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Swap bad habits for good with these simple kitchen tips
Promising yourself that 2018 will finally be the year you embrace healthier eating habits?
You’re definitely not the only one, but sadly many of us find ourselves falling short of our good intentions when tempting treats get in the way.
Thankfully, there are some simple changes you can make within your kitchen to make it easier to stick to healthy choices and prevent you from slipping back into old habits.
Stay on board
How many times have you heard someone say that you should never shop for food on an empty stomach? Hunger inhibits our ability to make rational long-term decisions, meaning we’re more likely to give in to temptation, so planning ahead before hitting the shops is crucial.
One easy method to encourage forward-thinking is to hang a blackboard or whiteboard in the kitchen. This will help you to pre-plan meals for the week ahead and keep an ongoing shopping list of healthy ingredients you’ll need for each recipe.
Did you know that the size of your crockery might have an impact on the amount of food you end up eating each meal time? Research has suggested that using smaller tableware may help you reduce portion sizes, since humans have a tendency to judge quantity by how full a bowl or plate is, rather than how much food it actually contains.
Interestingly, there’s also evidence that people tend to perceive the same dish as tasting sweeter when it’s served on a round white plate, compared to square or black plates. So if you crave something sugary, try serving healthy dessert alternatives on a round white plate to trick your tastebuds into thinking they taste sweeter.
Beyond limiting the size of your crockery, there are also several effective organisational tips you can follow within your kitchen to better control portion sizes. Try using small tupperware containers or Zip Lock bags to create perfectly-sized packs of smoothie ingredients, pre-prepared stir-fry veggies or soup servings for each day of the week in advance. That way, they’re ready to take out of the freezer and stick straight into the blender, wok or saucepan at a moment’s notice.
Out of sight truly is out of mind, and one of the easiest ways to avoid succumbing to unhealthy snacks is to put them out of view. Instead, keep healthier alternatives like fresh fruit, nuts and natural fruit teas on your kitchen worktop so they’re the first thing that catches your eye when you feel hunger coming on.
If you do want to keep the occasional indulgent treat on hand for special occasions, make sure to store these items at the back of your kitchen cabinets where you won’t constantly come face to face with temptation.
It’s all too easy to lose track of how much you’re eating when you’re grazing on snacks while catching up on your favourite TV programme or keeping one eye on your mobile phone while at lunch. Instead, avoid technological distractions in your kitchen and take the time to sit down at the dinner table and really enjoy your meal.
Having the right appliances and kitchen tools on hand can take the hassle out of cooking, reducing the likelihood that you’ll find yourself reaching for ready meals and takeaway menus. Blenders are great for making soups and smoothies, electric grills offer a healthy alternative to frying food, while spiralisers and other food preparation gadgets take the effort out of preparing vegetable-rich dinners.
Simple swaps to make your favourite dishes Vegan-friendly
We all start off the year with good intentions, whether that means hitting the gym more often or simply trying to eat more healthily. In fact, this year over 115,000 people decided to take their New Year’s Resolutions a step further by attempting the ‘Veganuary’ vegan January challenge.
As the end of January draws near, it becomes a little trickier to make sure healthy new habits stick around into February and beyond, particularly if your list of vegan meal ideas is running low. So to help out, we’ve gathered a list of tasty twists you can try out in your kitchen to turn the nation’s favourite meaty meals vegan-friendly.
Curry is arguably one of the most versatile vegan meals as there are hundreds of combinations of spices, sides, vegetables and pulses you can bring together to create a whole banquet’s worth of vegan dinners. Omit the usual cream and butter in favour of coconut milk and unrefined vegetable oil for a mild and creamy lentil korma, or turn up the heat with fresh coriander, tomato, chilli and sweet potato chunks for a hearty vegetable Madras.
The ultimate burger
Burger night is a favourite for meat-eaters and vegans alike, since there are so many ways to customise your burger with different sauces and toppings to make it your own. Serve up a spicy bean burger with lashings of homemade guacamole and chunky tomato salsa for a Mexican fiesta, or top a chickpea burger with cool hummus and crisp cucumber for a Middle Eastern feast.
