Recession, inflation and stagflation, oh my. You’ve probably heard all the talk of the dreaded economic doom trifecta awaiting us next year, and while the panic is setting in for many of us, there are a few simple steps you can take to keep the pressure off your bank account. Here are our top 3 tips to recession-proof your pantry, so that when all hell breaks loose, you and your family will still enjoy a fully-stocked kitchen!
With the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicting a recession is well on the way and warning that, despite this year’s roller coaster cost-of-living price hikes, the worst of it hasn’t even begun, many Aussies are getting ready to tighten their purse strings. The IMF has crunched the numbers, finding that the economy here in Australia won’t even rise by a measly 2% in 2023 and 2024. All the signs are here that this foretold downturn may be inevitable – but this historic event won’t just affect Australia – the recession is slated to go global due to a number of contributing factors:
- The knock-on effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
- The economic downturn in China
- Inflation and global cost-of-living disasters
Here in Australia, we’re no stranger to that last point – this news of a looming recession comes as we trudge through one of our worst years of inflation since 2001. Many of us are starting to feel the strain with groceries up 10% – and with no sign of slowing – so the last thing we need to worry about is more expensive groceries and energy-zapping hours of cooking. That’s why we’re here to help you prepare for the strong possibility of this recession coming to pass.
One of the best ways to make your dollar go the extra mile is to put your freezer to use. You’ll never have to worry about not eating veggies before they go off, or drowning in excess soup or stock that ends up getting tossed. That’s nutrients, time and money down the drain. This is where your freezer comes in – here are a few basic guidelines to get you freezing like a pro, but first let’s take a look at some of the most common foods you’ll be using:
- Rice and other cooked grains
- Fruit and veggies
- Prepped meals – see our third recession-proofing tip to get the rundown on this timesaving practise.
Now let’s get into our top tips to make your food last longer, for those times where your wallet is feeling suspiciously light:
- Minimise air exposure: Oxygen is the enemy of your food, and this comes down to the effect it has on the moisture content. By sapping the liquids from your food, you end up with the dreaded freezer burn. The best way to reduce the risk of freezer burn is to seal your food in an airtight container or wrap.
- Defrost in the fridge: When you’re ready to use frozen foods like your pre-made meals, veggies, fruit, meat or stock, defrost them in the fridge instead of on the kitchen counter. This is because the colder temperature will allow them to defrost at a less shocking rate, meaning the food will remain closer to its original texture, along with tasting fresher too.
- Cool before freezing: If you’ve just cooked up a batch of soup, let it cool before putting it into the freezer. Putting hot food into the freezer is a fast-track to ruining the texture and taste of your food. This is because it leads to the formation of large crystals of ice – not what you want in your mum’s famous veggie soup!
- Label and date your food: After a few months go by, it’s easy to forget when you even put your veggies, fruit or meat in the freezer, leaving you with hygienically questionable food. That’s why we love to date and label each container or package of food to ensure we don’t keep it in there longer than is safe, along with helping us eat the foods that go off quicker first.
- Know how long to freeze your food: Different types of food will be safe for different amounts of time – soups, for instance, tend to last just 3-5 days in the fridge and 3 months in the freezer, depending on their ingredients. Cooked meat can last up to 3 months, while uncooked meat can last up to a whopping 12 months depending on the cut. Check out this guide to get a sense of how long you can keep your food in the freezer for.
- Use freezer-safe containers: Reusable containers will be your best bet for longevity, and stainless steel or freezer-safe glass are both ideal materials. Beeswax sandwich bags and containers are a sustainable alterative to plastic wrap and parchment paper, and you can even add them onto your compost heap when you’re done with them! Another biodegradable option includes soy wax paper, which is a non-toxic material that’s ideal for wrapping meat in. Silicone sandwich bags – or regular sandwich bags if you can’t find the former – are great for storing veggies, fruit and even soup. Ice cube trays are another freezer-storage must for your leftover broth or stock.
Making value swaps
If cabbage and lettuce are your veggie staples, it’s worth picking a cheaper alternative like – have you noticed the $11 cabbage heads lately? Considering we’re living in what’s been dubbed the “year of inflation”, you’ll continue to see a lot of your favourite fruits and veggies skyrocketing in price – but that doesn’t mean you have to skimp out on these nutritious powerhouses. Just a few simple swaps can get you your much-needed produce without the scary price tag. Take a look at some of the swaps:
- Swap cabbage for cauliflower
- Swap lettuce for spinach
- Swap kale for bok choy
- Swap squash for zucchini
- Swap sweet potato for carrots
- Swap pears for apples
- Swap grapefruits for oranges
- Swap green apples for red apples
There will be a fluctuation of produce costs, so always do your research on what’s costly and what’s cheaper at any given moment, and be ready to switch up your produce choices on the regular to get the best prices. It’s worth noting that depending on the season, different fruits and veggies will be in abundance, meaning their prices will drop significantly.
Tip: Don’t neglect “imperfect picks” produce. A number of supermarkets and smaller grocers have an “ugly” fruit and veggie campaign where less conventionally-shaped produce are sold at a reduced price. They may look different, but they taste the same and pack the same nutritional value – the only thing missing is the drain on your wallet.
Meal prepping is the unsung hero of the kitchen – its savings are threefold, including time, money and energy. To put it another way, it’s good for you, your wallet and the planet. How does it work? Well, rather than draining electricity, gas and water – and your time – by cooking multiple meals a day, every day, you can simply delegate a day to prepare all of the week’s food and store them in the fridge so you can enjoy low-effort, low-cost meals throughout the next 7 days. Not only will you save yourself hours of cooking, but you can say goodbye to stressful dinner rushes after work. With a study showing Aussies lose around 6 hours to the kitchen each week, it’s plain to see how much time and money are up for grabs by making a few easy planning changes. You can even prep for longer periods of time with the correct storage techniques – you may want to get the freezer involved if you’re edging into the multi-week prepping territory. Here’s what you’ll need:
You’ll want to pick products with greater longevity, along with high nutrition, to get the most out of your prepping. Here are some of our top picks for healthy, easy-to-store and affordable food:
- Whole grains – brown rice, oats and millet are nutritious and affordable!
- Legumes – chickpeas and lentils are readily available, cheap and hardy.
- Raw veggies – cucumber, carrot and capsicum all work well as raw accompaniments to your prepped meals.
- Cooked veggies – broccoli, spinach and pumpkin are some of our favourite veggies for dinner preps.
- Whole fruit
- Dairy products – cheese and yoghurt require little effort but pack a hefty dose of nutrients. Just be sure to leave the yoghurt in its pack until you plan to use it. It’s also best not to cut the cheese up until the day you’ll be eating it for optimal freshness.
Each of your prepped food groups may require different storage methods, while nuts, seeds and bananas can survive out of the fridge, foods like meat, dairy and eggs are far more sensitive. You’ll want to keep the latter group in the fridge in an airtight container to prevent contamination and expiration. It’s worth noting that even adequate refrigeration can result in decreased in freshness of your prepped meals if they’ve been in there for too long. If you’re prepping meals to last longer than a week, it’s time to use the freezer! Generally, making batches to last 3-5 days can be a time and money-saving option that ensures you still get a high-quality product without having to resort to freezing your meals. Simply choose the option that best suits your financial and gustatory preferences.
Note: Keep your fruit whole until the moment you’re planning to consume it. The reason is simple – cut fruit goes off rapidly.
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