How to save on your food bill
Iwould rather swim with jellyfish than waste food. According to a Rabobank report, Kiwis throw away a staggering $1.8 billion worth of food each year. This is very bad for our wallets.
I have developed some strategies to keep my hard-earned cash in my pocket and out of the supermarkets’ coffers.
Those strategies have been added to in recent months thanks to the useful Love Food Hate Waste adverts that seem to stalk me on Facebook.
So here are some of the best strategies to spend less and eat better:
1 Google it
Many a meal in our house is crafted around whatever ingredients are in the fridge. On Monday I Googled “aubergine” and “creme fraiche”, which resulted in a very nice aubergine and white bean curry for dinner.
The Gene Now Financial Literacy Trust, which works with Love
Food Hate Waste, teaches Aucklanders clever ways to cook and use up the hundreds of dollars of food most already have in their fridges and pantries.
Many of the attendees at its mobile workshops could take a leaf out of commercial kitchens where food waste is kept to the minimum, says trust founder Jessica Niemack.
2 Lunch it
I have a bunch of takeaway containers for storing leftovers in lunchsized portions. Everyone is encouraged to take a container for lunch the next day.
Meals that aren’t taken to school go straight into the freezer and are heated up when I don’t have time to cook.
3 Freeze it
Ingredients such as sour cream, fresh herbs, tomato paste or left-over fresh pasta dough get thrown in the freezer until I can figure out how to use them.
Many go into ice-cube trays. It turns out I’m already following Love Food Hate Waste’s “if in doubt, freeze it” strategy.
Make sure you store your bread in the freezer, adds Jenny Marshall, of WasteMINZ, which is behind the campaign. Have periodic deep dives into your freezer to use up this stuff.
4 Shelve it
Friends joked that I should rent out a teenager or four to readers who need food eaten.
Sadly, as well as being voracious eaters, teenagers are also inclined to open new packets or nab the fresh bananas instead of the older ones and would never think about what needs eating first. The answer to this, says Marshall, is to have an ”eat me first” shelf in the fridge.
5 Store it
We all have fruit bowls. But fruit goes off fast and some vegetables last longer out of the fridge.
As a result, says Marshall, it would make a lot more sense to store our apples, oranges and most other fruit in the fridge and our capsicums, carrots, aubergines, and others in our “fruit bowl”.
6 Date it
Love Food Hate Waste recommends sticking reusable dated labels on food containers.
When you are looking for a meal for the family choose one that has been in there longer.
A few years back we had a pantry challenge, buying only milk, and fruit until we had eaten down all the food in our kitchen, which took a staggering five weeks and a lot of lateral thinking.
7 Grate it
This is a recent ploy of mine to use up ageing vegetables. It’s quick to grate vegetables such as carrots, mushroom, courgette, peppers, and many others and they disappear into pasta, casseroles, soup or other dishes without the need to pre-cook them.
8 Bake it
Milk is one of the foods we waste most of, says Niemack. Slightly sour milk isn’t bad for you — it’s just part way on its journey to becoming yoghurt, cheese, buttermilk and other common dairy products.
Sour milk can be used to make omelettes or custard, or baked into cakes, scones, pancakes, and more. If I have a litre or more of sour milk I make ricotta or paneer cheese, which is an unbelievably simple process.
Fruit goes off fast and some vegetables last longer out of the fridge.
9 Share it
This article reminded me to message my neighbours that my parsley is out of control and they can help themselves. You can also donate unopened canned or dried foods direct to local food banks or leave it in the City Mission’s supermarket bins.
Niemack points out that the recipients don’t always know what to do with obscure items. So perhaps google other ways to get rid of your unused tinned sauerkraut.
10 Create it
Some of the things we think of as waste are edible. Love Food Hate Waste has a recipe for a banana skin cake. You can chop and cook your broccoli, cauliflower, and celery leaves. In our house we freeze aquafaba (the liquid from chick pea and bean cans) in ice-cube trays and use it as egg replacer in cakes, meringues and much more. Whey from cheesemaking can be used in soup.
Don’t throw out those banana peels. Love Food Hate Waste has a recipe for a banana skin cake.