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Happy New Year and welcome if you’re a new reader to Mummyology!
Today’s blog will inspire you to cook from scratch, using up the dry ingredients in your cupboards and odd bits of leftovers to give you a week of healthy eating for very little money.
The bonus – you’ll probably lose weight too!
Most of us probably have fairly full kitchen cupboards at this time of year, having overbought during the Christmas period and filled up on delicious treats instead of our regular meals. I expect that rice and beans, or plain pasta in tomato sauce didn’t feature too highly on your December eating plan.
Your challenge this coming week is to AVOID doing a big food shop!
When we go to the supermarket we are naturally tempted by special offers, foods reduced due to their sell by date, delicious looking cakes and desserts, 3 for 2 offers and items we’ve seen advertised on TV.
Most people either buy far too much food and never stick to a budget, whilst others on a very low income might be buying processed and packaged foods that, while not expensive, are not the best choice for their health.
In the UK press this week it’s been reported that we waste up to 50% of our food! This isn’t entirely down to the consumer, it’s also the result of supermarkets having to destroy food not sold before its sell-by date. In our current financial climate it seems completely insane – not to mention the environmental impact of processing waste and all the energy involved in producing and transporting fruit, vegetables, meat and grains in the first place!
This weekend, pull out everything from your cupboard and see what you have. In my photo you’ll see I have rice, lentils, dry beans, couscous, dried fruit, nuts, noodles, rice cakes, polenta, pasta and more! You will probably have lots of tinned produce too – such as tomatoes, tuna, sweetcorn, baked beans and tinned fruit. Use these ingredients this week, only buying additional items as you need them.
Using leftover cooked foods is a great way to save money and send less waste to your dustbin! In this photo you’ll see I chopped a spare jacket potato from the previous evening and gently reheated it in a wok (with a small amount of olive oil) with a handful of cherry tomatoes, a couple of spring onions and a few olives before adding some cubed feta (goat’s cheese would work well too and is lower in salt). I served it alongside some lettuce which made for a delicious and speedy lunch. To make this into a main dinner, simply serve as an accompaniment to meat or fish.
Have you cooked a roast dinner this weekend? Do you have a plate of chicken meat and roast potatoes or parsnips? Turn them into a scrumptious, filling salad with the addition of a little feta cheese and mango chutney (or goat’s cheese and cranberry sauce), served on a bed of fresh greens. Lamb’s lettuce and watercress are two of my favourites.
Here’s another simple warm winter salad idea. Simply use leftover roasted vegetables (butternut squash, potato, courgette and peppers in this photo) and toss with chopped salad, cherry tomatoes and baby buffalo mozzarella balls and add a sprinkling of cayenne pepper or your favourite dried spice mix or fresh herbs. Coriander would be good with this combination of vegetables.
A great, healthy and very inexpensive meal that uses up dry ingredients is pasta with tomato sauce. I make my own sauce with a tin of plain chopped tomatoes. To make it delicious I start with a chopped onion and fry gently in a tiny amount of olive oil. Then I add vegetables such as leek, spring onion, celery, carrot and pepper. You could also add some finely shredded kale or spinach to boost the iron content of the meal. If I have green beans I often add those to the pasta as it’s cooking (saves on washing up!). Boost the calcium content by adding an ounce of grated cheese per person. An ounce of cheddar is about the size of an average adult thumb!
Omelettes are a brilliant way to use up leftover cooked meat, small bits of cheese, roasted vegetables and eggs. This picture shows a sausage omelette. Omelettes make a great breakfast and give kids a brilliant start to the day before school. If you have all the ingredients chopped up the night before then simply crack the eggs, season, and chuck it all in! If the pieces of meat and vegetables are too big the omelette won’t stay in one piece. If you have a fussy family who won’t eat ‘messed up’ food, then cook your omelettes plain and serve with a topping.
Last weekend my local farm shop were selling bars of white chocolate with dried strawberries at half price. I try not to be too tempted by offers at the till, but I had a vision of the chocolate broken into chunks inside muffins. It turned out that they were totally delicious and gobbled up in minutes by my daughters and their friends after an active ice skating session. I added a couple of handfuls of frozen berries to the cake mixture. The combination of sweet chocolate with slightly sour black and red currants worked really well. Eaten straight out of the oven is the best time to enjoy these! Sadly, not many made it to Monday morning for lunchboxes but making fairy cakes at home is an inexpensive and fun way to give your kids a sweet treat for school. Try making plain fairy cakes and poke a slice of Terry’s chocolate orange, or a couple of chocolate buttons in the top of the cake as soon as they come out of the oven. Experiment too with using less sugar and adding apple puree or yogurt to the mixture for a less sweet but moister cake.
I hope that has inspired you to stay away from the supermarket this week and cook meals from scratch using up dried ingredients that may have been stashed at the back of your cupboards for months, leftover ingredients from roast dinners and ways to use up the odd carrot or potato that may be lurking at the bottom of your fridge. After a week you’ll be surprised to see your bank balance looking healthier than usual, you may have lost weight and your family might have discovered some new food crushes! It’s great to do this exercise a few times every year to keep your cupboards up to date.
Please visit my Facebook Page (click on the link below) for more inspiration and regular healthy, clean-eating recipes.
Until next time, Lorraine 🙂