Money Saving Tips for using your Freezer

frozen berriesDid you watch the “Great British Waste Menu?” programme on the BBC last week?  It followed four top chefs – Angela Hartnett, Richard Corrigan, Matt Tebbutt and Simon Rimmer – as they journey deep into the heart of Britain’s food waste problem, exploring how and why the nation throws away and reject huge quantities of perfectly edible food.

We think that the freezer should be every food lover’s best friend!   It’s a great tool for preserving food, sealing in freshness and keeping tasty meals to hand, which can save us time and money and help to reduce food waste.

freezerFollow our hints and tips to make the most of your freezer.

  • You can freeze almost any food (including hard cheese, eggs, bread, home made meals, cakes) although some foods do not freeze as well as others. The structure of some foods with a high water content like lettuce and tomatoes will change when frozen, however these can still be frozen and used for soups and sauces, rather than throwing them away.
  • Food doesn’t have to be frozen on the day of purchase. It can be frozen at any point up to the end of its “use by” date.
  • Food should be cooled before transferring into the freezer otherwise the heat from the food will warm the freezer up causing it to use more energy. Let it cool on the side, wrap up well and label, before transferring it into the freezer.
  • There is no need to thaw vegetables before cooking, simply steam or boil from frozen for 5-10 minutes, depending on the variety.
  • You can freeze home grown produce, simply top and tail and blanche for 2-3 minutes before plunging into cold water and drain. Freeze flat to avoid “clumping” – once frozen solid they can be bagged in portions to save space. Soft fruit can be frozen whole, or pureed first and frozen for use in drinks or sorbet.
  • It’s best to defrost food gradually in the fridge so it keeps cool until you are ready to cook it. Try to put frozen food in the fridge the night before you intend to eat it and it should be defrosted in time for tea. Use it within two days. It is also safe to defrost at room temperature provided you intend to eat it as soon as it’s thawed.
  • Frozen raw meat or fish can be defrosted, cooked thoroughly then frozen again. Take care to defrost thoroughly and re-heat until piping hot. Remember, food should never be reheated more than once.
  • If uncooked food has been defrosted by accident don’t try to pop it back in the freezer – cook it and either eat it, or re-freeze it, as above.
  • You can keep food safely in the freezer for years, as long as it has stayed frozen the whole time. However, it will gradually lose its quality and taste, so avoid “stockpiling” by planning to eat frozen foods more often so you don’t forget what’s in there and “rotate” older foods to the front so they can be used up first.
  • For a stress free dinner at a later date, try cooking batches of dishes such as chilli, curry or stew, and freeze them in handy portion sizes. Make sure you reheat your food until it’s piping hot.

photo credit – http://www.flickr.com/photos/sporkist/

Simple Rice Pudding

rice-puddingThis is one of the simplest recipes every and gets a great response everytime I make it.  It is economical as pudding rice is cheap to buy.  You can substitute cream or evaporated milk for some of the milk if you wish to make it more grown up!

Ingredients

100g pudding rice
50g sugar (you may prefer to use slightly less and add fruit or jam at end)
700ml semi-skimmed milk
pinch grated nutmeg

  • Heat oven to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2.
  • Wash the rice and drain well.
  • Butter an 850ml heatproof baking dish, then tip in the rice and sugar and stir through the milk.
  • Sprinkle the nutmeg over.
  • Cook for 2 hrs, stirring every 1/2 hour or so until the pudding wobbles ever so slightly when shaken.

Tasty and Healthy Venison Stew

venison stew

For a special occasion Venison is a good choice.  It is affordable and lower in fat than many red meats and also very tasty.

Venison and Red Pepper Stew

(Serves 2 as a main meal)

Ingredients:

  • 300g diced venison
  • 2tbsp flour
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 leek
  • 2 large field mushrooms
  • 250ml beef stock
  • 250ml red wine
  • Sprig of thyme

Method:

  1. Pat diced venison dry with kitchen paper and toss with flour.
  2. Heat olive oil in a casserole dish and quickly brown the venison all over.
  3. Add sliced onion and crushed garlic clove until golden.
  4. Add finely sliced red pepper, sliced leek and sliced field mushrooms, and cook until vegetables start to soften.
  5. Pour in the beef stock and red wine, bring to the boil, cover and then leave to simmer gently for about 2 hours, or until the venison is tender.
  6. Alternatively simmer in the oven at 160C/Gas Mark 3 for the same amount of time.
  7. Top up with extra stock or water as necessary.
  8. Serve with mash and steamed brocolli.

Using up your Halloween Pumpkin

pumpkin lantern

You have spent hours making your pumpkin lantern, broken nails and fought over the design but what do you do with all that leftover pumpkin?  It is such a shame to go to waste so here are two great recipes for you to try:

Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin soup is perfect for Halloween or bonfire night, lovely and warming with a touch of curry spice.

  • 900g of pumpkin flesh, cut into cubes
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 flat teaspoon of mild curry powder
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil

Boil the pumpkin cubes in some water until nearly tender. 

Sweat the chopped onion in the oil until transparent and add the crushed garlic, trying not to burn it.  Mix in the curry spice and stir.  Pour in the cooked pumpkin to the mixture.  Add potato cubes, stock and salt and pepper. 

Simmer until cooked and blend to a creamy consistency.

Pumpkin Muffins

  • 225g pumpkin flesh
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • 125ml milk
  • 100ml golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp margarine
  • 175g white flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.  Steam the pumpkin flesh until tender then purée in a blender or food processor.  Allow to cool

 Mix together the eggs, milk, syrup and margarine, and mix with the pumpkin.

 Combine flour, baking powder and spices and add these dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Stir to mix, but don’t overmix.

Pour into muffin pans and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.

Warming Winter Soup

vege soupVegetable soup is hard to beat as a great winter warming meal for all the family.

Soup can help to keep your weight in check as it is generally low calorie. When it is eaten before a main meal it can help to cut calorie content by up to 20%. This is because it makes the stomach empty much slower.

Ready Made soups are obviously easier but nothing beats a warming bowl of homemade soup. Use cheap seasonal vegetables and cook in bulk and freeze. Buy what ever is on special offer for a great money saving recipe and make as much as you can store! You can add potatoes or lentils to thicken instead of cream.

Kids can learn to love soup too – start them from a young age when you start weaning just remove their portion before you season with salt. My girls both love soup from a traditional scotch broth to lentil soup.  Kids tend to love the more colourful and sweeter soups such as pumpkin (see my halloween recipe coming next!), sweet potato, carrot, tomato and sweetcorn.