A slow cooker makes winter meals easy
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.