I’m not an advocate of yoga, I am way too impatient to spend more than two minutes holding poses that don’t go anywhere. It’s my loss, I know, but I don’t think I will ever change my fundamental kinetic energy management drastically enough to become a yoghi, yogee, or however you call people with much more patience and calm than I have.
While I’m not very into stretching out my body, I am pretty good at making food cover more ground than it first appears capable of. In Switzerland I find this has become quite a valuable talent seeing as food and household maintenance items is where the boyfriend and I budget a whopping 800 CHF per month. We don’t always spend it all, but if you throw in a dinner gathering or two, it’s quite easy to end up with only a few Rappen rolling around in the box come pay day.
So, rather than living off tins of beans and plain pasta, I like to be innovative about my food buying. I’m sure some of this is more common sense than innovative frugality, but I thought I’d share my methods anyway, for anyone who does meet the end of the month wondering how they spent so much money with so few meals to show for it. What I consider the most important thing about maintaining a waste not want not attitude is that less food ends up in the bin this way. I hate wasting food, hateit.
1. Stock ice cubes.
This one is stolen from Sarah Wilson, who is incidentally also the lady who convinced me to stop guzzling sugar. What she does is she puts her left over stock (like from when you make risotto) and puts it into ice cube trays. The next time you want to sautee a few pieces of couregette just grab one of these ice cubes instead of oil and you’ll be doing your calorie intake a favour as well as using something you might have washed down the drain. Plus, using no oil makes washing the pan up later much easier.
2. Freeze herbs, onions and garlic
I find that being asked to pay 2 CHF for a wee little box of rosemary is as wrath-inducing as being told “we don’t have tap water in this establishment” at a restaurant. Oh wait, that does happen here, how could I forget?
Anyway, When I buy a little container of coriander I use what I need and then chop the rest up and freeze it. I actually do the same with most herbs and even with garlic and onions if I suspect they might grow green tentacles before I can use them all. I would only recommend using the frozen herbs in meals you’re going to cook though, not in guacamole, for example.
3. Celery salt
Here in Switzerland when you buy some celery you buy a forest. I used to find it quite cheeky that you buy the celery by the kilo and that you’re charged for the weight of the leaves. Now I just make celery salt and skip over the anger. Thanks to 101 cookbooks. It tastes great on meats, in soups and on fried eggs!
4. Always slice and freeze bread
We have a great bakery down the road, which I wrote about over on spotted by locals. The bread is great but the loaves are often too big for the two of us, so rather than wait for it to become bird food, I slice it up and stick it in the freezer. It’s not rocket science and I’m sure many people do this too, but it’s worth mentioning as it’s always nice to know I have bread even when I’m too lazy to go and buy some fresh stuff.
I also do the same with rice.
5. Mix mince meat
I was delighted to discover that my nearby coop offers minced chicken meat. It’s cheaper and healthier than beef, but of course doesn’t act as a substitute. So, I just buy a pack of both for when I need lots of meat and mix the two. Sometimes I just mince an aubergine and stir that in instead.
6. Roast seeds
Pumpkin season means my oven gets more use. I eat the pumpkin, of course, and I roast the seeds to go in my salads or in my museli. Same goes for Butternut squash.
7. Eat skins and stalks
I tend not to peel my carrots or potatoes – the nutrition is mostly packed in the skins and they provide lots of fibre. Seeing as bin bags cost 2 CHF a pop, it makes sense to poop the waste than to use more bin bags, no? I’m not actually so cheap that I actually think these things through all the time, but it struck me as a good incentive to get people to eat their skins. Make sure you wash them well and, especially in the case of carrots, you buy organic.
I also make sure the “tree trunk” bit of the broccoli never makes it to the bin. Never.
8. Be weary of expiry dates
The milk I poured into my tea went off, in theory, two days ago. It smelt fine, it’s been in the fridge the entire time and I’ve never been sick as a result of opting to give my underused common sense a chance instead of passively obeying the fine print on my food packaging.
I have some pickles I bought back from Japan that went off a year ago. They’re pickled – read: preserved. I fed them to the boyfriend and he is none the wiser.
In the case of tea, since I bring it back from Japan or am given it by the truck load, I simply freeze it until I need to open a new bag.
9. Finally, an energy saving tip
I remember this being all the rage amongst housewives while I was living back in Japan, but since I wasn’t the one paying the bills back then (and therefore I was a naive spoilt little brat), I didn’t really pay much heed to the brouhaha. I get it now though. My mum showed me the magic of cooking with residual heat when she last visited. It’s quite simple really – when something is nearly ready, just turn off the heat.
In the case of pasta and noodles (perhaps even rice, though I haven’t tried it as I have a rice cooker), you can go the extra mile and cook using 2 minutes worth of gas/eletricity.
You simply bring your water to the boil (I cheat and use the kettle) and then shove the pasta in. Bring it to the boil again and leave it like that for a minute. Then turn off the heat and whack the lid on the pot. If your pasta says it needs 10 minutes to cook (aldente), then this is when you start timing your ten minutes.
The best thing about this method is that the pasta never sticks to itself or to the pot!
Happy environment and money saving guys! If you have any more tips, please do share.