Show me some freezer lovin'!!!
It might be the middle of August, but your freezer can ALWAYS do with some more love. I've been working on this post for nigh-on-near a month now, because a) filling up my freezer is my favourite hobby, b) when you fill it with vegan meals it's EVEN CHEAPER than the 1,203 budget freezer posts on Pinterest. I should know, I do those calculations.
So wrap up in your heat-be-gone-booties, get some anthemic 1980s soundtracks going (let's start with Dirty Dancing, it's great music to kitchen dance to) and get ready for the FREEZE OF YOUR LIIIIIIIFE (And I owe it all to foooooood.....). ❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️
A DISCLAIMER: Before we begin, I shall point out this post won't have the usual 'oh let's hang out and drink beer and have a lovely time' kind of setting because filling your freezer for the end of the world IS NOT A GAME. Consider this the Ron Swanson guest post of an otherwise Leslie Knope blog. These ingredients are budget, the recipes are for lunchtimes when you're not in the mood for the daily Pret tax or nights in when you've had too many nights out. By all means jeuje and tinker to your heart's content, but the recipes here are supposed to be the very minimum, and they are still hella tasty and packed full of vegetables, pulses and legumes (okay, still not a convincing Ron but I am trying).
6x lasagnes, 6x lentil soups, 6x pasta stew, 4x chilli, 4x curry, 4x pies, 4x nice cream
= 34 meals for £25.00 (you may be able to get this cheaper outside of London, but that's my estimate).
💧 You'll also need to CLEAR SOME ROOM in your freezer to actually be able to fill it (something I neglected to do).
💧 You don't need to splash out on any snazzy freezer tubs or whatever. I would use sandwich bags with ties, as these can be squashed in to freezer drawers nice and easy, and you can even write what's in them if you're feeling super organised. It also means all your portions stay the same size.
💧 I've chosen these dishes as they each share a more expensive component with another dish, for instance the dairy-free cheese sauce I use in the pie filling can also be used in the lasagne's sauce. The trick is that although you use a lot of similar ingredients, by adding a tomato sauce, pastry, curry spices or soy mince, you forget you have, and then when you turn to your freezer for a nice slice of nourishment, you don't do so with a face that says OKAY I NEED A 42 GRAND JOB.
💧 You don't have to cook all of this in the same day (I'd aim to do it in two), but it will be cheaper to buy more instead of less of these ingredients, and then you only need to do about two afternoons of freezer cooking to last you about two or three months of extra meals here and there.
All the stuff I had to buy to make this jazz:
- Red, orange and yellow peppers
- 1 aubergine
- 10 carrots
- 1 small cauliflower
- 1 marrow or 2 courgettes
- Large bag of spinach
- 1 medium bag of potatoes
- 1 bunch of bananas
- 1 bag white onions
- 400g tub of mushrooms
- Bunch of basil
- Bunch of coriander
- Bulb of garlic
- 2 limes
- Handful of green chillies
- Red lentils
- 1 large tin tomato puree (you might find this in the Turkish section of your supermarket for extra cheap)
- 3 tins chopped tomatoes
- Soy milk
- Sunflower oil
- Olive oil
- 2 tins of chickpeas
- 1 tin black beans
- 1 tin coconut milk
- 1 box lasagne sheets
- 1 pack of vegan vegetable stock
- 1 pack of soy mince
- 1 tub of Dairy Free Cheese sauce (you can find this in most large Sainsbury's or make your own béchamel sauce)
- 1 pack of Jus-Roll puff pastry (Tesco's is also vegan)
LET'S GET STARTED!
1. NICE CREAM
I always start with my bananas first or I'll forget about them in the general mayhem of ~getting shit done~. This is THE BEST way to use up really ripe bananas, so if you can be bothered, I'd try taking a saunter down your local fruit and vegetable market at the end of the day, and buying up a few bunches. The riper they are, the sweeter they'll be, and the cheaper, of course.
For the uninitiated, nice cream is banana ice cream sans dairy, and it only requires two ingredients. You might be thinking 'yeah, how great can banana and yoghurt be?' but I would raise the same eyebrow we all raise to Meg Ryan when she tells Billy Crystal she's had "plenty of great sex". NAH YOU AINT BABE.
Bunch of bananas
Simply peel the bananas and place them in one sandwich bag in the freezer. When you're ready for breakfast or a during-OITNB-snack, break off one or two of the bananas from the frozen bunch, add to a blender and whiz until it goes the consistency of chunky crumbs. Add in two tablespoons of yoghurt, whiz again for 20 seconds, and the banana will have turned into a super sweet-tasting ice cream.
So that's done. On with the savoury.
