Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Being frugal in the kitchen

I've always been careful in the kitchen, but lately have been becoming even more frugal and careful with food. I try to use up every scrap of food, and with chickens and ducks, goats and the dog, the real scrappy scraps are never wasted either.
Last night's supper was Thrifty Pie; this is a standard supper in our house, based on leftovers. Take your main ingredient/s and mince them. I use a hand mincer (shown in the picture), but you could use a food processor, or chop finely by hand. This can be meat, fish, vegetables (cooked), or a combination of all or any. Next is the sauce, to moisten it and add flavour; for meat, I use a gravy; last night's was the whizzed up remains of a pork and mushroom casserole from the night before. Tinned tomatoes are a good standby, dash of Worcester sauce or similar. Make sure there is plenty of seasoning - herbs, fresh or dried, salt and pepper, etc, dollop of mustard, that sort of thing just to perk it up a bit. For fish, I use a white or cheese sauce - often using up grated ends of cheese; same sort of sauce for vegetables. Put the base and sauce into a casserole or pie dish, mixing well. Top with pastry or mashed/sliced potatoes. Add a sprinkling of grated cheese to the potato if you have enough that needs used up, then into a hot oven for 30 - 40 minutes until golden brown. I serve mine with a green vegetable or two - spinach, sprouts, chard, cabbage.
It invariably tastes good, but the inherent problem with it is that you could never replicate it, as you never have the same leftovers exactly more than once!

Mincing is a great frugal dodge - it makes meat go much much further, and enables it to be mixed in more easily with other ingredients - use minced meat for pies like the above, rissoles, patties, pasties, etc. Also an essential for sausage making! I have to admit to a selection of old mincers - a bit liek sewing machines, hard to resist, and a *nice* thing to use. Mine are all secondhand, gleaned from the tip mainly, often hardly used. I have a marmalade shredder which is similar to a mincer.
My ones clamp to the table or worktop, giving a good, solid piece of equipment that gives as much joy in the using and making as in the end result for eating.
One other thing I find indispensable is a good spatula. Mine was bought about 15 years ago from Marks and Spencer in Bournemouth - quite what I was doing in M&S I"m not sure, not one of my regular haunts at all :) I can't remember the exact price, but I remember thinking it was quite a bit of money back then, but it has proved its worth over and over again. MrL is right when he says you can't afford to buy cheap tools - buy the best you can afford at the time, it's never money wasted. I use my spatula most days for eking out every drop from bowls and saucepans - quite often, there's another mouthful of cake left in the bowl that only a spatula can liberate...........:)
Other ideas for kitchen frugality: have a soup box in the freezer (I can't be credited with this idea, I read it somewhere, but can't remember where, so forgive me if it's your idea:) ) - pop all the leftover vegetables etc in there if you can't use them immediately, then very so often, make a pot of soup by adding some stock and herbs, etc; acquire a good set of cookery books, including all the basic methods and standard adaptable recipes - you will never regret it; borrow books on cooking from the library (try before you buy, or just copy out recipes); use your stove wisely - if you have it turned up, use all the heat - bake potatoes, bread, simmer soup or stew on the top, etc; seek out quality kitchen utensils, etc - buying secondhand is always good for quality, reliability and price, although there are some nice modern bits out there too; consider whether you really need an electric gadget - there is usually a hand operated alternative, but I realise that not everyone is as keen as me on this one ;); check the fridge regularly to make sure no food is wasted or forgotten about, although we all have science experiment- type things in there occasionally, I know..........; use sour or off milk in scones, soda bread, etc; buy small amounts of spices at a time so they don't go stale before you use them all up.

Just one more thing - keep the kettle on, and enjoy your time in the kitchen - it's rarely wasted :)


Kim said...

Oh, that's a lovely post Sarah. Sometimes I can be sooo unimaginative with left overs. I'm going to give that pie a go, especially as my local junk shop turned up a diamond of a treasure :)

Kim x

Willow said...

I think I've got one of those mincers lurking in a box in my garage, Mrs L ... I'm going to dig it out. Now I think about it, my Mum used to mince the left overs from the Sunday roast each week to make a pie and it was always delicious.
Willow x

Libbys Blog said...

I often have a few and I mean a few left over veg and often wondered what I should do with it. Excellent idea, thank you