Even traditional British favourites can easily become new vegan classics with a few quick and easy twists. Swap meat for tasty vegan sausages and pop in the oven with chunky root vegetables, tinned tomatoes and fresh thyme for a flavour-packed winter warmer.
Friday night chow mein
Going vegan doesn’t have to mean missing out on your favourite take-away flavours. Swap fried chicken and egg noodles for tofu chunks and rice noodles to recreate a tasty chow mein dish packed full of fresh stir-fried vegetables, salty soy sauce and just a hint of Chinese five spice.
Cheesecake might not seem like an obvious dessert choice for a vegan diet, but in fact there are some ingenious swaps you can make to create a dairy-free version of this indulgent favourite. Instead of butter in the base layer, combine ground nuts, dates and coconut oil for a crunchy, protein-packed treat. For the topping, soak cashews overnight until soft, then blend with coconut milk, coconut oil, your choice of fruit and a few tablespoons of lemon juice to help the mixture to set in the fridge. Then serve up and prepare to be amazed!
Fun kitchen table craft activities for all the family
You don’t even have to leave the kitchen to have fun as a family this half-term.
It’s easy to keep the little ones occupied during the school holidays when the weather’s warm, but the challenge is altogether different when it’s too chilly for days out at the park and trips to the beach. Though there are lots of activity clubs, sports centres and other indoor attractions to choose from, the costs can quickly stack up when you need to capture the kids’ attention for a full week.
So to help parents everywhere save their pennies, we’ve compiled a list of five exciting family craft projects you can enjoy from the comfort of your kitchen table this half-term. After all, what could be more fun than spending time making precious new family memories in the kitchen while allowing your little ones to explore their creative side?
Paints and paper plates
Paper plates make the perfect base for creating your own spellbinding masks from scratch. Let the kids get a little messy painting paper plates with funny faces, from fearsome stripy tigers to adorable pandas and cheeky monkeys, then help them cut out eye holes and attach elastic once dry. Now all that’s left to do is to use your new masks to put on a show!
Welcome to the lab
There’s an exciting experiment you can try to teach the kids about chemistry using only items commonly found in the kitchen. All you need to do is boil up a red cabbage then strain out the pieces and fill a clear glass a quarter of the way up with the purple water. Next, let the kids add lemon juice or bicarbonate of soda to the mixture one by one, to see it magically change colour, creating vibrant shades from bright pink to cool turquoise. This fascinating trick occurs because red cabbage is a PH indicator that turns different colours when mixed with an acid or alkali.
Baking up a treat
Raise your hand if one of your fondest childhood memories is learning to bake with a parent or grandparent. Pass on the tradition by letting the kids help to measure out and mix ingredients to create a simple biscuit dough. Biscuits cook quickly in the oven, so they’re perfect for impatient little ones who just can’t wait to decorate their creations with gooey icing and colourful sprinkles. Plus of course you get to eat them afterwards!
Secret spy mission
What could be more exciting than letting little ones unleash their inner spy by writing secret invisible messages to their siblings? All you need to create hours of mysterious fun is a white wax crayon, white paper, a paintbrush and water-based poster paints. Tell the kids to write a secret message on the paper using the crayon, then watch their awe-struck faces as you brush colourful watered-down paint across the paper to reveal the hidden drawings. This clever illusion is possible since wax repels water.
Crazy cress heads
Don’t throw away your old boiled egg shells or yoghurt pots - help the kids feel a true sense of achievement by letting them grow their own crazy cress head plants. Clean out your egg shell or yoghurt pot with boiled water, then when cool, decorate with googly eyes and a felt-tip smile. Next, press cress seeds into a piece of moist cotton wool and place into the bottom & leave on a sunny kitchen windowsill. Cress grows super quickly, so if you plant your egg head at the start of half-term, it should have a full head of green cress hair by the end of the week!
Clever ways to get the kids to help out in the kitchen
Let’s face it, we could all use a little extra help in the kitchen.
