Cooking School

Eating right when things are tight: Cost-saving tips for the home cook

By: Signe Langford

Author: Canadian Living

Cooking School

Eating right when things are tight: Cost-saving tips for the home cook

By: Signe Langford
The notion of 'waste not, want not' has universal appeal among Canadian households: those looking to go green and reduce waste, locavores making the most of local products and families trying to save a little extra cash. For many houseolds, this means taking a look at the kitchen and cutting down on both budget and waste. Here's how to embrace the joys of making more from less.

Good bones: Get the most from that Sunday roast
Just when you think that roast has given all it had to give - you’ve feasted on a sumptuous dinner, sent the kiddies off to school with sandwiches - it gives some more. Roast the bones - beef, veal, pork, or poultry - in the oven, then transfer to a pot and cover with water, toss in some peppercorns, a bay leaf or two, and let simmer. In a couple of hours, homemade soup stock. Keep a supply in the fridge for everyday uses - gravy, pasta sauces, a quick noodle soup - and some more in the freezer. No time to roast bones just now? Collect and freeze a whole pile of them - it’s fine to mix and match - and roast them when you have the time.

Boil that bird!
A boiled chicken is an old world classic whose time has come again. Not only is it a healthy way to cook, it keeps the meat moist and tender, and when you boil a chicken, you make a pot of the most flavourful soup at the same time with no extra effort.

How to boil a chicken: Simply cover the chicken with cold water, toss in your favourite herbs - sage, bay, thyme are great with chicken - whole peppercorns, a whole onion, and bring to a boil, then simmer until it’s done. On the first night, bring the bird to the table and watch as the incredibly delicate meat just falls from the bone. Spoon some of the broth over potatoes, noodles, or veggies. After that, this dish keeps on giving in the form of soup, meat for sandwiches, salads, Asian noodle stir-frys, pastas, and casseroles.  

Don’t walk past the discounted fruit and veg display
Sure the peppers are a tad wrinkled and the apples are going soft, but with a little alchemy you can turn produce headed for the composter into good eats, while you save a ton of cash. The trick is organisation and timing. Don’t buy a tray of close-to-the-edge produce, then let it sit in your fridge for a week! Buy it when you know you can go home and prepare it.

Discount shelf super-stars:
  • Over-ripe, soft apples are perfect for making into applesauce, and for baking whole or in a cobbler.
  • Grill and skin wrinkly sweet or hot peppers, slice, and store in jars covered in olive oil—great in pasta, salads and sandwiches.
  • Bruised eggplant can be cleaned up, sliced, and roasted on a cookie sheet for use in sandwiches, lasagna, or parmigiano recipes.
  • Freckled bananas, well, there’s banana bread, of course, but what about smoothies? Peel and break each banana in half, store in a sandwich bag in the freezer, and voila, no more excuses for not making that breakfast smoothie!
  • Berries with a little bit of fuzz? No problem. Wash and pick through the fruit, and either freeze for use in smoothies or in baking, or simmer on the stove with a bit of sugar for a great dessert sauce or easy fruit spread. For a grown-up treat, add a splash of brandy or port for an elegant compote, delicious with pork or poultry.

Page 1 of 2 – Discover a few meat counter secrets and what to do with bacon fat on page 2.Don’t forget the discounted dry goods rack
A tear in the toothpaste box or dent in the tetra pack can add up to big savings at the check out. Avoid anything punctured, leaking, or swollen.

In the meat counter
You can often find a small section of the butcher counter dedicated to meat that is close to its “sell-by” date. Don’t be squeamish! This stuff may be living on borrowed time, but it may still be perfectly good. Once again, the trick to taking advantage of these deep discounts is timing and a plan. If you do bring home discounted meat, cook, prepare, or freeze it immediately. There’s no time to waste here. And of course, as with all meat preparation, be sure to cook thoroughly. Don’t use discounted beef to finally make that tartar recipe you’ve being dying to try. Think in terms of stews, soups, stocks, curries and braises. 

Save Everything! - Vegetable trimmings
Keep a covered container or zip-lock in the fridge or freezer for all your veggie off-cuts and skins. When it’s full, make a healthy and delicious vegetable stock.

Save Everything! - Bring on the schmaltz
Rendered bacon, duck, and chicken fat has been vilified lately. But ask any French cook and they will tell you, duck fat is liquid gold. In Jewish cuisine, schmaltz, or chicken fat, is a delicacy spread on toast, and the Brits will tell you breakfast just isn’t breakfast without a slice of bread, fried in bacon drippings!

How to save drippings: Pick out any solids or strain liquid fat through cheesecloth, and store, covered in the fridge. For a bit of decadence in these belt-tightening times, roast or fry potatoes in rendered pork or poultry fat. Your doctor may not approve, but your taste buds and wallet will.

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Cooking School

Eating right when things are tight: Cost-saving tips for the home cook