Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Motherly Advice...Use your noodle...or rice, or pasta...

 
 
I've been watching Eat Well for Less. Have you?
 
What an eye opener!
 
What people DON'T know astounds, embarrasses and infuriates me in equal measure.
 
And what they can SAVE is even more astounding!
 
A common issue seems to be that they all have pantries and refrigerators, overflowing with ingredients they've used once.
 
Here's the thing.
 
Modern day recipes and cooking shows are a rort.
 
Many are produced by the supermarkets themselves (even Eat Well for Less has product placement for Coles and Aldi all over the place), and are an inducement for you to purchase the necessary ingredients to conjure up a meal for the family.
 
This is utter nonsense.
 
Let's get our head around ingredients and meal planning for a family. Or even for a singleton.
 
Protein is protein, be it beef, lamb, pork, chicken, fish, or tofu.
 
A carb is a carb, and could be rice, pasta, crepes, corn, rice noodles or bread.
 
Most curry pastes have similar ingredients and with the addition of dry spices, can work well...or create a new taste sensation.
 
Fruit is fruit is fruit. Banana bread can be strawberry bread. A berry smoothie can be a mango one. Orange and Almond cake can just as easily be mandarin, lime or cumquat almond cake.
 
Nearly ALL recipes come about through someone else's necessity. NOT by the luxury of having ten different versions of the same thing cluttering up your pantry, refrigerator and mind.
 
Not only that, but in terms of saving money, you can make a few clever substitutions, and have enough ingredients for a whole extra meal. I do this all the time.
 
 
You can save your family so much money, simply by asking yourself:
 
'What is it?' or 'What is its purpose?'.
 
Here are some examples:

No bacon or ham? What is its purpose? To add smoky flavour - so add smoky paprika. You might have the bacon or ham, but that can be another meal-in-the-making.

No berries for a recipe? What is the purpose of the berries? Probably to add flavour and possibly moisture - so add strawberry essence, strawberry syrup, or another fruity flavour (anything you have on hand), citrus zest or citric acid even, and add fruit juice or oil for moisture.

No chocolate chips for cookie baking? We all know why they're there. For yummy flavour and texture. Instead add cocoa, broken Easter eggs, chopped cooking chocolate, dried fruit, nuts or coconut.

No cherry tomatoes for that fancy recipe? It is just tomato for flavour and colour. So chop up regular tomatoes or make a tomato puree based dressing or sauce out of tomato paste. No tomato paste? Use tomato sauce.

No shallots, chives or leeks? It is onion flavour you need, so use normal onions or even dried onions. I have these on hand always, and they take up no space at all.

Cheese is cheese. Try substituting any kind or even use the long life parmesan for a cheesy boost.

For Celebration recipes that require a liqueur, ask yourself the same question. Its purpose is to add flavour so just use flavoured essence, adding orange juice for Cointreau, hazelnut essence for Frangelico and so on. It's a lot easier on the pocket with no loss of enjoyment.

 Here's a few more...
 
Buttermilk - yoghurt - milk with vinegar or lemon juice added
 
Butter in a cake - oil - fruit or vegetable puree`
 
Spices - just add any spice in your pantry. Italian flavours include pungent things like Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Sage, Rosemary, Garlic. Greek flavours includes flavours like aniseed, lemon, and mint. Middle Eastern influences include fragrant, earthy things like Cumin, Coriander, Turmeric, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Sumac. Indian cuisine includes aromatics like Turmeric, Fenugreek, Cardamom, Cayenne Pepper, Chilli, Fennel, and Mint and so on. If in doubt, Google the cuisine, and add another similar spice from the same family.
 
Milk - equivalent amount of powdered milk or evaporated milk, diluted or reconstituted, coconut milk or coconut cream, or just use water, yoghurt, cream, custard or juice. Again, what is the function of the milk in that recipe?
 
Coconut milk - powdered milk made up to a thicker mixture or evaporated milk, add some coconut essence or even desiccated coconut. It's not authentic, but you get the flavour, and a really lush texture.
 
