Friday, 19 June 2015

Frugal Friday...

Ahhh...meal planning. Some people love it as an aid to making shopping easier and controlling food waste, others see it as a return to the "it's cold meat & potatoes - it must be Monday" of their childhood.  I kind of tread a middle path really - tending to use a rough 3 - 5-week plan, so avoiding the risk of slipping into a rut of eating certain foods on certain days. Over last summer as I've mentioned previously things slipped a bit on the planning front though, and I've been struggling to get back into it ever since really.

One thing I've realised the value of is meals that will "roll over" - so on a Sunday I might batch cook a couple of meals worth of potato bake...dead easy this one - just thinly slice (I use a mandolin as this gets the thinnest slices) several potatoes (or you can use sweet potatoes, or even butternut squash), and a large onion. Grate some well flavoured cheddar cheese. Build the dish up in layers - a lasagne dish is ideal for this. Start with a sprinkling of onion, layer potato on top, then a sprinkling of cheese. Repeat until the ingredients are used up, topping off with a generous layer of cheese, a touch of salt and a grinding of either pepper or nutmeg (nutmeg works AMAZINGLY with sweet potatoes!). Mix in a jug enough double cream and full-fat milk to pour over the top - it needs to *just* fall below the top layer of potato - that way you get a crispy top. Bake in the oven until it's done. Adding an egg to the milk/cream mix gives a more "custardy" centre. Ideal for popping in the oven when something else is cooking, this.  Another easy one - sausage casserole cooked in the slow cooker while we're out at work - a casserole is a great way of stretching sausages - I use 8 chipolatas or 6 regular sausages but chop each one into two or three before adding them to the pot. That quantity of sausages allows for a portion being kept back for a second meal for just one of us.

This business of meals that "roll over" - so the leftovers from one day either make a meal for the second or turn into something else for another day - works brilliantly - particularly for those of us who are out of the house for long days, and want nothing  more than something quick when we get in. Bolognese one day for example....add a tin of drained kidney beans and some chilli flakes and serve with rice the next day for a cheaty Chilli-con-Carne. The best thing about those sorts of meals too is that everyone knows such dishes taste better the second day - so an all-round win! Bolognese can also metamorphose into Cannelloni, Lasagne, and even a cottage pie with an Italian twist...a super-adaptable family favourite, and  the basic sauce is also another dish which cooks wonderfully overnight in the slow-cooker, saving you both time and money.

You don't have to start with a whole meal either. Think about how you can save time on prep of ingredients too - if you're slow-cooking sauteed onions for example, you could cook double and either set the rest aside for use the next day, or even freeze them in portions for adding straight into a sauce in the future. A pack of bacon opened on a Sunday for a bacon & eggs breakfast, can then do a Monday night dinner of pasta with Mushrooms and Bacon, and the final couple of rashers can then be stretched by chopping into pieces and used to top a pizza later in the week. That's the real beauty of "rolling over" too - getting use out of every last scrap of a food purchase by planning ahead.  That not only saves the planet (well, sort of!) but saves your precious pennies, too - something we can all do with!

Come on then - give me a hand here folks, with the airshow season underway I'm desperate for any time-savers I can muster - so what are your favourite "roll-over" meals?


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