Featured Tips & Hints
Sort your meat and dairy for freshness and greater taste:
- When it comes to meat, poultry and seafood always take extra care with storage and packaging guidance and instructions. If you want to extend the life of food beyond its date, freeze before the “Use By” or “Best Before” dates. Make it the norm to defrost meat or poultry by placing it in the fridge overnight rather than leaving it on the counter and use thawed meat within 24 hours.
- Always store raw meat and poultry in airtight containers on the lower shelf of the fridge to prevent them from touching or dripping onto other food.
- Leftover fish should always be wrapped properly and chilled in the fridge. Aim to eat it within a day of cooking, no longer than that.
- Dairy products are pasteurized to kill harmful bacteria and make dairy products safe to drink or eat. Thus, it is important to keep dairy products in the fridge in a temperature below 5°C (40°F) to prevent any growth of bacteria. To ensure that your dairy products are kept in a healthy condition and are not wasted in vain, always store dairy products, especially milk, inside the fridge’s shelves instead of the door shelves where products are exposed to warmer air. Moreover, given the Kingdom’s warm weather, take extra precautions when shopping by making dairy products (and meat) the last things you place in your trolley and drive from the supermarket straight to home.
- Hard or moist cheese should be stored in airtight containers in the fridge. Blue cheese can be wrapped in tin foil. When you have leftover cheese, yoghurt or milk, store them separately and consume within two days. Don’t return the dairy leftovers back into the original containers. This ensures that if the leftover are spoiled they don’t waste the rest of your product, or more importantly, contaminate it.
- Don't wash your meat or chicken! The British National Health Service warns people against washing meat and chicken as it only spreads germs and bacteria around utensils, the sink and kitchen surfaces, thus significantly increasing the risk of food poisoning. Just place the meat and chicken straight into the pot and thoroughly cook to ensure killing any germs.
Freeze and make them last:
- You can prepare, though with care, some of your meat and chicken breasts in advance by cutting them into strips or cubes and then freezing them. This will help you on those busy days to prepare quick meals such as stir-fries, meat or chicken casseroles.
- For many working mums and indeed in Ramadan’s daily hectic routine of cooking, freezing ready-cooked ground beef is bliss. Just make sure to cook the beef on the day of purchase and freeze directly after cooking. You should place the meat in freezer bags that are usually thicker than regular plastic bags, seal tight and label. Remember, making the bags flat saves space and also speeds up the freezing and thawing processes. Frozen pre-cooked ground beef will give you convenient access to making a variety of recipes such as spaghetti sauces, meat pastries, kababs, meatballs, hamburgers and most of all, ground beef for those Ramadan sambusas!
- Eggs can be frozen successfully for 4-5 weeks, but not in their shells. Instead beat yolks and whites together to freeze whole eggs, place the mixture in a container and label the date and number of eggs. You can also freeze egg yolks or whites separately but don’t forget to label the number of eggs, especially with egg whites! This is a great idea whenever you’re stuck with that odd egg white or yolk that cannot be included in another recipe. Later, thaw the eggs naturally and use as normal in omelets, scrambled eggs or other sweet and savoury dishes.
- If you’re cooking a certain recipe that requires separating tender raw meat or poultry from the bones, then don’t throw the bones because they will make you the best stock for soups and stews. Just freeze them and make your stock at some later point.
- Any leftover yoghurt can be utilized by either adding it to a cake or scone mixture instead of milk or by adding it to spicy Indian meat marinades. If you’re running a low-fat diet, a bit of leftover yoghurt with garlic and herbs is a healthy substitute for mayonnaise.
- Leftover smoked salmon can be a great addition to scrambled eggs or toasted muffins. Or, if you fancy a sandwich, then you can add the salmon to cream cheese and green rockets on a toast. Top with a sprinkle of lemon and black pepper.
- Some dairy products are also handy as correcting agents. So instead of throwing away a chokingly spicy curry sauce, just throw in some coconut milk, yoghurt, or regular milk to tone it down. Also, if you ever get carried away with whipping that cream for dessert, then just correct it by adding milk or a bit of ‘un-whipped’ cream and a pinch of sugar.
- If you have any leftover coconut milk, try freezing it in ice-cube trays, and then transfer later into freezer bags to save space. Keep up to 3 months.
- First and foremost, find a good time when you will not be interrupted to sit down and think about your meal plan.
- Make a standard meal plan for 10 days, two weeks or even a month, if you like, and include in it all daily meals including snacks and kids’ school lunches. The plan can be repeated (i.e., like a standard template) as much as you like with minor modifications each time. Remember, having a routine makes taking decisions easier and quicker, helping you to save time in your busy life.
- In your plan, think about including leftover recipes and prepared meals from the freezer. Also, include enough portions so that you can cook double and freeze half for later times. Do not forget to account for days when you and/or the family will be eating out.
