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Making the most of store cupboard and freezer ingredients

Meet our Nutritionist

Hannah Baugh BSc RNutr supports our catering arm Autograph Food which supplies high-quality food to schools, hospitals and businesses across the UK. 

We've asked her to share how you can make the most of store cupboard and freezer ingredients.

As we all adjust to dramatically altering our shopping habits and the fact we are frequently facing shortages in some of the items that we wish to buy, now more than ever I am looking for ingredients I can keep in the cupboards or freezer, but that still are packed with the healthy vitamins and nutrients that we all need. When I am planning for the week ahead, I am also thinking about how many different meals I can make before the food goes off because – like so many others – I absolutely hate wasting good food. In this blog I’ve given some suggestions on alternatives to fresh fruit & veg, and why they are just as good for you (and often cheaper!) in their dried, preserved, frozen or tinned form.

Dried ingredients

Drying or dehydrating food helps it to last much longer by removing any moisture from it. Most bacteria requires moisture in order to survive, so by removing this, it helps to delay the food from going off. Most dried foods last for at least a year so are a great ingredient to have in the kitchen cupboards. Where the moisture is removed from the food it doesn’t remove any of the nutrients but in fact condenses them, so there are the same amount of nutrients but in a smaller space. A portion of fresh fruit would be 80g where a portion of dried fruit is only 30g. But beware! Just as the nutrients are condensed into a smaller space, so are the natural sugars so be careful not to overeat on dried fruit.

Examples: Lentils, Beans and Dried Fruit

Tinned ingredients

The process of “canning” ingredients to put them into tins means that these items are safe to store for a long time (often many years) without them going mouldy or turning bad. Not only are these foods great for storing, the nutritional content of tinned food is near enough the same as their fresh versions. Where the nutrient content of fresh fruit and veg drops the longer it’s left at the back of the fridge, the nutrient content of tinned fruit and veg remains the same from the moment it was tinned until you open it. So there is no decline if you leave it in the cupboard for a few months!

Examples: Sweetcorn, Chickpeas, Beans, Tinned Tomatoes and Tinned Fruit (In Juice)

Jars of ingredients

Jars of food may not last as long as tinned or dried food but they certainly last longer than their fresh counterparts. The use of vinegar or oils helps to preserve these ingredients so they can be stored at room temperature until needed. When choosing these ingredients, check the label as some have added salt and/or sugar, plus, remember that those with added oil will be higher in fat compared with the fresh alternative. But no fear, there is an easy solution for this… before adding these ingredients to cooking, drain off the oil (save for dressings or cooking with later!) and pat dry with a piece of kitchen roll, then it’s good to go!

Examples: Sundried tomatoes, Roasted Peppers and “Lazy” Ginger, Garlic & Chilli

Frozen Ingredients

Frozen food is often synonymous with ice cream, pizza and chips, BUT the freezer can be a great tool in the war against food waste, and helping families to keep every stomach full of wholesome and tasty food. There has been plenty of research into whether food retains its nutritional value through the freezing process and you’ll be pleased to hear… it does! In fact, if the fruit and veg has been frozen soon after picking then it’s often got a higher nutritional value than the fresh fruit and veg that has taken a few days to make it into your shopping trolley!

Examples: The list is endless! Most supermarkets have a great range of frozen fruit, vegetables and herbs!

Look out for some recipes that we’ll be sharing over the next couple of weeks that use some of the ingredients in this article.

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