Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Kitchen Hints

These are some of our top hints for saving money and saving your sanity!

  • Purchase in bulk where possible.  Good places to buy grains, beans, and tins include ethnic shops, Cash and Carry (such as Costco), and larger supermarkets.  I have also found some really good deals online by searching for "bulk whole foods."  You can purchase fresh produce, especially potatoes from farm shops.
  • It may seem counter intuitive to splash out on a lot of storage containers, but they really do help preserve food, and they keep you from losing packets of things at the back of the cupboard.  Glass is an ideal material, but I admit that most of my containers are Lock-n-Lock plastic ones at the moment.  Good places to find food storage containers are those inexpensive shops with loads of plastic items stacked up outside.  Most towns have a shop like this.  This is where I get canning jars, large plastic boxes for pet food and grains, and baskets.  Lakeland has a nice selection of containers including Lock-n-Lock, but if you really want to see a range, search the Internet.

  • Menu plan!  Not only does menu planning make it easier to shop and stay in budget, but it is so much easier to prepare dinner when you don't need to make last minute decisions.
  • Cook once, eat twice (at least).  If you roast chicken on Sunday, use the leftovers for a stir-fry on Monday night, sandwiches on Tuesday, and meanwhile make and freeze stock and chicken soup for later in the month.  Only keep leftovers two days in the fridge for health and safety.  When I make a casserole I make two.  One to eat now, preferably for two days, and one to freeze for later in the month.
  • Freeze bread before it goes off.  Even small crusts can be frozen to make breadcrumbs when you need them.  We don't eat a lot of bread in our house, so we almost always freeze our loaf and take out slices to toast when we want them.  I often buy bread and croissants from the sale rack to freeze.
  • Make and freeze your own muffins.  They are cheaper, healthier, and tastier.  I often have batches of oatmeal, blueberry, and white chocolate cranberry muffins in the freezer ready to defrost for breakfast or the lunchboxes.  Everyone in my house likes different varieties, so I could never get through a dozen of one kind before they go off. 
  • Many dairy products freeze well.   This is useful when you have a carton of cream or milk which is about to go off, but you cannot find the time to use.  I also purchase extras when they are on sale.  If I keep butter, cheese, milk, cream, and yogurt in the freezer I will never be caught out.
  • I find the easiest way to store cheddar is to buy a month's worth, shred it and freeze it.  If you pack this loosely you can easily dig a spoon in to spread over toast or over the top of a casserole.  Parmesan also freezes well once shaved or grated.  I often find these cheeses go off before I can use them up, so this method results in much less waste.
  • Embrace homemade oatmeal.  Oatmeal takes less than five minutes on the stovetop or three minutes in the microwave.  See recipes section for a few ideas.  Why spend money on little packets?  You can add the toppings you like, making it healthy with ground seeds and fruit or indulgent with golden syrup.
  • Use reusable containers for drinks, lunchboxes, leftovers, and food storage.  Disposable bags and wraps really add up over the year and do not do the environment any good--even if you can recycle them.  There are loads of plastic, metal and glass containers on the market these days.  Or save and reuse your glass and plastic containers.
  • Use cloth napkins, washing up cloths, dusters, and towels instead of paper.  They are cheaper and again better for the environment.
  • Give each member of the household a big mug to use.  Each person can use their mug for both hot and cold drinks during the day, washing/rinsing it as needed.  This saves on the washing up and if you find one left where it shouldn't be you know the culprit!
  • We also have bowls and plates which work on the same principle.  You can purchase a set of six different coloured bowls, plates or cups from most grocery stores or IKEA.  This makes it easier to prepare lunches and snacks for picky eaters and know whose plate is whose.
  • Store like things together.  Place baking supplies together in the same cupboard.  Gather small packets of sprinkles, essences, and baking powder in baskets or large tins.  Place all of the baking utensils, measuring cups, etc together in one drawer.

  • Go through your junk drawers to make room in one large drawer.  Fill this drawer with all of your barbecue stuff.  Long utensils, gloves, mesh baskets, plastic plates and even condiments.  These items are always awkward to store anywhere else and really need a home of their own.
  • I love the racks you can get to store chopping boards, pans, and trays.  They don't cost that much and make life so much easier.
  • Recycle, recycle, recycle.  And get a good system going to make it easier on yourself.  No great tips---I just think this is important.
  • Save money by buying snacks in large bags and then putting them in smaller snack containers for lunchboxes.  (Reducing the amount of junk food your family eats is also healthy and better for the budget).
  • Don't buy juice.  Okay, I cannot seem to get my family to go with this one either.  Studies have shown that not only is juice really bad for the teeth, but that it does not contain very many nutrients after it has been pasteurised.  We eat loads of fruit in our family, which is healthier as it contains healthy fibre as well.  Our health visitors told us not to give the kids fruit juice or any fizzy colas, etc.  But we didn't listen and so we have an extra unnecessary expense each week.  We do water down our juice with water or sparkling water, which helps a bit.
  • Keep track of your diet for free with Sparkpeople.com.  You can do this on a computer or using a free app for your mobile.  You can input your daily food and they calculate your calorie intake and how much exercise you need to do to achieve your goals.  (Please check their guidelines for use and to see if you agree with their dietary advice before using).
  • Eat fruit and vegetables in season to save money.
  • Use ingredient searches on recipes websites such as allrecipes.com to help you cook from your pantry.
  • Try buying cheaper versions of food and household goods.  Sometimes stores sell their own brands in two versions.  One has plain packaging and one as a picture on it or a pull-top lid.  The products inside are often exactly the same!  Buying the cheaper versions works especially well with items you will be cooking with and some cleaning products.  If you don't like it, go back to your own brand.
  • If you are anything like me and get tempted to throw extras in your trolley, shop online and have your groceries delivered.  I save money on petrol and by sticking to my budget even if I need to pay a bit for delivery.  I am much more disciplined with my budget and I no longer have to deal with toddler tantrums---or Mummy tantrums at the store.  See my post on my favourite UK online delivery service, Ocado.
  • I cannot live without my family calendar.  It has six columns for six people or categories, tear off to do and shopping lists, and comes with stickers to liven things up a bit.  Mine is from OrganisedMum.com, but there are plenty out there if you have a look.  The one advantage to this company is that they make so many different versions.  You could have ones with fewer columns, or a desktop diary version, larger places to write, wipe off sections, shopping lists, party planner books, etc.  So you can really choose which calendar will best suit your family.

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