Thrifty, Healthy, Homemade Ready Meals
Cook, Eat, Save, Repeat
I’ve been batching snacks and lunches for several weeks now and it has definitely paid off, reducing both our food bills and my morning stress levels. It turns out packing lunches in bulk is not much more of a hassle than just packing one day’s worth – it’s deciding what to make and getting down to it that takes the most out of you. Reducing that to a weekly not a daily occurrence made the whole process seem much easier and less of a drag.
A Big Performance And Encores
So I am ready to roll the same principle out to our main meal. Each week I am going to cook one meal that will then give me an additional three meals to freeze. For example, if I cook a lasagne I will make extra of everything and freeze an uncooked lasagne, a portion of mince and a portion of white sauce to make a fish pie. I will set aside a couple of hours (a Saturday morning, say) for this one Big Performance, and once a week for the rest of the month we will dine on the Encores from that meal. If I do one Big Performance each week, then by the end of the month I will have gradually built up to four meals a week that are simply Encores – thrifty, healthy home-made ready meals.
Happily for me I have been beaten to this idea by many food writers over the last five or so years, so there is no shortage of inspiration. My two oldest favourites are Economy Gastronomy and The Kitchen Revolution, although I am currently reading Save With Jamie and finding it has plenty of new and interesting thrifty meal ideas to inspire me (and the option of watching him cook some of them online). All three work with the same basic idea of taking one culinary Big Performance and using it as the basis of at least two other meals. Kitchen Revolution also pushes the idea of eating seasonally to get ingredients at their cheapest and most nutritious and so presents you with 52 weekly menus grouped into months. If you want someone else to make all your main meal decisions for you, this is the book to reach for. It is detailed, easy to follow, the meals are appealing and varied and each week includes a complete shopping list. The sheer volume of recipes puts it in a different league from the other two. If, like me, you want to buy an ingredient at a knockdown price, hurry home with it and look up a recipe to cook it with, it’s a bit of a pain because it is organised by week not by ingredients. The wealth of information in the book has been crammed in at the expense of any photographs which, I am not too proud to admit, is a turn-off for me. Economy Gastronomy is my favourite. It makes picking one ingredient (a whole salmon say, or a joint of meat) and creating a range of meals from it seem really easy. That said, I have been enjoying Jamie Oliver’s latest free of charge, courtesy of the public library service and reckon it will save me enough money in the long-run to be worth buying my own copy. Besides, it’s time someone else got a chance to read this copy for nothing.
I have also set up a Big Performance and Encores board on Pinterest to capture some of the online inspiration – please take a look. If you follow me, I will follow you back!