With the world looking decidedly like it has the potential to go to hell in a hand basket financially, now seems like no better time to reflect on minimising food waste as part of frugal cooking. With food becoming so expensive and costs only expected to rise, it simply seems a shame to waste anything.
The most obvious thing to do is to grow anything you can (even as simple as herbs or lettuce - if that's what you eat). For us this winter it's only been garlic and snow peas - but I planted a years worth of garlic!! I'm using our snowpeas in at least 3 dinners per week (for only 5 plants). We also have oranges growing on our orange tree. But not everyone either wants to grow their own food or has the space to grow things.
So the other key thing is to not waste the food that you do buy. Make sure you use everything up. Old vegies can be used in soups / stews / or grated into old muffins. Old fruit can be frozen for smoothies or used up in desserts or muffins. Aim to use the whole item - if you have a pumpkin, use the flesh but also toast the seeds and make pepitas (a really nutritious snack).
Cook from scratch. It seems so obvious but can also be so simple. You cut out the costs of processed food and it's easier to use things up when you have whole food on hand.
Meat free days - we have 4 meat free days per week and when we do use meat, I cut the amount of meat in half and pad out with lentils or beans. For example, 250g lamb would feed Granny B, Mr B, leave a spare adult meal and two mini meals for Little B. The rest of the dish (generally a stew) includes green lentils, lots of vegies and is served with rice.
We focus a lot on low GI as it keeps tummies feeling fuller longer. Quinoa porridge (pre soaked) with a little fruit makes a powerhouse protein breakfast for Mr B before a long physical work day or for Little B before a long preschool session. Look at old filling favourites...oats become porridge for breakfast, bring down the GI in muffins and can be used for desserts. Sago pudding is a big fav here for desserts because it is filling, gluten free and easy to make. I make desserts these days to fill up Mr B and Little B but ensure they are nourishing and nutritious.
As for time, presoaking grains makes them cook quicker. I soak our porridge oats / rice / quinoa overnight which means they cook on the stove within 5 mins in the morning. A slow cooker means I can come home or wake up to dinner cooked, and I just need to add rice or pasta.
I find slow cooker stews and soups the key in using up vegies. But making your own dip works well too - I steam up vegies then puree them with beans or nuts and add whatever spices or flavours we like. This is great as an afternoon snack or as a spread on toast / bread / rolls. Mr B loves sweet potato and cashew nut dip. Little B loves a vegie bean dip that is made from brussel sprouts (which you cant taste or see).
Leftover casserole or soup can be pureed up and made into sausage rolls or calzones. Nice hot pocket lunches with no chemical nasties!! :-) A fab side benefit is your family will eat more vegies than they know LOL.
Whether it's minimising your food waste or focussing more on frugal cooking because you want to cut down your shopping dollars, I think every bit of effort in your kitchen and at home can really count both financially and nutritionally.