Life for busy parents can feel like a constant battle to keep the kids fed while also keeping the family kitchen clean, so wouldn’t it be brilliant if you had a few enthusiastic helpers to do their bit?
Follow these simple steps to allow your messy little monsters to unlock their full potential in the kitchen.
Safety comes first in the kitchen, but there are still ways to get young children interested in cooking. Let them watch you whip up dinner from the safety of their high chair or give them safe items like plastic bowls to play with, since toddlers love discovering things for themselves.
Celebration not delegation
It only takes a little extra effort to turn essential everyday tasks into an enjoyable activity for all the family. Turning on music so kids can sweep the floor to the beat, making up songs to sing together as you stir the batter, and replacing dull tea towels with colourful patterned ones can all help to make common kitchen tasks more fun.
Encouraging creativity is a great way to keep your children’s minds active and aid learning, so why not make mealtimes more creative too? Artistic cooking doesn’t have to be limited to occasional treats like decorating cakes either, you can also make healthy everyday dinners more fun by letting the kids make faces with fruits or set a scene with veggies.
Make them proud
Giving little ones responsibility over a certain part of a recipe, like mashing potatoes, is a great way to help them feel super proud of what they’ve achieved and get more enjoyment out of the process. Set the pace slowly to avoid making them feel disheartened if they can’t complete a task, and recognise their efforts once they’ve finished by letting everyone around the table know that you’re serving up ‘Jimmy’s potatoes’.
The power of choice
It’s also a great idea to give children choices so tasks don’t feel like an obligation, like letting them help to plan dinner menus, pack their own lunchboxes or choose between two types of pasta at the supermarket.
Patience is a virtue
Teaching children to love cooking and tidying up after themselves is not a quick process. In the short run you’ll need a healthy dose of patience to accept that things may get a little messy, or that dishes might not turn out as perfectly as you would have made them. In the long run though, it’s worth it for those precious family moments when your kids surprise you with breakfast in bed, or just make you proud when you see what capable, responsible young adults they’re turning into.
How to reduce your environmental footprint in the kitchen
While most of us strive to reduce our environmental footprint, achieving this goal can prove tricky.
Two crucial factors for living sustainability in the kitchen are planning ahead to make sure you buy just enough food and avoiding waste wherever possible. However, it often takes a little extra push to ensure you stick to these goals.
Thankfully, there are a few simple features you can include when designing your new kitchen to keep environmental impact in mind and encourage you to make greener decisions.
Out of sight is out of mind
Unfortunately, the old saying ‘out of sight is out of mind’ is sadly true when it comes to the jars and packages of food lurking at the back of your cabinets or fridge nearing their expiration dates. Knowing when food passes its use by date is the best way to ensure you make the most of what you have, keeping in mind that sell by dates are not the same as use by dates to avoid wasting perfectly good food.
To help you keep track of what’s about to go out of date, it’s best to keep items clearly visible within your kitchen. However this doesn’t have to mean ugly, cluttered worktops, as Magnet have developed some ingenious space saving storage solutions to stow away kitchen essentials but still ensure they are right at hand when you need them. Take the Cabinet Plus for example, a descending shelf section which makes the items at the back of your cabinets easier to reach. Or alternatively, consider the Shelf Plus, a stacking shelf system with customisable sections made to perfectly fit everything from tea and coffee jars to herb pots and even kitchen roll holders.
A system for success
Nobody wants their kitchen to be littered with different rubbish bags and recycling storage bins, but equally it’s no fun having to spend time sorting waste into different bins every time you take the rubbish out. The best approach to avoid these less-than-desirable alternatives is to opt for a concealed recycling bin system with different compartments for each type of waste, such as Magnet’s pull out three part recycling bin. That way, it’s easy to categorise rubbish as you throw it away, but your bins still stow neatly away under your kitchen counter. The fact that this three-part system includes a section for compost is particularly crucial, since food scraps account for nearly a quarter of all human waste and are the number one material sent to landfills.
