Going to do your weekly food shop has changed drastically in the past weeks and months. There are so many aspects of our life that we may have taken for granted, a very simple one being the food that we buy. Now we are faced with queues circulating around supermarket car parks, no delivery slots until the following month and ingredients indefinitely out of stock.
This is challenging and a difficult time for so many, the scenario that we all face means we need to become more resourceful and creative with the ingredients that we’re buying and the meals we are making at home.
You may think that eating a balanced diet at this moment in time isn’t possible, but I can tell you know it is and can be equally delicious too. To help you make the most out of your ingredients so that your food goes further here are some helpful tips.
Unlike the baking aisles, fresh produce is easier to come across and supermarkets now seem to have a readier supply of these items. It can be all too easy though to rush in and pick up an excess of fresh items, some produce, such as berries and vegetables are highly perishable and can go to waste. Often buying root vegetables is a good option as not only are these filling but these go a long way too. According to WRAP, the average UK family throws away almost £60 of good food every month, any leftover parts can easily be added to dishes and help to bulk up meals.
Although we tend to mostly think of buying fresh produce, frozen foods can be equally as nourishing and in some cases contain more nutrition. These are often cheaper, more readily available all year round and last much longer! What makes frozen foods even more interesting is that it can be fresher, as often the produce is picked and frozen straight away locking in the nutrients. Remember, that nearly all foods can be frozen so instead of putting things in the bin take them to the freezer instead. Plus, I can assure you that you’ll be thankful to have frozen food and meals when you have no food in the fridge. If you are freezing liquids, I find it useful to pop these into smaller containers or ice cube trays, so when it comes to cooking, I find making recipes that little bit simpler.
Dairy is loved by many but with limited stocks on the shelves, we are needing to turn to alternatives. There is no getting away from how much everyone loves cheese, while the main verities such as Cheddar, Brie and Stilton may not be available try ones like Reblochon or Roquefort that that have similar textures and tastes. We now have an incredible array of alternatives milks, oat being particularly good in hot drinks - just make sure you get ones that are fortified and contain iodine. Also, if you can’t get your hands-on tinned coconut milk, pick one up from the plant-based milk section, this will work perfectly in recipes both sweet and savoury too, I’m doing this at the moment with my Tofu Red Thai Curry. If you are open to a change, you can now find plant based dairy versions of nearly all products including; custard, butter, all kinds of cheese and ice cream readily available and tasting just as good. So, if you can’t find the dairy item available then know that free-from alternatives are out there and can taste just as good.
If you’ve been unsuccessful stocking your baking cupboard, all is not lost. While plain flour is the conventual choice there are so many other options to choose from, with slightly different tastes and textures. These include; buckwheat, coconut, spelt, gram, millet or my personal favourite oat, which can be made at home by whizzing the oats up in a food processor. If it is self-raising that you are after, then you can also make your own at home too! Just add 2 teaspoons of baking powder for each 150g of plain flour. Make sure you sift the flour and baking powder together into a bowl before using, to make sure the baking powder is thoroughly distributed. Along with flour, eggs are few and far between, but when it comes to making sweet items these can be substituted and have the same effect. Bananas can make a great binder in recipes; I love to use these in pancakes and cookies. Or you can go for a chia or flax egg, which I have been using as a replacement for making cakes. To achieve the desired effect, mix 1 tablespoon of chia or flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water and then leaving for 10 minutes to bind.
You may be familiar with the likes of red kidney beans, coconut milk and tinned tomatoes but nowadays we have an overabundance of items to pick from. Tinned goods are some of the cheapest foods on the supermarket shelves and even if your go-to isn’t there then swap these for a different variety, such as cannellini beans for chickpeas or adzuki beans for black beans. Even if you’re unsure try and give these a-go, beans and lentils are low in calories and fat but packed with fibre, vitamins and minerals, and also count towards your 5 a day. Like many, you may be unsure of beans and pulses, to help you can gradually introduce these into your diet, disguise them in strong tasting dishes such as curries and spicy fajitas. Adding flavour, texture and contributing towards a healthy and balanced diet. If you can’t find houmous, why not try making your own by blending up the ingredients with chickpeas or go for something a little different with butterbeans. Also, a little tip for you, the water from chickpeas, known as aquafaba can be used like an egg white, so you can make vegan meringues and I love adding them to brownie recipes to make the bake extra light. If you are wanting some savoury and comforting recipes, such as spaghetti bolognaise but can’t buy any minced beef, then you could go with a twist on the traditional version by using lentils which cleverly mimic minced beef and make a delicious alternative.
This is a stressful time, but we are all in this together! Food is available in the shops and more will be coming each day so please be considerate in the way you shop. Buying more than you need will inevitably mean that others will be left without and especially those most vulnerable. Although you may not find exactly the right items you’re looking for, I hope this shows that there are so many alternatives out there for us to choose from. This is also a time for you to experiment in the kitchen and perhaps even concur up some new favourite recipes.
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