Save money, time and the environment (or all three) with these food hacks

From recipes with stale bread to quick ways to make eggs, pizzas and mash, here are top tips to cut back on waste

Shop the freezer aisle for berries, and breakfast on smashed berries on toast when they start to wither. Photo: Scott Price
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From shopping savvy to making the most of existing kitchen kit, these ideas will aid you on your quest to eat well, keep costs down and do your bit for the environment — all while minimising food waste and maximising taste.

Save time

  • It might not be echt, but for the speediest and easiest home-made pizza dough around, mix two parts self-raising flour to one part of full-fat Greek-style yoghurt. Knead briefly to form a smooth, silky ball, roll out thinly on a lightly floured surface and bake uncovered on a lightly oiled tray in a 200ºC oven for eight to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, add toppings and cook until the dough is crisp and golden, and the cheese bubbling.
  • Put that pizza cutter languishing in your kitchen cupboard to work, slicing hot-from-the-pan quesadillas, removing crusts for child-approved sandwiches, chopping herbs, finely shredding lettuce, trimming pastry edges, cutting whole pasta sheets into slim noodles and, of course, dividing dough — cooked or raw — into perfectly equal pieces.
  • Ensure that a food processor works hard for its place in your kitchen. Use it to blend soups and sauces, prep pesto, hummus and salad dressings, turn bread into crumbs, grind meat into mince, make mayonnaise (far easier than it sounds), knead dough, and shred not just raw vegetables, but also cheese and butter.
  • Soften frozen or fridge-cold butter the speedy way: fill a heatproof bowl with just-boiled water and leave for two to three minutes. Pour the water away, cover the butter with the warm bowl and 15 minutes later you’ll be all set for baking.
  • When it comes to baking cakes, the all-in-one method (where all the ingredients are combined at the same time) is simpler, faster and produces less washing up than the traditional approach (creaming butter and sugar, then beating in eggs and stirring through flour).
  • Making mashed potato? Forget about peeling, dicing and boiling. Instead, cook fork-pricked baking potatoes in a 200ºC oven for one hour or until a knife slides easily though the middle. Leave to cool slightly, cut in half and scrape out the flesh, then mash vigorously until lump-free. The low-effort result is genuinely so smooth and creamy, you don’t need to add butter (but we certainly won’t judge you if you do). Side note: for next-level richness, beat an egg yolk into the slightly cooled mash.
  • The fastest way to peel a boiled egg is by popping it into a bowl of room-temperature water, cracking the submerged egg against the base of the bowl and carefully slipping off the skin.

Save money

  • If scrambled eggs are your thing, but you’ve accidentally overcooked yours, don’t despair or throw the rubbery mass away. Instead, remove the pan from the heat, add another lightly whisked egg and gently fold through the mix until you achieve the soft and fluffy, temptingly creamy texture that you were after in the first place. Return to the heat briefly and serve.
  • To prevent bread from going stale before you have time to eat it, slice the loaf on the day you buy it and freeze in reusable bags, ready to toast from frozen. That said, stale bread is no bad thing. Here are five ways to use it: dice into cubes, toss with olive oil and herbs and bake until crisp and golden to make croutons; blitz to crumbs in a blender then use to coat meat, fish or vegetables or to top gratins and pasta bakes; treat yourself to sweet or savoury eggy bread for breakfast; add to broth-like soups to thicken; or make quintessentially English summer pudding.
  • Forget about throwing milk that’s staring its expiration date in the face down the drain. Instead, use the faintly tangy liquid as a buttermilk (which is essentially fermented milk, anyway) substitute in crepe, pancake and waffle batters and in bread or scone mixes. Alternatively, employ it as an adhesive to help the breadcrumbs you made from stale bread to stick to meat, fish, vegetables and even cheese (gooey, breadcrumb coated fried halloumi? Yes, please).
  • Shop the freezer aisle: frozen fruit and vegetables (think berries, peas, spinach, carrots, edamame beans) are often lower in price than their fresh counterparts and because they’re picked at peak ripeness and frozen quickly after doing so, they retain maximum vitamins and minerals.
  • Ginger shots are all the rage: great for digestion, packed with flavour, perfect for kicking colds to the curb and clearing fuzzy, humidity-befuddled heads. At a juice bar, those fiery little mouthfuls come at a premium cost, so making your own makes sense. Blitz peeled ginger, lemon juice and diced apple in a blender with a splash of water (feel free to also add fresh turmeric or a pinch of cayenne pepper if you’re feeling brave), then strain through a fine sieve directly into an ice cube tray. Use the frozen cubes to add spice and brightness to plain water, drop into morning smoothies and juices or just let the cube melt slightly and slurp down as is.

Save the environment

  • Where possible, always opt for loose, rather than pre-packed fruit and veg. Not only will you only end up buying exactly what you need, it’s more in keeping with the UAE’s current plastic-free preferences.
  • Turn scraps into sustenance and get into the habit of using fresh ingredients in their entirety. Once thinly sliced, broccoli, cauliflower and kale stalks are just as edible as delicate florets and leaves — add to stir-fries, soups, omelettes, risottos and fried rice dishes. Herb stalks, strawberry tops and citrus peels, meanwhile, are all great for flavouring drinking water.
  • Leafy greens that show signs of wilting before you’re ready to eat them can be quickly blanched, roughly chopped and formed into balls (squeeze out as much excess water as possible), then frozen on baking trays, ready to add instant nutritional goodness to future dishes.
  • Fresh berries can morph from perfectly ripe to on-the-turn in what feels like minutes. When the likes of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries begin to look past their best, breakfast on smashed berries on toast (spread toasted sourdough with ricotta, berries, honey and nuts). Alternately, make two-ingredient chia jam or freeze in ice trays for ever-so pretty flavoured cubes.
  • Give single-use cling film the heave-ho and opt for reusable, more eco-friendly alternatives instead. SuperBee Beeswax Wraps are a great choice: sustainable, washable, reusable and compostable (and stocked by Kibsons). If you’re feeling particularly crafty, you could also make your own — all that’s needed is fabric, beeswax and a bit of patience.
  • Consider purchasing a slow-cooker: not only are they economical to run, they reduce hands-on cooking time and can transform cheaper cuts of meat into meltingly soft morsels.
  • Finally, when heating water in a pan, always cover with a lid; the water will come to the boil faster and use less energy.
Updated: June 02, 2023, 10:46 AM