The days are shorter and the nights are longer. Fuel and energy prices are at a record high. Family and friends yearn for much needed assistance and comfort to help with the startling increase in the cost of living.
This month I endeavour to offer guidance on what we can do collectively and individually to help make our food go further. How can we shop more wisely, prepare our meals in advance? What can we do and where can we go to offer, and seek, culinary relief and support?
Here are my ‘Top Ten Tips’ on how to shop, cook and enjoy your food this season.
- Check cupboards and pantries and make a shopping list before heading out to the shops. Creating a meal plan before you go will make time and energy in the kitchen more efficient and will allow you to use ingredients to their full potential.
- ‘Become in tune with your corner shop, local supermarket and/or farm shop’. When doo they reduce prices of local produce? It’s definitely worth finding out the regular day and time of the week when they heavily reduce certain items. Stockists much prefer to sell food rather than waste it.
- The use by dates are not necessarily when you must consume the produce by. It is just guidance and should be treated as such. More often than not food and drink can last a lot longer than what is guided on the label and should not be thrown away just because of what’s there.
- There are many initiatives in both urban and rural areas that provide for other people. Your local place of worship, Reading Rooms, Village Hall, supermarket or corner shop may ask for food donations which others can pick up discreetly if needed. Whenever I do any food shopping, I often provide an extra bag of staple items such as tins, pasta, eggs, cooking oil, potatoes and cheese to a fantastic project in our village that gives to families in the local area.
- A roast chicken is always a favourite in my home because it can go a long way. It can feed a family of four for Sunday lunch, chicken sandwiches or a chicken ploughman’s on a Monday, and the carcass can be used to make a stock or a soup using any left over vegetables on Tuesday. Any surplus can be frozen for use on a later day.
- Other similar recipes include a beef or lamb bolognaise that can be batch cooked and used later with spaghetti, in a lasagna, in a pie, or in stuffed peppers and aubergines.
- You can often select cheaper cuts of meat such as lamb neck, beef brisket or pork belly, to name but a few. Get to know your local butcher or farm shop and make use of their great knowledge and expertise.
- If you can, why not consider growing your own food – in your garden, allotment, window sill or in a community garden. Even if it’s something as simple as a tomato or basil plant, there could be an opportunity.
- The stress, anxiety and mental health issues caused by food poverty is truly awful. There are many charities who can help. Please see a list of charities and their contact details at the end of this article.
- Keep it simple. Cooking doesn’t have to be stressful or intimidating. Food can mean different things to different people; so be thoughtful, kind and mindful, especially this Winter.
We perhaps, collectively, as a community, need to shop more wisely rather than differently, to think of others before ourselves, and to keep an eye out for our neighbours. Times are hard for a lot of people, even more so this winter.
Recipe from ‘For The Love Of The Land’
Winter Vegetable Gratin
PREPARATION TIME: 30 MINUTES | COOKING TIME: 1 HOUR | SERVES: 4
“This is a go-to recipe in our household because it uses vegetables that we grow and it’s versatile. I have been known to add broccoli, cauliflower and even kale. It can be eaten as a side dish or as a vegetarian standalone meal. It’s easy to prepare and a delicious comfort food for the cold winter evenings.” – Jemma Pyne of South Farm
500g potatoes, sliced wafer thin
1 large parsnip, sliced wafer thin
1 large beetroot, sliced wafer thin
1 large sweet potato, sliced wafer thin
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary 275ml double cream
150ml full-fat milk
60g Parmesan, grated
Preheat the oven to 180°c and butter a shallow ovenproof dish. Layer some of the potatoes, then parsnip, beetroot, and sweet potato in the dish. At the halfway point, scatter over two of the sliced garlic cloves, a little salt and half the rosemary. Keep making layers until you have used all the vegetables.
Pour the cream and milk into a saucepan then add the rest of the rosemary and garlic, half the Parmesan and a little seasoning. Gently heat for 3 minutes.
Pour the cream mixture over the layered vegetables. Sprinkle over the remaining Parmesan, cover the whole dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 15 minutes until golden and bubbly.
If you don’t like Parmesan, just replace it with a good quality cheddar, or if you want the gratin to be extra cheesy, sprinkle cheddar on top in addition to the Parmesan.
The Farm Safety Foundation aka Yellow Wellies, works closely with Young Farmers Clubs, the NFU and a range of farming organisations to help raise awareness of farm safety and mental health awareness among young farmers, they challenge and change their attitudes towards farming safely and reduce the toll of injuries and fatalities which bring heartbreak and misery to numerous families and rural communities every year. The Foundation also continues to work closely with the Farm Safety Partnerships of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 7BJ
+44 1789 416065
R.A.B.I. provides financial support to farming people of all ages, as well as their dependants. Many of those we support are retired people who are struggling to get by on low incomes. They also help people in times of crisis due to such things as accidents, illness, animal disease or extreme weather.
Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution,
27 West Way,
Oxford OX2 0QH
+44 1865 724931
FCN has strong and longstanding links with the farming community and agriculture throughout England and Wales. Their volunteers are all farmers or are associated with farming and understand the problems facing agriculture today. At FCN they understand how interconnected the farm business and household are and have helped thousands of farmers.
The Farming Community Network,
Manor Farm NN6 7AQ
+44 1788 510866
The Addington Fund provides homes for farming families living in England and Wales who have to leave the industry and by doing so will lose their home, and also offers emergency grants in times of hardship.
9 Wellesbourne Rd,
Barford CV35 8AQ
+44 1926 620135
This article was originally featured on the Farmers Guardian website.
About Jenny Jefferies
Jenny Jefferies is a farmer’s wife, and mother of two girls based in South Cambridgeshire. She is an award winning author, columnist and radio presenter. Jenny compiled the successful debut book For The Love Of The Land: A Cook Book To Celebrate British Farmers And Their Food, her second book For The Love Of The Sea: A Cook Book To Celebrate The British Seafood Community And Their Food, and her most recent third book For The Love Of The Land II, all published by Meze Publishing. For The Love Of The Land was shortlisted for Best Cook Book in the Great British Food Awards 2021 and was Woman & Home’s Best Cookbook 2021. For The Love Of The Sea won Best Self-Published Work in The Guild Of Food Writers Annual Awards 2022. Jenny is a Food Hero with Love British Food, a member of The Guild of Food Writers, a member of The British Guild of Agricultural Journalists and writes a regular online article for Country & Town House magazine, a monthly food blog for Farmers Guardian and regular articles for Rural Life magazine. Jenny is also an Ambassador for Eco Ewe and a radio producer and presenter for Black Cat Radio 102.5FM.