Savvy Food Savings For Winter
Winter is the time of year I like to cook the best. If there is a good southerly gale blowing outside, I am far less tempted out for takeaways or a restaurant. Plus, winter food, is on the whole, cheap food. You can keep your fancy-pants sushi, expensive fish, and fine, delicate stir-fries for summer. Winter is the time for hearty, filling, and cheap food!
So here’s how to save money on your food bill this winter.
Know What's in Season
Notice how the price of avocadoes and zucchini has sky-rocketed? That's because they are out of season and being imported. Instead look for fruit and vegetables that are in-season, local and fresh. Good choices include:
Replace out of season foods with canned or frozen options. They have the same nutrients as fresh, and are usually a lot cheaper than out-of-season produce. I always buy frozen beans, corn, and peas on special and have them in the freezer, where they last for months.
Where To Buy The Cheapest Fruit and Vegetables
The best deals are usually not found in your supermarket. Although there might be the odd good deal as a "loss-leader" I find that specialist green grocers, and particularly rural market stalls and farmer's markets are significantly cheaper. Check out your local farmer's market or head out of town for the local horticultural areas e.g. Otaki, or Pukekohe.
Buy “whole” produce, not the "convenience" version; half a cauliflower or a piece of crown pumpkin costs a great deal more proportionally than buying the entire vegetable. Pumpkins can be huge - but at least they don't need to live in the fridge until they are cut! Then it's pumpkin soup and pumpkin pies for the freezer! Or buy one between friends. Seriously, $5 worth of pumpkin will feed an entire family for several meals.
strong>Cheap Cuts of Meat
Cheap meat is neither poor quality, or unhealthy. Rather cheaper cuts usually need a bit more effort with preparation because the meat is tougher. Sometimes, the price reflects that the cut is, frankly, unfashionable. The tougher cuts also have the most flavour though, which is why a chef may well choose a cheap beef skirt for a stew rather than expensive eye fillet.
For the truly adventurous you can investigate some really cheap cuts which also suit winter cooking such as whole pig heads, or pork hock (similar to lamb hocks which have got more fashionable and pricy), or livers, or sweetbreads.
strong>Slow Cooking Rocks
With the cheaper tougher cuts you need to use a slow gentle way of cooking. My second favourite kitchen appliance (after the microwave I can’t live without) is my slow cooker. These wonderful devices allow you to throw the ingredients in for a stew in the morning and come home after work to the smell of a yummy cooked dinner. If you don't have a slow cooker, a heavy covered casserole on the stove top turned down low will do the same job.
Soup is both easy and cheap to make, with a small pouch of pumpkin soup from the supermarket costing $5, it's almost criminal not to try. For the same price you could make enough soup for the entire whanau.
I didn't used to like soup very much, until in the pursuit of some diet or other I started making my own. The diet faded, of course, but the soup habit starts up each winter. Family favourites include any combination of kumara, pumpkin, and carrot. It's hard to go wrong with soup recipes. Start with a basic one but vary the ingredients depending on what's to hand.
Again I like to use my slow cooker - but a stove top will work too. For country-style chunky soups that's all you need. But if you want smooth creamy soups you need to blend the cooked mixture. Most recipe books will tell you to transfer the hot soup to a liquidizer, but that's all a bit hazardous and time-consuming for me. Instead I bought a cheap stick-blender, and blend the soup in the pot it cooked in.
When I was a child a roast chicken was a rare treat, reserved for birthdays or other special occasions. Now, chicken is one of the cheapest roasts available. Avoid the organic, and fresh aisle, and pick up your family-sized frozen chicken on special for $10 or less.