Be energy efficient
Food isn’t the only thing we tend to waste in our kitchens, as inefficient kitchen appliances can also use up a great deal of energy, increasing your carbon footprint and contributing towards global pollution. In fact, the fridge typically accounts for between 9 and 15 per cent of each home’s total electricity usage, so ensuring you choose energy efficient appliances is important for both your bank balance and the planet.
Thankfully, appliance manufacturers are increasingly making their designs more energy efficient, and all appliances within the Magnet collection are labelled with energy efficiency ratings to help you make smarter, more sustainable choices for your household.
The Winners and Losers of Food Waste Around the World
Food waste is a truly global issue. You might be surprised to know quite how much of the food we buy goes straight from the fridge to the bin. So much so, in fact, that the UK collectively threw away 4.9 billion kilograms of food in 2017.
That being said, we certainly aren’t unique. According to the Food Sustainability Index 2017, many countries of the world are wasting millions of tons of food each year due to stockpiling, spoilage and in some cases, downright fussiness.
But thankfully, people across the planet are kicking into action in a bid to make our use and consumption of food smarter, more sustainable and kinder to the environment. From charities to major organisations, governments to citizens, innovative ideas are changing our relationship with food. And as a result of new initiatives, technology and changes to the law, many corners of the world are beginning to see their food waste haul shrink.
Food Waste Around the World: The Winners and Losers
Each year, the Food Sustainability Index publishes data on how the nations of the world fare when it comes to throwing away food. For many of the planet’s most populated countries, it takes an informed estimate of the amount each citizen is leaving uneaten – and the variation is stark.
Those in Greece are the most resourceful, closely followed by China. The latter might throw away 61 billion kilograms of food, but spread across its huge population this accounts for just 44kg per citizen; low by international standards. Other countries to rank well include India, Brazil, and the United Kingdom, where its residents waste an average of 74.7kg of food per head.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, Sweden wastes a surprising 200kg per person each year. A little behind them, the United States throws away 91 billion kilograms of food annually – more than twice the amount of the UK, France, Germany and Japan combined. Per head though, they’re far from worst. Australia throws away a colossal 361kg per person each year – that’s more than eight times the amount thrown away by your average Greek.
Thankfully, no matter what position these countries fall in, there’s evidence of a shift in attitude; with exciting new concepts seeking to end food waste right across the globe. You can read about some of these, as well as view the full ranking of countries, below.
To help reduce the amount of food wasted around the world, we’ve come up with some easy tips for things we can do that will have a positive impact on the planet. By making more conscious decisions at the supermarket and in the kitchen, we’ll be able to reduce just how much food we end up wasting.
How do you make sure you waste as little food as possible? Be sure to share your tips with us on our Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also check out our blog if you’re after more kitchen inspiration.
The Food Sustainability Index 2017:
Sources for national food waste initiatives:
Helpful tips to reduce food waste and embrace a more sustainable lifestyle
You don’t need to be a genius to help solve the problem of food waste. With some really small changes to your day-to-day shopping and food prep habits, you could have a big impact.
Our recent infographic centered around the global issue of food waste and found that people in the United Kingdom wasted an average of 74.7kg of food each year – a far stretch from Greece, where 44kg of food was thrown away per person each year.
If you want to make a positive impact on the planet, there’s plenty of smart choices you can make which can have a big impact. From the supermarket to the kitchen, follow these steps and start avoiding waste today.
In the supermarket:
Shop smarter – Plan your weeks’ meals before you get to the store. Strike off any ingredients you already have in, so that you only buy what you need.
Avoid impulse purchases – Do you really need it? If you have to ask yourself this, there’s a much greater chance this item will end up going to waste.
Buy loose – If you can, buy loose fruit and vegetables rather than those in packs. Packs usually contain more of a given product than customers actually need in the timeframe that they’ll be ripe and fresh.
Choose the ugly ones – It might look a strange shape, but it’ll certainly taste the same. Be the person who uses up the funny-looking produce that others won’t.