Flour - Cornflour. Now that we are gluten free, I've substituted Cornflour in baking a few times. I can assure you it works. Similarly it works for Béchamel sauce and any sort of gravy.
 
Onion - shallots, spring onion, garlic.
 
Soy sauce - Fish sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Tamari sauce, Vegemite or a stock cube (boullion cube), mixed with some water. Again not authentic, but you'll get the colour and a flavour boost.
 
Sesame oil - try Peanut Oil, Sesame Seeds, or add any other sort of nuts for flavour.
 
Eggs in cake baking - 1/4 cup mashed banana, or stewed fruit, or soda water or vinegar in water.
 
I just made some Dhal and needed some lime juice to go in the Natural Yoghurt accompaniment.
I had none, so used a pinch of Citric Acid in place of the lime juice...it worked like a charm :)
 
No potatoes for mash? Make a red lentil mash by microwaving about a third of a cup of red lentils with some stock until they go to mush. Yummier than it sounds.
 
Tinned peas, heated an pureed make a good replacement for mash too.
 
I've recently tried cauliflower 'rice' and really loved it but then, I love cauliflower. Cauliflower mash is another alternative.
 
Sour cream - use natural yoghurt, long life cream with a bit of vinegar added, or ricotta or cottage cheese. You can make your own ricotta/cottage cheese easily. See my recipe here.
 
Imagine that you are a long way from any supermarket.
 
In fact I know some of you are.
 
Challenge yourself to reduce the clutter in your refrigerator and pantry.
 
See how many substitutions you can make in your own recipes.
 
Don't buy a bigger house, or a bigger kitchen, to house a madness forced upon us by the modern world.
 
Don't have $2,000 worth of food cluttering up your pantry, like the couple on this weeks episode of Eating Well for Less.
 
Make do.
 
Our parents and grandparents did it.
 
We can too.
 
 
 
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36 comments:

  1. I love this... it is so simple and probably the far best one I've read on saving money on food ever. All the others just tell you can do it. Thanks

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    1. What a fabulous reflection on a simple post. Thankyou so much! I'm thrilled to have helped you. Mimi :)

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  2. Mimi I haven't watched that show at all. It does sound like there is a lot of waste though. There are a couple of tips there I haven't thought about before. Thanks.

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    1. Yes it's all a bit out of control Chel. A real eye opener! Mimi xxx

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  3. I havent watched that program yet. I think we eat really well here. Last night there was Bluey, Katie and I for dinner. Bluey had thawed some prawns as the meat/protein component. We had a large sweet potato, some broccoli and some corn that needed to be used up. The sweet potato was cooked and mashed and a tin of coconut cream was added. Garlic, onion and chillies went in along with the broccoli and corn. Lastly the prawns went in and we had an Asian inspired prawn and sweet potato soup. It was delicious! We had toast brushed with garlic oil to have with this.
    The soup could easily have gone further if it had been served over pasta. As it was the three of us ate well, left the table full and Bluey used food up rather than letting it become compost.
    I have a friend who loves lasagne but only has it as a treat as it is so expensive. What? Turns out she buys the premade lasagne. We make ours. We dont use white sauce in the layers but pureed pumpkin or sweet potato. To extend the meat grated carrot and zuchinni are used. It is not an expensive meal when made this way.
    With the amount of gadgets out there I am always surprised by people who cant get a meal on the table and have take away. It does take a bit of thinking, but it isnt rocket science.
    Love this post Mimi and all the substitutes you have written down. I see a recipe more as a guide rather than something that must be followed to the letter. We know what we like to eat and this is what our shopping and our meals are based on. We only have things we use regularly in our panty, fridge and freezer.

