08-Nov-2017

Love Your Leftovers with 4 ingredients

Millions of people around the world follow Kim McCosker’s recipes every day, turning to her 4 Ingredients cookbooks for simple, family-friendly meals and treats that don’t break the bank.

The award-winning Sunshine Coast business woman and best-selling author is celebrated for her ability to create sensational meals from four or fewer ingredients that can be found in the local supermarket.

Kim is also passionate about minimising food waste and has recently taken on the role of Ambassador for Living Smart’s ‘Love Your Leftovers’ campaign.

Kim took time out from her busy schedule to speak with Living Smart about the food we throw away, and how busy families can use simple menu planning techniques to get more organised in the kitchen, and prevent waste.

LS: Describe your perspective on food waste
KM: Just a couple weeks ago, the Huffington Post reported that Australians throw away nearly $10 billion in food waste each year! This figure is STAGGERING and the sad part about it is that it could be significantly lower with a little planning.

LS: What are the biggest issues for busy families when it comes to managing how much food we buy and throw out?
KM: We have transitioned from a “weekly shop” society where our Mums went armed with a well thought list, to a “BAYN” (Buy As You Need) society. We dart into the shop on our way home, hoping to be inspired by what is on sale, then rush home to deal with a thirsty garden, neglected pets, a load of washing and a hungry family.

We all know the second we enter a supermarket without a list or plan, we will buy ingredients we had no intention of buying. Many people are now shopping daily, planning less, buying more and wasting loads ($10 billion dollar loads!).


LS: As a busy Mum, wife, author and business owner, how do you plan your food week to avoid waste?

KM: Firstly, I'm guided by weekly catalogues. I subscribe to the IGA online catalogue as it is near my office. Doing this simple task is often the difference between buying chicken breast at $13.99 / kg or $8.99/kg.

Then I menu plan. If chicken is on sale, one night we'll have Satay Chicken; if mince is on sale, it might be a Shepherd's Pie or homemade hamburgers.

I also bulk buy. I will always have 500g portions of chicken and mince (bought on sale) in the freezer, same when I see Tasmanian Salmon on sale around $25/kg.

Finally, I try to cook once, and eat twice. Make double then freeze the leftovers or use for lunch the next day.

LS: What inspired the 4 Ingredients Menu Planning Book?
Several years ago, I read an article about food waste, the theme of which was "love food, hate waste" and I was astounded to read that in Australia one in five bags of groceries bought will end up in the bin. I quickly translated that to $20 from every $100 spent on groceries going to waste. 

Enter...4 Ingredients Menu Planning. I wrote 4 Ingredients Menu Planning to help busy families simplify the task of planning before they shop.

LS: How important is menu planning to reducing food waste?
KM: Absolutely crucial! I cannot stress enough the importance of sitting down each week and creating a simple menu plan. Extracting from it the ingredients you already have and simply adding the ones you need. I guarantee that if you do this, you WILL reduce waste.

LS: What are the other benefits of menu planning for families?
KM: There are many benefits:

  • reduce waste
  • save time
  • save money
  • the biggest of all is that when you plan, you know exactly what is on the menu for dinner that night, you have the ingredients, there is less stress and more likelihood of dining together as a family.

Harvard research has shown that family dinners are more important than play, story-time and other family events in the development of vocabulary of younger children. The best way to make family meals a reality is to start menu planning.

The book is divided into themes by attributing each theme to a day of the week, such as “Meals in Minutes Tuesday” or “Thrifty Thursday”. How does this help with menu planning?

For many, time in the kitchen is just stressful! By naming the days of the week I'm hoping one will resonate with the busy cook of the house. They'll read it and go "Meatless Monday! Yeh, I like that." Pick a recipe from within, and simply start.

I love Thrifty Thursday, but to be honest there is a thrifty element to every chapter. Every recipe in the Easy Freezy Wednesday chapter can be frozen and defrosted for dinner on those days where time just isn't on your side.

LS: What is your number one tip for using up leftovers?
KM: QUICHE!

If you have eggs, you have a meal, and most people like a yummy quiche. Several years ago, post-Christmas, I had a fridge full of olives, semi-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, cheeses etc. I also had eggs (I always have eggs) plus sour cream. I mixed them together, poured into puff pastry and voila - The Antipasto Tart was born!

Keen to try it out? Kim has shared her Antipasto Tart recipe for Living Smart Readers.

For a couple of quick kids’ (or adult) breakfasts, that also use up surplus bananas, try the 4 Ingredients Breakfast Box or the delightful and satisfying Banana Bix-Shake.

Inspired to start menu planning for your family?

Check out some of Kim’s gloriously simple recipes, pick up a copy of 4 Ingredients Menu Planning or order one of the 4 Ingredients cookbooks, available in print or as an eBook.

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