of the hard work! Serve up some home­made mulled wine af­ter dessert to warm the cock­les of ev­ery­one’s souls.

6. Treat your­self. In­dulging in a hearty pud­ding is one of the best things about win­ter. Ap­ple crum­ble or sticky date pud­ding with ice cream or cus­tard are Kiwi favourites.

Re­mem­ber though, go healthy. It’s very tempt­ing to reach for calorific com­fort food when the weather is mis­er­able out­side – so make sure your fridge and pantry are fully-stocked with healthy treats.

A slow cooker can be an ab­so­lute life­saver on a cold win­try day.

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