2. LENTIL LOVIN' SOUP
This is probably the least glamorous recipe on here, but it's also got to be one of the most nutritious and cheap. I've got a LOT of love for this soup which I have written about before, as it's saved me from all manner of financial pickles. If all else fails, there's always lentil soup in the freezer. So get on with this recipe and think about all the tequila shots you can afford if you have this a few days a month.
1 mugful of red lentils, rinsed with a sieve
3 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
400 ml (or more) of vegetable stock
Few glugs of oil
Salt, pepper, and extra seasoning if you fancy it (chili, paprika, coriander all work well added at the end)
Sweat an onion in oil for around five minutes in a large saucepan. Add the chopped potato and carrot and stir in. Boil the kettle or prepare your stock so it is ready to pour in. Add the red lentils to the pan, mix in with all the vegetables, then add in the stock to ensure the lentils don't burn to the bottom of the pan. I would leave off seasoning for now until everything is cooked to guage how the stock is absorbed by the lentils and vegetables.
Allow to simmer for around 30-40 minutes. Check back every 10 or 15 minutes or so to ensure the lentils haven't absorbed all the water. Top up with any leftover stock or water if this happens. Once the potatoes and lentils are cooked through, take off the heat and blend with a hand blender or mixer. Now season to taste, it may need quite a bit of salt to take the bitterness away from the lentils.
Once you've got the flavour bang-on, leave to cool. Then chose a medium-sized mug or ladle, and share out the soup between six sandwich bags. Tie up and get in the freezer.
3. VEGETABLE LASAGNE
Well, by now it's time for a cup of tea and a soundtrack change before you push ahead with this lady. I'd recommend Frances Ha because David Bowie always makes me cook faster and you're staying in and getting things done, after all.
Handful of basil stalks, chopped small
Salt and pepper
2 white onions, pealed and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped small
1 tsp dry chilli flakes
2 carrots, chopped down small
200g mushrooms, chopped into slices
1 aubergine, chopped into chunks
1 pepper, cut into chunks
Half pack of soy mince
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/3 bag of fresh spinach
300ml soy milk
1/2 tub of Dairy Free Cheese sauce
1/3 tin of tomato puree (the stuff that's more like passata)
Basil leaves to garnish
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and make sure you've got a nice big lasagne tray to hand.
Start with a really simple tomato sauce- just lightly heat some olive oil in a pan, followed by basil stalks, salt and pepper, then the onion, and allow to sweat for a few minutes so the onions become really fragrant. Add in the garlic, chilli flakes and carrots, and cook for another few minutes so everything can begin to heat through and soften.
Now stir through the mushrooms, aubergine and pepper, and let that cook for another five minutes before sprinkling in half the pack of soy mince. Add a little more oil, salt and pepper to your taste, and gently heat until the soy has absorbed some of the flavour. Add in the tin of chopped tomatoes and leave for a final fifteen minutes to simmer and reduce.
In another pan, set about making your vegan béchamel sauce. Simply heat the soy milk and slowly whisk in the Dairy Free Cheese sauce mix, or make your own béchamel sauce with vegan margarine, plain white flour and soy milk.
Now it's time to bake! Wipe down your lasagne dish with olive oil- I always find that just makes it easier to serve. Then spoon a small amount of the tomato puree to the bottom of the dish (This is a really cheap way of making it taste richer, as the tomato is so concentrated, without having to spend hours making it). Add the first round of lasagne sheets, then more puree, a third of the lasagne and soy mince filling, another layer of lasagne sheets, more puree... and continue like that until you've used up all of the filling, and top with a final layer of lasagne pasta. Now pour over the béchamel sauce, season with some more salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, and bake for about 40 minutes, watching that the edges of it don't burn.
Once it's totally baked, allow to cool. Then cut into six portions, and carefully place in six sandwich bags and tie up. You can serve this with a shredded salad or even CHIPPPS when it comes to the actual meal.
4. BUTTERNUT SQUASH, SPINACH AND CHEESE SAUCE PIES
Kewlll, so we've got half a tub of creamy sauce leftover so we might as well use that now! I would recommend The Perks of Being a Wallflower as the soundtrack for this one as it's a nicer vibe to tweak pastry to. Just saying.
Pies are so much easier than you might think if you've never made a vegan one before! All you need are a few oven and freezer-proof dishes, a pie filling, and some pastry!
1 white onion, peeled and cubed
30ml sunflower oil
1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/3 bag of fresh spinach
1/2 tub of Dairy Free Cheese sauce
300ml soy milk for the sauce
1 pack of Jus-Roll puffy pastry
20ml soy milk for pastry brushing
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Track down four pie dishes you can use for this and lightly oil them- it might even be worth buying some, as these hold up really well when frozen, and means you don't have to transport pieces of pie anywhere, it's all neat in its own dish.