- Food with short storage life should be placed first in your meal plan.
- Think thoroughly about calculating the correct portions. Remember, you may not get the portions correct the first time; so throughout your first attempt, ensure to record what went right or wrong in your portions to adjust them the next time you repeat the meal plan. Perhaps you can even create your own portion list and hang it in the kitchen for reference. Also, check out our party portion-planning tool that could help you calculate the right portions – whether for parties or just your family. [To Web Developer: insert link to Party Portion Planning Tool]
- Plan your meal plan around your and your family’s schedule. For instance, place meals requiring longer preparation hours on less hectic days and quick easy meals on busy days.
- Make conscious decisions about your family’s meal plan: where do you want to take it in terms of nutrition? How can you link it to your budget? For example, how do you want to improve your meals? What needs to be modified or excluded altogether to limit the budget?
- Another example is your approach to meat and fish as they are expensive ingredients. Perhaps you would like cutting costs by planning a number of vegetarian days per week. Also, you can tailor your list in a way that includes one or two days per week where you eat leftover meals from the freezer.
- Include your family in the planning process as they may have particular preferences or dietary needs. One idea is to stick your meal plan to the fridge so all members know what is for dinner and make their own suggestions. Including the family will bring them with you on the same page. After all, preserving food should be a collective thing.
- Include contingency plans for days when you have guests or family gatherings so you don’t end up pressured when you’re least ready. In this regard choose dishes with ingredients that can be used for a number of other dishes as well. Also, since you never know exactly when you will need these ingredients, make sure they are the types that can be either put in the freezer or which have a long shelf life.
- Don’t forget to include snacks and school lunches for the kids in your budget and plan.
- Ramadan approaching? Plan ahead for the holy month! Remember, quick random ideas for a meal will always consume more money, time and most of all nerves! You don’t want to spend those last hours ahead of iftar in complete panic. Creating a routine in advance will ensure that you have a manageable and civil hour before iftar and will also reduce food waste – all of which are important values of Ramadan.
- If you are cooking for a big gathering, especially for a Ramadan iftar, then instead of squeezing in all the cooking preps on the day of the feast, prepare vegetables a day ahead. This reduces the occurrence of food-wasting mishaps such as burning food under pressure. It also gives you space to utilize food in the best way possible rather than throw parts away or look for quick, but expensive, solutions. For example, on the day preceding the gathering, it would be a good idea to cook the eggplants for musaka (a Mediterranean vegetable dish), to cook the margoog (a Saudi vegetable and meat dish) or edam (vegetable stew), or to prepare the hummus (chickpea spread). In fact, some of these dishes taste better the second day since the herbs and flavours have had more time to settle in well. Just ensure to cover ready-in-advance dishes properly when placing them in the fridge.
- A two-week or monthly meal plan works the most for families as they eliminate food waste and save time, money and effort. In a one-person household or in cases where individuals have unpredictable working hours (medical staff, aviation, etc.), perhaps shopping daily or fortnightly is a better approach since you buy only what you need for those few days. However, even in these circumstances, having a good idea of certain recipes and their ingredients can be a helpful guide when shopping. Also, having ready-to-eat small portions in the freezer come in handy for those with unpredictable schedules.
Plan your supermarket journey in advance:
- Remember, as mentioned previously, you must go with a list in hand and be committed to stick to the plan.
- Know your supermarket. For example, when does it likely reduce meat, fresh food and/or bakery items? Many supermarkets reduce prices at the end of the day. Do they have discount brochures, coupons or loyalty programs? Make the most out of each.
- A golden rule that deserves repeating is to never to go to the supermarket while hungry, otherwise it would be difficult to stick to your grocery list.
- Make it a rule to avoid the supermarket in peak hours or before festivals or occasions. If either Ramadan or Eid is approaching, then do NOT wait until the last minute as the crowdedness and long queues are guaranteed to put you – and everyone else for that matter – in a bad mood. This will make sticking to your grocery plan very difficult.
- Kids on a shopping trip will cause you to spend more than planned, as they will insist on buying additional items you do not need. Moreover, they will be a source of distraction. Try to arrange with a friend to babysit them and next time you can return the favour. If you have no other option but to take them, then involve them in the meal planning and shopping by giving them small tasks where they can fetch some ingredients – provided they are old enough. This should keep them preoccupied and happy since they are included in the mission.
- Your bill receipt is a good record to see if you bought certain things but did not use them. So, keep it with you so you can learn from the past and modify as you go along.
Use leftover tea to marinade meat before cooking. You can even add used tea leaves to fertilizer to help grow your plants. Try using a tea bag on closed eyes to soothe them and make your skin fresh and smooth!
Tea can also effectively remove grease and grime on mirrors and floors. So use an old bag to make a cold brew, then use it as a cleaning solution.