Tuesday, 6 December 2011


After looking at our individual 'How to' we decided to combine our various topics, and focus on a cooking theme, coming up with 'how to save time and money whilst making a meal' which is perfect for students:

“1. Organising: the key for quick success! Before embarking on the preparation of meals, prepare all the necessary ingredients and utensils. This will save you a moment of panic when launching and especially go faster in the preparation. Think of preheating your oven: run it during the preparation stage. Once your dish is prepared, you will only have to bake immediately. 

2. Preparation: tips to save time The bags of frozen vegetables and canned products have the advantage to save you time: no need to wash, peel and cut into pieces. Peel vegetables and cut your meat into pieces while waiting for water to boil or the stove heating. During cooking the dish, you can anticipate certain preparations: peeling potatoes, soaking them (in the case of pulses), cook, prepare marinades, cooking ingredients in preparation for future dishes or salads… 

3. Choose simple, quick and even preparation methods: Foil: allow you to slip a fillet of fish or meat raw without preparation beforehand. Steam cook your fishes or lean meats in foil in your oven. For a pleasant change, they can be seasoned as you like and accompanied by finely sliced ​​raw vegetables. 

Bread: if we don’t have time… better not to cook at all! On a thick slice of bread you can place slices of tomatoes, eggplant or zucchini, herbs, a slice of ham or salmon, a little mozzarella or goat cheese. Cold or browned in the oven, they are delicious bruschettas accompanied by a green salad. 

Salads: to cope with vegetables, starchy foods and meat, are another alternative to fast food. Mix flavors by combining several food groups. Compound plates: a handful of cherry tomatoes, 3-4 sticks of surimi, a slice of ham, some lettuce leaves, a piece of cheese, bread and a few raspberries, for example. It makes you a complete meal, ready in less than 5 minutes. Cooking methods: Food selection is important since some food are cooked faster than others: In the family of “starchy foods”, there are pasta and instant rice. There is also, in trade, bags of meal to dive directly into boiling water “express cooking.” 

Eggs are also very easy to cook: omelette (5 min), fried (4-5 min), boiled (3 min), egg cooker (5-6 min)… The microwave oven is not just reserved for reheating or thawing, it can also cook food in a limited time (no more than 15 minutes). Some foods are more suited to this cooking method, for example, white meats, fish, vegetables or fruit. So why don’t you try microwave cooking? 

Here are some ideas for simple preparations: The foil: drop a fish or chicken fillet in a parchment paper, season it to taste with herbs, spices, a little oil or lemon. You can complete this recipe by adding cut vegetables, coconut milk, tomatoes, a drizzle of cream… Close the foils and bake for 15-20 minutes in your oven at 180°c. Enjoy the scent when you open your foil! Ramekins: mix different ingredients to (white meat, fish, vegetables, yogurt-based sauce) Cook for 10 minutes. Blanks: mix 3 eggs, a little cream, a glass of milk and some vegetables or fish, then pour the mixture into a casserole suitable for microwave oven. Cook 10 minutes: it’s ready! cooked fruits: to accompany the black pudding or dessert, make a baked apple. Remove seeds potato, prick the skin several times with a fork and place in microwave oven for 5 minutes. The cooking pan: can fry food in a limited time. The ideal is to use a nonstick pan which allows to limit the addition of fat. Some foods are particularly suited to this type of cooking: Cook some meats as they are (hamburger, black pudding, lamb chop, slice of roast, chicken strips or duck) or breaded in a mixture of flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs (schnitzel). Fish: fillets of sole, trout, salmon fillet, cod… Fish cook fast in general in a pan or in oven. Vegetables: zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms. Remember to cut the vegetables finely so they cook faster once in the pan. You can also turn on your wok stove and revisit your recipes. The wok is a sort of hollow skillet native from Asia and sears food over high heat. Teenagers appreciate this method of cooking because it keeps vegetables crunchy. Cooking in a pressure cooker also reduces cooking times of foods.”

Tips for Saving Time in the Kitchen
#1: Wash as you go.

One of the main reasons I am often dissuaded from cooking a meal is because I don’t want to deal with all the clean up. It’s just so annoying. You cook this wonderful meal only to realize you have a pile of dishes to deal with when you finish eating. A pile of dirty dishes definitely takes away some of the enjoyment of a home cooked meal. So that’s why you should wash the dishes before they have a chance to pile up. I know this takes a certain amount of self-discipline, but trust me, you will be grateful later when you are busy and don’t have time to deal with dishes and your sink is empty so you don’t have to deal with them.

#2: Cook and Freeze.

