Save money, fewer preservatives

29 August 2017
One of the easy ways to cut back a bit on your grocery bill is to make some of the things you usually buy.  We all know about laundry liquid, bread, biscuits and meals from scratch but there are a few others you might like to try.  The added bonus in most of these things is that you cut out the preservatives that usually come as part of the food products we buy. Yesterday I spent 30 minutes making pure lemon juice ice blocks, gravy mix and flavoured vinegar. They'll be small savings but I'll never buy lemon juice, gravy mix or salad dressing again so these small savings are permanent. And we'll eat fewer preservatives.

If you have your own tree or a friend with a lemon tree, making lemon juice ice blocks in ice block trays makes up a convenient, long term juice.  I just looked up the Woolworths site and their lemon juice 500ml is $1.65, but according to the label, it contains Reconstituted Lemon Juice (99.9%), Food Acid (Ascorbic Acid), Natural Flavour, Preservative (223). Preservative 223 is in the sulphite group, it's Sodium metabisulphite, which can cause allergic reactions.  Ugh.

I just juice lemons and freeze the pure juice in trays, then store them in bags in the freezer. If I organise myself properly, I'll have enough small portions of pure juice to see me through the year. It's easy enough to take out a small or large juice block for salad dressing, cordials or cooking. And it's just pure juice! Fancy that. 

My next task was to make gravy mix.  I make a very simple mix of plain flour, salt, pepper and paprika. I also make one for roast lamb to which I add dried rosemary and one for roast chicken with dried sage.  When added to pan juices, it makes an excellent gravy or sauce. I make up about a cup of the simple mix at a time and that lasts a month or so. I use one or two tablespoons stirred into pan juices with enough water to make up the sauce. It's easier than getting all the ingredients from the cupboard every time I make gravy and it's healthier and cheaper than Gravox or one of those packet mixes.  This is stored in the pantry cupboard.

Simple Gravy Mix - customise this to your own taste but start off with:
1 cup plain flour
2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

To make the herb mixes, add 1 teaspoon of dried herbs of your choice to the above mix.

According to the Woolworths listing of Gravox it contains: Maltodextrin (From Maize), Maize Starch, Salt, Shortening Powder, Vegetable Gum (Guar), Colour (Caramel Iii), Flavours, Dextrose, Anticaking Agent (450), Canola Oil, Yeast Extracts.  😮

My final product was flavoured vinegar. I don't like oil in my salad dressing so this is what I use. I make up about 300 ml at a time and store it in the fridge. I use it on salad and add it to mayonnaise when I make potato salad. It cuts back the creaminess a bit.

To make my flavoured vinegar I use Cornwells white vinegar (not cleaning vinegar) 😵 and to a small saucepan I add a teaspoon of celery seeds, a teaspoon of mixed black and yellow mustard seeds, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, 2 fresh bay leaves from the garden and salt and sugar to taste. You can add water as well if you want to mellow it out a bit.  Place the saucepan on the stove and bring to the boil. When it comes to the boil, turn off the heat, leave the lid on and allow the pan to sit on the stove overnight to steep.  Heating and steeping the brew will get the best flavour from the seeds and seasoning you use.

In another version of this, you could add any dried herb, spice, garlic, chilli, wasabi or ginger. Test taste as you go and make sure it's to your taste before you bottle it. Adding olive oil and mustard when the vinegar cools down could replace conventional salad dressing. Most supermarket salad dressing cost $4 for 250ml. This is cheaper and healthier. This is the ingredient list from the conventional Paul Newmans salad dressing: Water, Vegetable Oil (Soybean and or Canola Oil), Red Wine Vinegar, Olive Oil, Dijon Mustard (Vinegar, Water, Mustard Seed, Salt, White Wine, Acidity Regulators: {Citric Acid, Tartaric Acid}, Spices), Onion Puree, Sugars, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Salt, Mustard Flour, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Distilled Vinegar, Natural Flavour, Emulsifier (435).

So, for very little effort and around 30 minutes of my time, I've made up healthy versions of three commonly used kitchen products. I'd say that's time well spent because I've spent less than I would have had I bought these products and I know what is in the food we eat.  Win-win!  🌶