Get to making the pie filling. Gently heat the onion in oil, and once it's begun to soften down, add in the squash and carrot. Allow to cook through for a few minutes, before stirring in the spinach. There's no need to season yet as the sauce will do that.
Once the squash is cooked, prepare the Dairy Free Cheese sauce mix or another simple béchamel sauce and pour into the mix. Check the flavour here- you could add a teaspoon of mustard or some fresh herbs if you feel like it, but it should be tasty enough anyway.
Now get your pastry out of the fridge and use one of the pastry dishes as a template to draw around four pie toppings. Split the mixture between the four pie dishes, and then brush a small amount of soy milk over the edge of the pie tin, where it will meet the pastry, as this will help it to stick. Top with the puff pastry and decorate as you fancy, then brush on the rest of the soy milk.
Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is lightly golden. You'll be baking this again when you come to eat it, so it doesn't need to be totally done.
Allow to cool, then bag up in sandwich bags and get frozen!
5. CAULI FLOWER, CHICKPEA AND COCONUT CURRY
This one has been going down a treeeeeat since I made it. All you need is a bag of this and some microwaveable rice and you're all set for lunch at work or a speedy dinner.
** NB the bottom photo above is NOT the finished curry, it's just when you've added in the potatoes... think I just lost track of what I had photographed by this point! **
1 white onion, peeled and chopped
1 chilli, chopped small
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 medium cauliflower, chopped
1 large tin of chickpeas, drained
1 tin coconut milk
1 pepper, de-seeded and chopped
1/3 bag of spinach
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 bunch of coriander, leaves chopped down small
Slowly sweat the onion, chilli, spices, salt, pepper and garlic in a large pan on a medium heat with sunflower oil. Let all the flavours take their time to develop- it can be extra spicy to taste as you're going to add a whole tin of coconut milk in.
Once the onion has started to turn translucent, add in the potatoes and a little water to stop them sticking. Stir through and cook for about ten minutes. Next, add in the cauliflower and chickpeas, and cook for a further five minutes.
The potatoes should now be ready. Pour in the coconut milk, stir through, and then add the pepper chunks and spinach. Let the spinach wilt into the curry before squeezing over the juice of one lime and sprinkling on the coriander.
Allow to cool, then scoop into four sandwich bags.
6. PASTA AND LENTIL STEW
Well, there's no easy way to make this sound super enticing- it's cheap and health-providing food, so this recipe probably balances out the pricier pies and lasagne stuff. But it's got its moments. This one's good for lunch, and I'm saving most of my stock for when it gets a bit chillier. You're on the home run now so I suggest listening to something awesome like I Love You, Honeybear by Father John Misty or Undertow by Drenge. You can probably get both of these final recipes done by the time those album finishes, if you get a wriggle on.
2 white onions
4 carrots, chopped
Salt and pepper
Basil stalks, chopped
1/2 mugful of red lentils
1 marrow, cubed, or two courgettes
1/3 tin tomato puree
1 tin copped tomatoes
400g pasta- rigatoni works really well for this
Heat the onions and carrots in a little olive oil, before adding salt and pepper and the chopped basil stalks for flavour. Once the carrot and onion look cooked, pour in the lentils and a little water if they look like they're going to stick. Cook for five minutes, then add in the marrow, tomato puree and chopped tomatoes.
While the pasta sauce simmers away, cook the pasta so it's just al dente, then finish the final five minutes of cooking time in with the stew. Leave to cool, then bag into six sandwich bags and freeze.
7. CHILLI NON CARNE
This is one of my faves. You can make this vegan chilli up when you don't have much cash, and then say you've got an extra few quid knocking about when you come to defrost it, you can add in vegan cheese and nachos, green rice and a salsa, whatever you fancy!
2 white onions, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper
1 tsp Gran Luchito paste, or a few tablespoons of a good barbecue sauce
2 chillies, chopped small
The stalks from the coriander bunch, chopped down as small as possible
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp paprika
2 peppers, chopped
200g mushrooms, sliced down thinly
1/2 pack soy mince
1/3 tin tomato puree
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 bunch coriander
Juice of one lime
Slowly sweat the onion and garlic in a little sunflower oil with salt and pepper. Add the Gran Luchito paste or barbecue flavouring you're using, the coriander stalks, chilli flakes and paprika. Cook for as long as possible- maybe five minutes, before the onions start to stick. Add in the peppers and mushrooms, and cook for ten minutes. The mushrooms will sweat out all their liquid and absorb it back again in this time- wait for the pan to dry up again before adding in the soy mince, tomato puree and chopped tomatoes.
Leave to simmer for ten minutes, then add in the coriander and lime juice. Season to taste, then allow to cool. Bag into four sandwich bags and you are DONE.