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15 top tips to save cash on food - without being the real Queen of Mean

FOOD for thought: Sinead Ryan uses up all her fruit and vegWe don't plan our meals properly and buy too much "aspirational" food like fruit and veg that we never eat. Most of it goes in the bin, according to research from the Environmental Protection Agency

Well, not in this house pal! The unkind would call me Queen of Mean, but when it comes to using up leftovers, eking out the cents and squeezing the last drop out of everything, I like to consider myself keen rather than mean.

Maybe its memories of my mother tut-tutting about starving children in Africa when I wouldn't clear my plate or perhaps it's refusing to be lured in by special offers in the supermarket which are no such thing, but when it comes to using up food, or making a pound of mince last for three dinners, I'm your woman.


Here are my 15 top tips for saving on food, and other household spending. But be warned: it requires a new way of thinking which can become addictive. Best get the whole family involved if you're going to make a difference.

1. Don't throw out the end of sliced pans. Save up crusts and heels in a plastic bag and freeze. When you have enough, blitz them and use as breadcrumbs. "Au gratin" sounds so much posher when it's over potatoes or tuna pasta bake.

2. Grate those hard stale lumps of cheese as you come to the end of a block -- it freezes beautifully. Mix with the "au gratin" for extra tasty toppings.

3. Cooked rice makes a fabulous supper the following day. Fry it gently with a couple of eggs, some chopped (old) vegetables and plenty of soy sauce and fresh ginger for Chinese Fried Rice. Never keep cooked rice longer than a day -- use or freeze.

4. Give the kids tap water in recycled plastic bottles for school. Stop buying those individual small bottles -- it's a total waste.

5. Don't buy your week's fruit in one go -- it goes off quickly. Buy a few pieces every three days instead. Don't be lured in by giant multi-packs. With the best will in the world, you won't eat them. Use less than fresh ones in a crumble with crushed up broken biscuits as a topping.

6. Grow It Yourself. I have a lovely crop of tomatoes from April to October in my kitchen, along with herbs which are so expensive to buy in packets. If I can grow them, anyone can.

7. Swap with GIY friends: I have one I exchange a bush full of blueberries for a bushel of rhubarb on a regular basis and another gets blackcurrants for home-made marmalade.

8.Learn to make vegetable curry. It's a fantastic "go-anywhere" dish with leftover veg. Freeze in portions - you can throw in a few prawns or some chicken when you're reheating.

9. Keep potatoes longer by popping an apple in a breathable bag with them. It'll stop them sprouting eyes.

10. Make a shopping list by opening all your presses to see what you're low on. Don't buy by habit. Mindless shopping is expensive.

11. I regularly freeze left-over stock, egg whites and wine (on the rare occasions I have any!), into ice cube bags. They can be used in most recipes from frozen.

12. Keep egg yolks in a cup of water -- they'll store for four days in the fridge.

13. Revitalise left-over pasta from sticky goo into perfect salad fare by refreshing in hot water for a few seconds. Mix with tuna, sweetcorn and mayo. Yum.

14. Cereal goes off in its box. Transfer to a sealed container immediately and use from there. Get the kids to make buns from what's left by mixing it with melted chocolate.

15. Use recipe sites for left-over dishes. My favourites are www. bigoven.com/recipes/leftovers and the recipe finder on www. bbc.co.uk/food.