A great way to save time while cooking a meal is if you’ve already cooked the meat ahead of time, especially for meals like casseroles or spaghetti where the meat is ground up or shredded. If you know that you are going to be cooking multiple meals over a period of a couple of weeks that involves the same meat, especially if it’s ground beef, I suggest cooking several pounds of meat at one time, dividing them in to freezer bags in roughly one pound portions, and freezing them in the freezer. This way when you get ready to make your meal, the meat will already be cooked and you can just take it out of the freezer a few hours ahead of time and let it thaw or put it in fridge the morning of the day you are planning to use it and let it thaw during the day while you aren’t home.  Also, even if you don’t cook a lot of meat ahead of time, I would suggest cooking the meat the night before you plan to use it in a meal and storing it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. It’s definitely much easier to manage cooking a meal if you spread the work out.

+best before-these dates refer to quality rather than food safety. When the date is passed, the food won’t be unsafe but might begin to lose its flavour and texture. One exception is eggs – never eat eggs after the ‘best before’ date.


Your pantry

You may be tempted to order takeaway if your pantry is bare and you can’t face the thought of going to the supermarket. The secret is to stock long-life ingredients that can be combined in any number of ways to create interesting dishes. Suggestions include:
  • Buy extra of long lasting vegetables like potatoes, carrots and onions, which can form the basis of soups or casseroles.
  • Stock plenty of dried pasta, such as spaghetti, fettuccine, macaroni and spiral varieties.
  • Keep a selection of other long-life carbohydrates like rice (stock different varieties such as white, brown, arborio and jasmine), Asian-type dry noodles, lentils and couscous.
  • Use tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, tinned corn and other vegetables (look for ‘no added salt’ varieties) for pasta sauces, soups or casseroles.
  • Stock a range of canned fish – for variety include tuna, salmon and sardines.
  • Keep tins of legumes on hand (for example kidney beans, three bean mix, chick peas).
  • Include canned and packet soups (look for ‘no added salt’ varieties).
  • Have a stock of oils and vinegars including olive oil, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar and red wine vinegar. You can make a wide range of salad dressings or marinades with these ingredients if you include a dash of herbs and lemon juice.
  • Stock dried herbs including basil, coriander, mint, thyme, oregano and mixed herbs.
  • Useful condiments include tomato sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, relish, stock cubes, ready-made stock, soy sauce and chilli sauce.
  • Dried goods to stock include pine nuts, curry powder, sun-dried tomatoes and shiitake mushrooms.
  • Store a variety of nuts – these are a great meat alternative, especially in pasta or rice dishes.

Your freezer and fridge

Keep your fridge and freezer stocked with handy healthy food. For example:

  • Buy frozen vegetables. Contrary to popular belief, these products retain a high proportion of their nutrients.
  • Fresh crushed garlic and ginger are available in jars to keep in the fridge and fresh herbs are available in tubes to keep in the freezer.
  • Citrus fruits like oranges have a long life when refrigerated.
  • Fresh lemon and lime juice can be bought in bottles and stored in the fridge.
  • Grated cheese can be sealed and stored in the freezer to increase its shelf life.
  • When buying fresh meat, choose de-boned varieties. Divide the quantities into meal-sized portions and freeze separately.
  • Buy red meat and chicken already sliced or diced or marinated.
  • Buy bread in bulk and keep it in the freezer until needed.

Meal suggestions

The above pantry and fridge items can offer you a range of easily prepared main meals including:
  • Pasta
  • Casseroles
  • Stews
  • Curries
  • Soups
  • Risottos
  • Stir fries
  • Salads.

Time saving suggestions

Suggestions include:
  • Make extra portions – while you’re making your pasta sauce, casserole or soup, make double (or even quadruple) the quantity you need. Freeze the remainder in meal portions, and you have ready-made meals for later in the week or month.
  • Double up on tasks – you can save time if you do two things at once. For example, prepare your pasta sauce while your spaghetti is cooking.
  • Prepare easy meals – one-pot meals (such as soups, risottos, stews, curries and casseroles) save on washing up.
  • Use a microwave – it’s easier and faster to microwave foods than cook them in the oven or on the stovetop. Check your manufacturer’s instructions on how to best cook different foods using your microwave.
  • Use small, thin chunks of food – they cook faster than big chunks.
  • Don’t throw out leftovers – store them appropriately (such as refrigerated or frozen) for a quick meal the next day. Or reinvent the leftovers in a creative way; for example, pasta sauce can make a tasty jaffle filling.
  • Cook the night before – for example, cook in the evening (when any children have gone to bed) and ask your partner, if you have one, to help you with the preparation like chopping vegetables. This will speed up the process and make it more fun. This means time-consuming recipes like soups, curries, stews or casseroles can cook while you relax in the evening.

