Yet another successful session of Community Tables has come to an end. Community members running meal or snack programs at after-school programs, resource centres and other local organizations gathered for five weeks of learning and sharing. For one morning a week, we covered everything from basic nutrition and label reading to planning and preparing nutritious meals on a budget. As we spent time learning in the classroom and in the kitchen, participants shared tips and techniques for just about everything: sneaking vegetables into more meals, sourcing cultural and traditional foods, and making the most of tight budgets and donated foods. As usual, we were blown away by the knowledge our participants had to share. Some of these food tips are total game-changers and can be applied to cooking at home too. We’ve collected the best tips and tricks brainstormed by the Community Tables class to share with you!
- Save veggie scraps in your freezer and use for making your own soup stock. Freeze those vegetable ends and skins from onions, celery, carrots and other veggies that you would otherwise throw away! Once you’ve collected a few cups worth of vegetable ends, you’re ready to make your own stock or broth. You can find a recipe for making your own vegetable broth with kitchen scraps here!
- Freeze milk products before they turn sour and use them in your baking or smoothies. Didn’t have enough time to drink your carton of milk? Fear not! Milk freezes well. Pour milk into ice cube trays, freeze, and store in Ziploc baggies. Every ice cube is roughly equivalent to 2 tablespoons, so you would need 8 milk cubes for 1 cup of milk in a recipe.
- Stretch ground beef using oats. Meat can be an expensive ingredient. A simple way to make your ground beef (or turkey) go further is by mixing ¼ to ½ cup of oats for every pound of ground meat. Note: oats will soak up some of the fat, so you will need to stir often to prevent meat from burning to the pan. You can also make meatballs using blended oats (recipe here)!
- Use leftover mashed potatoes or cooked rice for thickening. The natural starch found in mashed potatoes can be used to thicken stews and soups. First, heat up your leftover mashed potatoes with a small serving of the soup to loosen them up. Then, add the mix to your soup! You can also use blended leftover cooked rice (blend with a bit of water) to thicken a stew.
- Puree vegetables! Do you have a picky eater at home? Sneak those good vitamins and minerals into their meal by pureeing them. You can add pureed vegetables to just about anything: meatballs, meat sauces, mac n’ cheese. First, start by steaming or roasting the chopped vegetables. Then, puree vegetables using a food processor, blender, or a hand blender. Add your puree to sauces, soups, dips and more. Might we suggest this recipe (add your homemade puree instead of the baby food)?
- Use lentils as a meat replacement or to thicken a sauce. This was the one tip that everyone in the class praised. We tested it out with a Snobby Joes (meatless sloppy Joes) recipe (recipe here) – and it was a hit. Cooked lentils are high in fibre, low in fat, and are much more affordable than meat. Use about ¾ cup of raw lentils, cooked, in place of a pound of ground beef in your recipes. Or, slowly introduce lentils into your recipes by substituting half of the meat in the recipe with lentils!
There you have it, our top 6 money-saving, nutrition-enhancing tips brainstormed by the fall 2017 Community Tables group! Please enjoy, share with others, and let us know in the comments if you have a good food tip to share.
Community Tables is now available to come to your organization! The full program is typically delivered in five 3-hour sessions but can be adapted to suit your organization’s needs. If you or your organization would like to participate in our Community Tables program, contact Anna Levin at firstname.lastname@example.org or (204) 943-0822 ext. 108.