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    1. Jane, yes, yes, yes. Your dinner sounds divine. Soup can become sauce, as can a dip. Dhal can be a dip or a meal. We had a divine Thai Laksa that had hot smoked salmon added instead of chicken or prawns. Absolutely lush. Adding pasta to anything makes it go further, truth. And as for the lasagne, well, I've heard that before too. There was a Sand Crab Lasagna being sold at a Seafood Providore here a few years ago. It was served in all the best restaurants at $40 a pop, and even the frozen version was $18 for a single serve. People would queue for it, honestly! I succumbed and bought one to see what the fuss was about. It had about one little crabs worth of meat, and a very ordinary sauce. I was so disappointed. I've made lasagnas that fed crowds since forever. I'm famous for it...lol. And no, it's never expensive when you make it yourself. You just need the desire to LEARN. Love it. Mimi xxx

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  4. Very helpful advice and saves a trip to the store! I try to use what I have so if the recipe calls for some exotic ingredient and I can leave it out or replacem it I do. Sometimes I just pass up the recipe too. I'm going to try that cornflour. Thanks

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    1. Vickie, my Nanna never had the luxury of a store close by. She just magic-ed food up out of thin air sometimes, as did Mum. You just learn not to be fussy. Yes using a different ingredient might alter the flavour or colour or texture slightly, but you might find you actually PREFER it that way. How will you know if you don't try? Let me know how you go with the cornflour. Love, Mimi xxx

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    1. Thankyou Eira. Lovely to 'see' you. Mimi xxx

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  6. Great advice! I love it. So true. I have recently realised I don't need to make 'flash' meals and that actually the 'ordinary' are really the favourites here. i never knew that about cornflour. Do you think it would work in zucchini slice? As I have a friend who is GF. Thanks for the great post. Lots of love, Bridge

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    1. Hi Bridge. Yes the cornflour will work. It actually makes it taste 'creamy' if that makes any sense. As I said to Vickie, many substitutions make a difference in texture or flavour, but sometimes for the better! Mimi xxx

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  7. Love the list of substitutes that you have tried. I watched the 2nd episode of Eat Well for Less but prefer the British version. The British version spend more time on education with participants, the importance of meal planning as a family and making a list. They also refer to a dietician for healthy meals made quickly and cheaply as well of the importance of salt and sugar content of food. The girls from Bondi swapped poor food choices for cheaper poor food choices, not to mention the other family that appeared to never drink water! I admit to having a well stocked pantry but old school- live 30 min from a shop and each year due to flooding, cannot get to the shops for a couple days. Having experienced no electricity for 5 days and flooded in for 7, I always keep staples in the pantry. The trick is to move the new stock to the back! Cheers Erin

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    1. Hi Erin. I must check out the British version. I've heard it's more of an educational process, which I think I'd like. I agree about the swapping of poor food choices for cheaper poor food choices. That's an excellent point. Love the tip about rotating your home stockpile. I learned this in commercial kitchens where I worked while at Uni. It's a great strategy. Mimi xxx

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  8. Saw the ads for that show and wondered how anyone could spend so much.

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    1. I know Pam! Mind boggling! Mimi xxx

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  9. This reminds me of when a recipe calls for a certain type of canned ( I believe you would use the word tinned) tomato-diced, chopped,whole etc. Really ? I just toss in whatever I have on hand. Tomato is tomato I figure and it always turns out just fine. You are so right. Advertising works to convince us we need that one specific ingredient. Sometimes even a particular "style" of that ingredient. Mimi, I love this post.
    Anne

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    1. Anne, you're right. I do not see the point is using a certain 'premium' brand of anything, once it's mixed with other ingredients. If I were to make a home made gnocchi, with a simple tomato based sauce, I might get choosy. Otherwise, tomatoes are tomatoes. Tinned tuna can vary, but all brands have their place. Premium in a salad, lesser in a mornay or fish cakes for sure. Even then there's Aldi Premium Tuna slices and Sirena Premium Tuna slices (which incidentally look exactly the same), and a significant difference in price between the two. So there's apples and apples, you know? I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Mimi xxx

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  10. Beautifully said Mimi! Thank you for all your sound advice. I've not seen that show, but I think I'll Google it ! : ) hugs, karen o~

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    1. Thankyou so much Karen. You'll find it VERY interesting ;-)

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  11. So, so true! Like you, I just do it - never really think about the actual substitution. If there is a downside - it is that I cannot replicate some of my most successful dishes!!

