WITH living costs rising at an alarming rate, many of us have found our weekly food shop is a lot more expensive than it used to be.
For actor and cook Lisa Faulkner, aged 50, one the key ways to trim back in the kitchen is planning. Although she admits “it doesn’t always work”, it’s something she tries to stick to as much as possible.
“It stops me wasting food, which is the biggest thing for me – I don’t want to waste food, I find it really hard,” Faulkner adds.
At home, she and her husband, MasterChef’s John Torode, share food duties.
“We both love to cook,” says Faulkner – and they don’t seem to get bored of it, despite being around food all day.
However, they do have very different styles in the kitchen.
with Faulkner said: “He’s very meticulous, and cooks in a certain way, with order. I have a little order, but it’s usually like – let’s use that as a shortcut.”
Whenever she’s cooking, Faulkner is keen to keep food waste and costs low. These are her top tips for saving a bit of cash in the kitchen…
Plan, plan, plan
Faulkner learned about the importance of mapping out your weekly meals from her mother.
“We planned everything,” she says, thinking back to her childhood.
“The Thursday ‘big shop’ was what we did – I think a lot of people who grew up in the Seventies and Eighties were like that.”
She carries that with her as much as possible now, and says it’s easier to make sure she’s getting ingredients that work for multiple means.
“If I’m planning what I’m eating for the week, and I know how much my food shop is”.
Faulkner adds: “If I plan, I don’t waste food, and I don’t spend extra money.”
If you’re not used to meal planning and find it all a bit dull, Faulkner recommends seeking out inspiration.
“Even as a recipe writer and a cook and as a mum, you sit there sometimes and go, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to make spag bol again’,” she admits.
“So it’s nice to keep coming up with ideas and keep getting inspiration.”
After all, why not “get excited about” your food for the week.
Faulkner often gets inspiration from the Ocado magazine (she recently teamed up with the brand to come up with five new cost-effective recipes for four people), and from fond food memories.
“Whether it is a shepherd’s pie or a stew or something, I think those dishes or tray bakes – things my mum used to make us – I go back to. But also I look around and find inspiration everywhere,” she says.
“I get so much inspiration from TV shows – I watch American TV shows (I’m obsessed with American food) and I love it when a family is eating their dinner with their dinner rolls and their mashed potatoes. I’m like, what have they got? I literally pause the television – that’s my joy.”
Make things easy for yourself
Another way to make sure you stick to the plan and don’t end up splurging on extra ingredients or a takeaway? Make life easy for yourself when meal planning.
You might have days where you want to spend a bit more time cooking, but Faulkner is well aware those days can be quite rare.
One of her tactics for making life easier is to think: “I’m going to use those veggies and make a soup – somebody’s coming in from swimming at this time, and the other person’s coming in at that time. So it would just be there, and you can serve it when you want.”
This is very much Faulkner’s style.
“You can prep in advance and stick in the oven and then go and do something else is my type of cooking,” she says.
“A tray bake is a joy, or a slow-cooked thing is a joy. Anything you’re not spending a huge amount of time doing is lovely.”
Use up everything
Faulkner is a big advocate for using up as much food as you possibly can. With her leftovers, she says: “We tend to make a sauce; if we’ve got bits left over, we’ll make a soup or a sauce.
“There are always times when you think, ‘Oh, we’ll keep that and we’ll have that another day’ – and it just sits in the fridge and you feel so bad. We’re all trying to be better all the time.”
Herbs can often go bad quickly, but Faulkner has a hack for that: “We’ll dry herbs and we’ll make pesto and oils.”
Freeze the rest
Batch cooking and freezing is a perfect way to make sure no food goes to waste too, saving you a bit of money in the process.
“I batch cook a lot,” says Faulkner.
“I try to think ahead – this morning, I literally threw everything into a slow cooker, and know that I’ve made enough food that will feed us tonight, but I will also definitely have so many leftovers that I will then portion up and have it in the freezer.”
And meals from your freezer don’t have to be uninspiring, because you can make them into whole new dishes.
Faulkner says: “We had some mash potato in the freezer and some fish, and we made some fish cakes the other day. We had a stew, but it wasn’t very much, so we ended up putting a tin of tomatoes in and then some stock, and made it a big soup with tortilla chips on top. It was taking little bits of leftovers and making it into something else.”
For some recipes see ocado.com/recipes