In the kitchen:
Get freezing – You’d be amazed how many food items you can keep by freezing. If you find you only ever get halfway through a loaf of bread before having to throw it; start freezing it instead. It’ll be kinder for the planet and kinder on your wallet too. Our range of fridge freezers provide plenty of space for you to keep all your favourite foods fresh.
First in, First Out – To avoid your cupboard and fridge food ending up past its use-by-date, operate a first in, first out policy. This means you always try to eat up the oldest items in the cupboard before any recent additions get used. Magnet’s innovative storage solutions can make this an incredibly easy rule to enforce.
Schedule a ‘use it up’ meal – Each week, set aside a day where you’ll rustle together whatever uses up your leftovers. You can’t go wrong by throwing your leftover veg into a blender; you’ll almost always be pleasantly surprised by the results.
Package your leftovers, no matter the quantity – After you finish a meal, always scrape your leftovers into a storage container rather than the bin. You might think what’s left ‘doesn’t look worth saving’, but next time you want a quick bite you can reach for the other night’s leftovers instead. Before you know it, you’ll be buying less snack food, saving money, and wasting less in the process.
At Magnet, we’re dedicated to ensuring you get the most out of your kitchen. Browse our range today, and see how we could transform how you think about food.
Here's how to prevent pesky damp in the kitchen
If you’ve ever replaced your kitchen, you’ll know how good it feels when the installation is complete and you can sit down to a relaxing glass of wine or delicious dinner for the first time in your brand new kitchen.
At Magnet, we believe you should feel that same sense of satisfaction every time you spend time in your kitchen, whether it’s the first time or the five hundred and first. We design kitchens made to stand up to anything life can throw at them, and that includes damp.
Excess condensation in the kitchen makes the room feel cold and unpleasant, can pose a potential health risk due to mould growth and can even lead to structural damage if left untreated. So to help you take precautions against this common issue, we’ve compiled this handy guide to fighting damp in the kitchen.
Cooking up a storm
Unsurprisingly, cooking is one of the biggest causes of excess condensation in the kitchen. While there are simple steps you can take to prevent too much moisture from escaping, like keeping a lid on saucepans on the hob, it’s impossible to prevent steam entirely, so an effective fan is essential. If you’re prone to forgetting to turn on the fan, then consider opting for a cooker hood with hood to hob functionality, which automatically activates and adjusts fan settings to the level of steam produced by your cooking.
What’s more, you no longer have to compromise on style when choosing an extraction system, as there are now a variety of concealed or even decorative cooker hoods available, like the dazzling Elica Star Island model or the chic Elica Seashell hood.
Hanging laundry up to dry inside the home is another major cause of damp, particularly when it’s too cold outside to open a window to let moisture escape. That’s why it’s always best to either hang clothes outdoors on warm, dry days, or use a tumble dryer instead. For smaller homes or apartments without a balcony or garden, a combined washer dryer is a great way to save on precious space while still preventing damp.
The drop test
If left to stand, moisture on wood worktops can lead to warping or staining, particular if you’ve forgotten to regularly re-oil the wood, which creates a protective seal to stop liquids from soaking through. Wipe up spills quickly to keep worktops pristine and perform a ‘drop-test’ to check the worktop is well-oiled: if a water drop beads on the surface of the worktop without soaking in, then the wood is protected. If not, you need to reapply oil by rubbing it into the worktops to prevent spills from damaging the wood.
Prevention is better than cure
If you do still see signs of damp even after taking these steps, make sure to dry down windowsills, tiled splashbacks and worktops frequently to prevent condensation leading to mildew and mould growth. After all, it’s definitely worth the effort in the long run compared to the cost of replacing window frames or having to re-seal tiling.
Meat free meals to take to work or school
Sticking to a vegetarian diet is easy enough when you have plenty of time to shop for the right ingredients, prepare fresh fruit and vegetables and cook up delicious dishes in the kitchen at home. Unfortunately, grabbing a tasty meat-free meal on the go can be much more tricky, with limited choice often pushing you to the usual bland, repetitive vegetarian menu options.
So to save you or your vegetarian little ones from boring lunches this National Vegetarian Week, we’ve shared five flavour-packed meat-free lunchbox ideas that are perfect for taking to school or work.
