Achieving all these meals is another thing! There is shopping, budgeting, menu planning, leaning new recipes, using up left overs, staying ahead of life little surprises like visitors, illness, storms and simply sometimes running out of time.
I am a member of quite a few Facebook groups and blogs and one thing I continually see are posts by people who are simply out of food. They have children to feed and they have run out of money before pay day and the pantry isn't in good shape either.
Then of course there is illness and other things that go wrong where even if the fridge is full we are too sick to do anything about it! There are too many reasons we might fail to get dinner on the table to list! It happens. It has probably happened to us all at some time.
If you are new here I have lots of posts on Pantries and Preparedness in my index. I have spent a few years now building up my pantry and supplies so I always have lots of meals I can make even if the shops were shut.
Having a baking day or a baking afternoon is a great way to get ahead with meals.
And use stuff up! This is a post with some handy recipes.... The money saving baking day.
It was with the help of Laine that I really changed my shopping habits drastically. I went from going to the supermarket and getting what I needed and coming home to shopping many different shops, markets and locations every month and menu planning from what I had, what needs using up and what great deals I have found. It kind of flipped grocery shopping upside down! Shopping this way roughly doubled my stock or halved my bill whichever way you want to look at it.
You can read this post and Laine's menu planning here.
Once I got going on menu planning I developed a system where I keep a list on the fridge of all the ready to go meals I have in the fridge, freezer and pantry currently. This list is always changing but I like to have at least thirty meals listed.
My pantry itself holds more possible basic meals but my list is usual meals I either have ready to thaw or cook from the fridge. These are good backups but I also want actual ready meals too, meals that just need thawing with no work involved for times I might be sick or unable to think!
Once I did this it became both a challenge and a form of security.
All the time I am working on building up my list!
During a week I will cross off things as I have used them. When I shop or do some cooking I will love to add all the meals to my list and get a few more! Trying to do this has made me see many more ways to stretch a meal, use things up, create a new meal with left overs.... save something over for another meal. I will think about how I can add a meal to my list!
The list also stops me from forgetting something at the bottom of the freezer and later finding mystery packages that need carbon dating to identify! So less is wasted!
When I cook up some spaghetti sauce this is a chance to freeze a few batches for later.
I will also make up a Lasagna.
When it is cold it slices neatly and then you can freeze single portions.
These are so handy!
Last night I had more soup and I heated up a Spaghetti Bolognese pasta bake for Andy. I had one individual portion frozen from another time. He loved that and I loved my soup. Sunday nights are often a use it up night. This is a breakthrough for me as years ago I though everyone needed to have the same thing for dinner (for some reason) and now if there are a few things left over then we will have a meal of this and that.
Other ways to build up some spare meals are to simply always double a recipe if you possibly can and put away a meal.
I have had it where people keep coming back for more regardless of how much they just ate. (Years ago I had this problem although not now.) I learned to set it aside immediately and put it out of the way.
Add a side to a dish that can be stretched to two meals. And/or add a soup or a desert that will stretch it further into "enough".
To make up casseroles in the slow cooker and bulk them up with lots of veggies. The left overs then make the most wonderful pie fillings. Keep some puff pastry in the freezer. Pies freeze as perfect instant meals. You can make family sized pies or individual ones. Little ones in muffin trays are lovely for children. Pies are great emergency meals!
Have a use it up night and create a pizza, fried rice, soup or something with all your odds and ends left over. Make extra and fill the lunch boxes for tomorrow.
Serve up lots of left overs Indian style in little bowls, add some rice, bread, salad or something to make it go further.
Have a toasted sandwiches, eggs on toast night. Toasties and soup used to be one of my favourite dinners.
Save ingredients for another time. Mimi mentions this... be aware of what is enough and save something for another time. Over time you get extra meals this way.
Half your expensive ingredient and double the rest. i.e. if I am making something like Blueberry Muffins I will use a single recipe amount of the berries and I will double the rest. Same with chocolate chips etc. No one notices, you just get more! This recipe will use up a tiny bit of anything and turn it into a tray of muffins.... Miracle Muffins. (sweet or savoury)
When you have an abundance have a cook up. These were cobblers I made in my last house when I had lots of apricots. I would just make as many as would fit in the oven....
They were great on soup nights!
The same with baking.... if dinner is a smaller meal I have fruit cake on hand to offer.
Then I am glad I had a baking day and stored these away!
Right now I can get extra meals by having a quick look in the fridge and crisper. I can freeze some portions of soup giving me a couple of emergency meals. I know I have two zucchini to use. I will see what else.... then make a plan to use these up in the next few days. Doing this I very often get a couple of extra creative meals. I can build my list!
The slow cooker is a big help to me as when you make soup, a casserole, curry etc you can add so many things that are left overs... my pumpkin soup on the weekend had a bunch of broccolini stalks thrown in. My last casserole had a few tomatoes added that needed to be used. Spaghetti sauce is a place you can hide all kinds of grated veggies. So is meatloaf, sausage rolls, hamburgers, rissoles... you can fill all of these with veggies that need to be sued up and greatly bulk out your meat. (and also trick kids who are being difficult!)
How do you speech ingredients and make more meals from what you have?
Do you have tricks to get ahead and save?
I think our Mum's and Grandmas were experts at this! My Nan used to make a tomato bake Nans Tomato Pie that consisted of zucchini, onion, tomato, bread and cheese topping. She also make great stuffing! These were served with roast meals. I LOVED them both. It took me years to realise she was stretching the meat much further by all the sides she served!
Other cultures do this wonderfully... the English add Yorkshire Puddings.
Asian cultures tend to add lots of little bowls of sides and the meat part is actually quite small but it goes such a long way! You have wonderful sauces and condiments, rice and veggies... the meat portion goes a mile!
We can learn a lot from this!
However you achieve it having meals to fall back on when you need them adds a lot of peace and security to your home. I look at my list on the fridge and think that actually when I shop I need nothing. The only money I will spend is on absolutely fantastic deals. With luck these will get me further ahead!
I hope you have a wonderful week! I have lots of plans including a further afield shopping day and seeing Hilde.... this always builds up my pantry. xxx