FRUGAL FOODIE: Handy tips to help keep costs at a minimum

Celery being regrown from the root
Celery being regrown from the root

I thought I’d let you have a montage of nifty tips this week that will make great use of things that you might otherwise have thrown away.

Have you tried regrowing veg before? I’ve been trying it with celery and it’s amazing! You can do it with lots of different fruit and veg.

My friend Victoria has tried onions, spring onions, carrots and pineapple!

You just need to pop the root into water and watch it grow. The celery started growing almost immediately. Just plant it out when it’s got a bit of growth.

If you use lots of potatoes, like us, it’s a good idea to get more out of the skins.

Recently, I made mashed potatoes and put the skins in the steamer above them. I gave the cooked skins to the hens but by doing that, the cooking water would have benefited from their nutritional goodness.

But I didn’t stop there. I saved the starchy cooking water and used it in leek and potato soup. It meant I didn’t need as many potatoes so it was lower in calories but it had the same potato flavour and all the nutritional benefits were saved and not poured down the drain.

I thought it was fairly inspired, if I do say so myself!

I love sweets and chocolate and I’m very low on will power. So, when there have been big chocolatey events such as Christmas and Easter, I make steps to banish the excess chocolate from the house, without being wasteful.

I make large quantities of fruit and nut bites by melting down whatever sweets are lying around and mixing this with condensed milk, Rice Krispies, dried fruit and nuts. If I have any marshmallows, I’ll add these too, chopped very small.

Mix it all together, put it in an oven tray and refrigerate. When it’s chilled, break it into lots of smaller pieces and give out as presents or take to picnics with friends to share.

Hard cheese like parmesan and grana padano is a great way to get lots of flavour into your meals, without having to use much. It’s very cheap when you work out the cost per meal.

A good tip is to grate it all when you first get it and then freeze it. Then you can just take a handful out whenever you need it. If you have a food processor this will make your life much easier.

If you don’t, don’t despair, it lasts for such a long time in the fridge without showing any sign of going bad. I wouldn’t like to say how long I keep mine!

When you’re finished with the cheese, don’t throw the rind away. Keep them and use them to intensify the flavour of cheese sauces and risottos. It makes such a difference to the flavour. Just remember to fish it out before serving!

On a similar vein, I also keep butter wrappers when I’m finished with them. I use them to grease oven trays and cake tins – they are so handy to have. You’ll need to keep them in date order though as these won’t keep forever.

Any regular readers of my column will know about my love of stale bread! I won’t go on about all the different delights that you can make from it, but I will urge everyone to never waste any. If you think that you’re not going to get a chance to use it, preserve it.

Whizz it up into breadcrumbs and put them in the oven on a low temperature until they are all crispy. You can then store them in sterilised jars or in the freezer.

Like the frozen parmesan, you can just take a handful out of the freezer whenever you need them.

At this time of year, we eat mountains of new potatoes from the garden. I always make more than we need so that we can have them fried or in omelettes for future meals. If you’re going to fry them, they are lovely with a little chorizo and some chopped curly kale (it is growing by the second at the moment and it is so nutritious). It will go crispy and will make a nice contrast to the texture of the potatoes.

Whenever we have rice with a meal, I also always make extra of that so that I can have another speedy lunch or supper up my sleeve. I chop up all the remnants of vegetables in the fridge and fry these, along with some frozen peas, with the rice. When it’s cooked, leave it on the heat and mix through a beaten egg.

I’ve mentioned it before but it’s a handy tip so I’m going to repeat myself. Never throw away the woody ends of asparagus or broccoli stalks – put them in resealable freezer bags and freeze them. Just add more to the bag whenever you have any.

These are perfect for making soups. It’s also a good idea to freeze any stalks of fresh herbs that you might not be using. They’re packed full of flavour so chop them up very finely and add them to sauces, soups or pastes - they will give you the same lovely flavour as the leaves would give you. I also put mint stalks in with new potatoes, when it’s just for us.

They still flavour the potatoes nicely.

I challenge you to stop and think before you throw anything edible away... I bet you can come up with some fantastically frugal uses for them.

Follow Christine McAllister on her blog or on Twitter @thefrugaldiary.