Serve up a slice
Roasted vegetable tarts or pizza slices are the perfect portable choice and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. Simply spread ready roll puff pastry or pizza dough onto a baking sheet and decorate with your choice of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices, then drizzle with a little olive oil to bring out the perfect caramelised flavours when you bake your tart in the oven. Why not go for a traditional Italian combination of sliced tomatoes, peppers, olives and basil, or give your lunch a Greek twist by crumbling feta cheese over slices of aubergine and courgette.
Summer has arrived
Take culinary inspiration from the Far East by creating your own vegan Vietnamese summer rolls from scratch. Start by finely chopping red cabbage, carrots, spring onions and cucumber and mixing together with chopped peanuts, lime juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, chilli and fresh basil and mint.
Next, take a round rice paper wrapper, available from most Asian food stores or larger supermarkets, and sprinkle with water until it becomes pliable, but not totally soft. Spoon an inch-thick line of the vegetable mix along the centre of the rice paper, leaving an inch gap at either end, then roll one side of the wrapper over the line, fold in either end and continue rolling to seal into a cylindrical shape. Make up 3-4 rolls per person then store in the fridge overnight ready to take to school or work the next day.
Swap the usual fast-food veggie burgers for a super-charged flavour sensation. Mash chickpeas with middle-eastern spices then form into a burger patty. Dip the patty in oil followed by breadcrumbs and sesame seeds, then lightly fry on the hob alongside strips of halloumi. Layer your patty onto a burger bun with sliced tomatoes, fresh salad, smooth avocado and salty halloumi strips for the ultimate veggie burger.
Only ever thought of samosas as a side-dish at the local Indian takeaway? Think again! These triangular pastry parcels are the perfect portable way to pack a whole manner of succulent vegetables and tantalising spices into your next lunch break. Fry up a mixture of diced potatoes, carrots, onion and peas blended with curry powder, then dollop a spoonful onto one end of a long rectangular strip of filo pastry. Carefully fold one corner in to form a triangle shape over the mixture, wetting the edge of the pastry to seal the edges, then continue flipping the triangle along the length of the sheet until you reach the end. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until golden and crisp, then leave to cool ready to pack for lunch.
Hassle-free ways to get your kitchen spotless this spring
Let’s be honest, nobody looks forward to cleaning their kitchen.
It’s one of those jobs that we all tend to put off, but when spring rolls around and the brighter mornings shine a light on areas of your kitchen you’d prefer remained hidden, the time is right for a full deep-clean.
So to save you precious time and energy, we’ve put together a list of handy cleaning hacks that will help you make your kitchen look good as new with minimal time and effort.
You don’t need to resort to harsh, harmful chemicals to tackle the greasy residue that builds up on the cooker hood after months of cooking up tasty dinners. Instead, fill a spray bottle with a mixture of water and distilled vinegar, spritz liberally onto the cooker hood and leave for 5-10 minutes, then wipe away with a damp cloth.
Like vinegar, lemon juice is another great natural solution for fighting grease, plus it leaves your kitchen smelling beautifully fragrant and fresh. Heating a cup of lemon juice in the microwave for three minutes, or until the liquid has evaporated, will cut through stubborn burnt-on stains so they can be easily wiped away with a sponge, leaving your microwave spotless.
Cook up a storm
Cleaning the oven is undoubtedly one of the toughest and messiest jobs in your kitchen, so try this handy tip to save yourself hours of heavy-duty scrubbing. Simply mix up a paste using bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and apply to the walls and wire racks of your oven, where the fizzing reaction between these acidic and alkaline ingredients will help to lift burnt-on food. Leave the mixture to work its magic for half an hour, then wipe down with a soapy sponge.
Since wood is a porous material, it can be particularly tough to remove stains and discolouration from a wooden chopping board. Thankfully, there is a simple answer to this age-old problem – salt. Sprinkle coarse sea salt over your chopping board then use half a lemon to scrub the rough granules over the surface, loosening trapped-in dirt.