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  12. I couldn't agree with you more, Mimi. I find it amazing that people pay such huge prices to have takeaway food delivered to their door when they could make the same thing or similar themselves. Home cooked food is so much cheaper and healthier and can be so easy to prepare with just a little bit of knowledge and organisation. Thanks for another interesting and useful post.

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    1. Takeaway is the source of many greater issue I feel Alicia. From obesity, to financial strain, and health issues. Grrrr! don't get me started! Yes I agree, there are a hundred posts on just this topic. Mimi xxx

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  13. I couldn't agree with you more, Mimi. I find it amazing that people pay such huge prices to have takeaway food delivered to their door when they could make the same thing or similar themselves. Home cooked food is so much cheaper and healthier and can be so easy to prepare with just a little bit of knowledge and organisation. Thanks for another interesting and useful post.

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  14. Thank you Mimi. I substitute for a lot of things in recipes. But I didn't know what to sub for Coconut milk. Now you have given me one. Thank you for that. I swap things around all the time because I like to use up what I have on hand, is available and is in season. Thanks again Denny

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    1. Glad to have helped Denny. Swapping ingredients has yielded some of my best meals ;-)

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  15. Mimi, thankyou for this list and thought provoking ideas. Meal preparation does not come naturally to me so sometimes having the obvious pointed out is very helpful. In the past I could not deviate from a written receipe - I am learning. I finally soaked a cup of black beans and added them to a casserole this week (you wouldn't believe how scared I've been of those beans lol). Have a great day, Clare T

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    1. Clare, I know what you mean. Unless you've grown up with it, substitutions can just be a minefield. I'm glad to have helped. Well done on the beans! Mimi xxx

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  16. Wonderful post, would be good to print out.. to have on hand for when the "forgetful" moments strikes!

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  17. Oh, I thought you were talking about the British version last week Mimi! I've only seen that one, and it definitely has some useful information around nutritional value, making your own vs store bought etc. I think one of the most interesting parts is when they are guessing whether the food (which is all repackaged in plain labels) is what they normally buy or a substitute. Sometimes the people are shocked to find out they enjoy cheaper versions they would never have considered buying.

    Your list of substitutes is great. Especially the mentality behind it - what purpose does it serve in the recipe? I used to be very reluctant to substitute, but now I do it all the time. You get used to which ingredients can't be messed with and which can lol!

    Jen in NZ

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    1. Dear Jen, I agree with you about the revelations re the brand name versus the generic brand items. I love their faces when they realise that what they've eaten was identical to their Name Brand, but a whole lot less expensive! You're right too, in saying that some ingredients can be messed with and some not. But on the whole, you can reduce the clutter in your pantry and refrigerator with this strategy, and still be eating really, really well. It's just a good mindset :) Mimi xxx

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  18. Great post Mimi, I watched the show and was first shocked at theamounts spent and the "brand consciousness " they had, but loved it when they had the light bulb moment and realised they could do this, hopefully they stick to it I wonder if toward the end of the season if they have a short follow up to see if they continue on the new way . Also made relook at my own "food hoarding"😃 now have set my own challenge only dairy and fresh fruit and veg till end of june to start culling back our freezers your substitutions will be utilised. Thanks again cheers Bevo.

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    1. Hi Bevo. Ahh yes....the brand snobbery is strong in that clan...lol! I'm always keen to try a generic brand of anything. If it saves us money, it's worth a try. The only things I didn't like (and this was a long time ago now) were an instant coffee, and...you'll laugh...tuna! From memory, its was a Woolworths one, and it really did look like cat food...lol! I hope they have a follow up. It's always interesting to see what habits have stuck. I bet you gain a great deal of satisfaction in culling your own food stash. Good luck! Mimi xxx

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  19. This show totally shocks me. I don't understand how people cannot 'understand', if that makes sense. Thanks for all of your great ideas.

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I love hearing from you! I always respond to comments, so don't be shy! Mimi xxx