Saving money on food: Laura Gaga on making friends with your freezer
I spent the night before my mum’s birthday hanging around the bakery aisle of a supermarket waiting for the final reductions to be brought out. When I’d entered the store, I’d seen that there was a large birthday cake reduced from £10 to £4.14 and two smaller ones which had come down from £6 to £4. All three were on their best before dates and one of the store assistants told me that they would be reduced further in around 20 minutes – I was not leaving that store until I had a birthday cake for my old dear.
I went off to the chilled aisle placing a reduced vegan ready meal in my basket, whilst waiting on the assistant to mark down the soya yoghurt. I kept popping my head out of the aisle to see whether the bakery bits were done. I even had a fellow raider keeping his eye out for the cake whilst he was waiting on wholemeal bread. I finished up in the chilled section, before picking up a bunch of flowers reduced to £1 – my mum was being spoilt – and headed back to the bakery. There was still a wait but it was worth it, I bagged the £10 white chocolate cake for £2.50.
I proudly presented the cake and flowers to my mum the next morning. “You didn’t take the price tags off,” she said. “No, I thought you’d be impressed,” I proudly replied. “Ok, well freeze it for our meal,” she instructed. We had a family dinner in a couple of days so it made sense to freeze the cake and keep it for then – did you know you can freeze cakes? I’ve gone from being someone who was teased for having an empty freezer, to it now being constantly full. When buying food that is reduced on its best before or use by date, the freezer can be your saving grace.
There is little that I don’t freeze – bread, rolls, pitta, bagels, baguettes, ciabatta – you name it, I’ve even got a pack of filo pastry in the freezer at the moment. Bread can last six months, if not more, in the freezer, then I’ll either take it out and let it defrost, toast it from frozen or pop it in the microwave. When I ate meat and fish, I’d only buy on its expiration date, then freeze it on the day, extending its lifespan by a good few months. Now, I’ll freeze meat substitutes including tofu. Freezing tofu is great as you can cook from frozen – by boiling it, you get rid of the mushy texture and it saves on the painstaking process of draining and pressing.
Fruit and veg are another staple in a vegan diet, and my freezer, too. I cook veg from frozen, then steam and roast. I don’t want to say that I’m lazy – I’m writing this before setting off for my morning run – I can just think of better things to do with my time than blanching veg, so I tend to freeze them in the packaging they come in, or place into a container. If you do make the effort, however, it’ll help keep the colour when cooked. I’ll add veg from the freezer to smoothies and have an abundance of fruit in my freezer for the same reason – peeled bananas, chopped pineapple, mango and berries. I love banana porridge, so will add frozen banana whilst cooking oats. Defrosted bananas are fab for baking things such as banana bread or muffins, too. My work bestie often supplies me rhubarb from his allotment; I’ll chop, freeze and then stew it for a compote from frozen. The same goes for fresh herbs – I don’t defrost these before cooking, I’ll add straight from frozen, even slicing whole chillies frozen. How often have herbs started to turn before you’ve had a chance to use them all? There is little that can’t be frozen like potatoes, cooked rice, milk, and most desserts. As for leftovers – freeze them and you have you have a packed lunch on-the-go, or an easy dinner. Packaged foods will usually note whether the foods can be frozen and how long for. If there are any foods that you are unsure about: ask. I don’t mean ask my mum, she has her mouth full of cake – there are so many sites which can advise, such as food.gov.uk, nhs.uk and bbcgoodfood.com.
Find Laura on Instagram, @reduction_raider1
This article first appeared in Issue 9 of Be Kind magazine, published November 2019