Love Food Hate Waste has five tips on how to save money by not wasting food (via). Although the list has been designed with a UK audience in mind, some of the tips hold equally well for us junta sitting in India. For example:
Tinned beans, frozen vegetables, meat and fish and dried fruit, nuts, pasta & noodles, rice & grains, are all essentials with a long shelf life – meaning you will always have the ingredients standing by to pull together a delicious meal or to jazz up your leftovers. The trick is to replace items once you have used them up. It helps to keep a note stuck on the inside of the cupboard door – scribble down items as soon as you have finished them and check it when you write your shopping list.
Planning your meals is one of the most effective ways you can cut wastage and food bills. Start by checking your fridge, freezer and store cupboard so you don’t shop for things you already have.
When I was in Bangalore, not planning my meals in the morning could lead to disaster. I would forget I had fruit or salad lying in the fridge, and then eat dinner out near office assuming there was nothing at home to prepare. By the next day, the salad would have spoilt, and I would have wasted the salad as well as the cost of the dinner out. Sticking a list of what I did have on the fridge door every weekend would have helped in the planning meals if I’d checked it every day and planned my dinner and breakfast according to it.
On a related note, it’s time to bring up another rant about refrigerators (people who read my mailing list know I do this often). Picking a refrigerator is fraught with peril. You’re always trading off convenience with expense and a tendency to waste.
I positively hate manual defrost refrigerators. If the light goes for extended periods (as it does so often in India) you wind up with a huge puddle on the kitchen floor. If you forget to defrost, whatever is in the freezer gets iced over and you have to go at it with a pickaxe. And I’m too much a twenty-first century types to remember to defrost the thing myself. That’s the fridge’s job, dammit!
Now unfortunately a frost-free fridge comes in large sizes and so uses more electricity than the manual defrost ones (in addition to being more expensive to begin with anyhow). The large size also means you have a tendency to throw stuff in there and then forget it’s there – as I did with my salads.
Fortunately, there are mitigants. You can cut down on the wasted electricity by filling the freezer with water bottles so all that energy goes to some use. And sticking a list of what’s in there on the fridge door could help you avoid forgetting it.
Extreme geekiness alert: In fact, if you wanted to truly power-use your fridge lists, you could create an individual Post-it for every item, and flip the Post-its around so that what you were planning to use in the evening would be right on top. The only way to be even geekier is to have a laptop in the kitchen and update your fridge MIS on an Excel sheet (or Google spreadsheets for that matter) as you remove stuff from the fridge and eat/ cook it. Sadly, my kitchen in Bangalore was too small to allow this. But I recommend it highly – a laptop in the kitchen also means you can download recipes.
The stuff I’ve written above does assume that:
- You do your food-buying-and-preparing yourself, instead of leaving it to your bai. Given how much people complain about the quality of their domestic help, they damn well ought to do it themselves instead of leaving it to their bai.
- You’re a relative newbie when it comes to managing your kitchen, and you haven’t internalised obvious stuff like remembering what you have already.
- You actually have a kitchen (so many people in Bombay just take dabbas and heat them) and give a shit about running it properly.
What with current trends of urbanisation, corporatisation, sararimanisation, growing numbers of young migrant professionals, growing salary demands of bais, yada yada, I think the number of people fulfilling the above conditions will grow. This is my yumble contribution to them. Maybe, I should set up a post/ page for useful kitchen tips.