Get motivated 

Some people who live alone don’t like to cook for themselves. Different ways to motivate yourself include:
  • Invite people over for dinner more often.
  • Offer to go round to a friend’s house to cook for them one night (hopefully they will then return the favour one night for you!)
  • If you have a child in your life (such as a grandchild, niece or nephew), involve them in cooking sessions. Most children enjoy preparing and cooking food and you can have a lot of fun together making pasta sauce or soup in bulk.
  • If your problem is coming up with interesting meals, a good cookbook can inspire you or browse the Better Health Channel for easy, quick-to-prepare recipe ideas. Some food packets also have easy recipes on them.
  • Think of the money you’ll be saving by cooking, instead of eating convenience foods (and how much better it is for you). Use the saved money to buy yourself a treat.

Things to remember

  • Keep a stock of long-life ingredients (such as frozen, canned or dried products) that can be combined in any number of ways to create interesting dishes.
  • If you live alone and don’t like to cook for just one, try inviting people over for dinner more often.
  • Cook in bulk, and freeze meal-size portions for later in the week or month.
  • (http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Cooking_tips_for_busy_people)

#3: Divide and Conquer.

My next suggestion is mainly for those who carry their lunch, as I know many law students often do (well on the days there isn’t a free lunch anyway, which is rare I know) because always buying your lunch can get expensive. I suggest either buying individual sized bags of chips or other snacks you bring as a part of your lunch or if you buy a big bag of chips or another snack, go ahead and divide the entire bag up in to individual sandwich bags at the beginning of week. This saves you time while fixing your lunch because you will not have to take the time every morning to open the box of the snack, then put the snack in the sandwich bag, then seal it up, and then wash your hands because they have crumbs on them. Instead you will be able to grab the pre-made individual sized snack bag, stick in your lunch box and be on your way.

This idea also serves as a good method of portion control. If you’ve already divided your snacks up in to individual servings, you will not be as likely to eat the whole bag as an afternoon or late night snack (come on, don’t even try to deny it, I know we are all guilty of eating a whole bag of chips or another snack by ourselves without even realizing it until it is too late and the bag was empty).
I thought this would be a helpful piece of research as its written by a student.  Something else that seems quite obvious but is sometimes overlooked is sell by dates on things which can help save money:
+use by-food can be eaten up until the date displayed on the 'use by

Adding Bulk

Save money on a meal without compromising on nutrition by adding vegetables to bulk out a meat dish.

  • Potatoes, mushrooms, peppers or whatever you have spare, can be chopped up and added to curries, soups, omelettes and more.
  • Make soup more filling by cutting stale bread into cubes and adding a crushed clove of garlic to some oil before frying the croutons.
  • The cheapest mince is not a money saver because it tends to have a lot of fat and gristle. Save by buying the best mince you can afford but make it go further with added vegetables.
  • If you cook double portions and are reheating any food next day, cook until it is piping hot.

Time-saving Rescues

  • Taste a curry near the end of cooking time to see if it is hot enough. If it isn’t, save time by adding chilli powder instead of more curry powder. Curry powder needs time to cook properly to release its flavour.
  • If, on the other hand, your curry is too hot, just add some yoghurt or cream to cool it down quickly.
  • If you are grilling anything, get into the habit of lining the grillpan with tinfoil. You will save time on washing up. The cheapest foil is fine for this job
  • Stir-Fries - the Student’s FriendSaving time and money if they are cooked properly, stir fries are a good and healthy choice for the student kitchen. You can use cheap ingredients, they take minutes to cook and they can be different every time. There are a few basic tips:
    • most importantly, prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking.
    • cut all the ingredients to the same size - strips of peppers, courgettes, carrots, onions etc. about 5cm long and 5mm thick.
    • what little meat you need - roughly two chicken breasts or 225 grams of meat will do four people - should be cut into thin strips.
    • get the wok or frying pan really hot and add a tablespoon of oil. If using meat, stir fry it in the hot oil for two to three minutes, then add the vegetables for a further two.
    • mix the sauce, pour over and stir fry for another minute before serving. Basic sauce ingredients are 4tbsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp vinegar, and 1 tsp runny honey or sugar. Add chilli powder, ginger, sherry or sesame to give it a kick.

    The Cheaper Version
    • If you have a good recipe for rainbow trout but the budget is tight, buy mackerel for a cheaper dish. It is flavoursome and, like the trout, has the beneficial nutrients of omega-3.
    • Keep a bottle of cheap sherry in the kitchen. Use it to add flavour to stir-fries and puddings, for example. Just don’t be tempted to drink it.
    • Frozen peas, cheaper bought in bulk, and generally better than tinned, keep for 12 months in the freezer. They cook in a couple of minutes in the microwave.
    • Save money when throwing a party by bulk-buying cheaper crisps, but make them more exciting by serving them with a dip. Natural yoghurt, mayonnaise and curry powder mixed and chilled makes a tasty dip.
    • http://www.studentcook.co.uk/save-time-money-cooking-student.html

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