If you’ve had a long day at work or uni and come home to nothing in the pantry – or just simply can’t be bothered deciding what to cook – it can be easy to make an unhealthy takeaway or delivery decision. The cost of doing this can add up if it becomes a regular habit, not to mention the negative impact it can have on your overall wellbeing.
It’s a great idea to stock up your pantry or fridge with healthy options that can be whipped into a tasty and nutritious meal without an hour of prep time. We’ve whisked together a list of foods and recipe ideas to keep on hand that do just that. Simply pop them in your trolley at your next grocery shop and keep them in the cupboard or freezer for easy meals that can be prepared without a fuss.
For the cupboard:
Tinned tuna or salmon
- Oily fish is a fantastic source of omega-3, which is essential for brain health and can also reduce the risk of heart disease
- Best choices: look for tuna and salmon in spring water
- Easy meals include tuna, rice and salad, salmon pasta bake or try this fish 'n veg pie.
Tinned kidney beans or four bean mix
- These cheap and easy staples are an excellent source of fibre and protein, so they can be used for vegetarian meals or with meat such as mince
- Serving tip: drain and rinse well, then you are ready to go
- Easy meals include bean and mince bolognaise (half mince, half beans), bean tacos with salad, or whip up a pot of minestrone soup with whatever vegies you have on hand (even the slightly wilted ones in the fridge).
Dried red lentils
- Lentils are full of fibre and a little goes a long way – a great, cost-effective option
- Serving tip: no overnight soaking required, simply wash and rinse well
- Perfect for delicious dhal (serve with rice), beef and lentil bolognaise and easy vegetable soups like pumpkin or cauliflower soup.
Tinned baked beans
- A classic pantry staple packed with fibre and protein, and perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner
- Best choices: choose low salt or no salt varieties – add your own pepper or chilli flakes if you like a little spice
- Easy meals include ‘the classic’, served hot on wholemeal toast, or stir in chopped fresh tomatoes, mushrooms and spinach for ‘the gourmet’.
Wholemeal pasta or spaghetti
- Wholemeal pasta contains extra fibre than regular pasta and is a great staple for nutritious and filling meals
- Serving tip: taste test a piece of pasta just before draining, to check if it is ‘al dente’ (just cooked ‘to the tooth’) or otherwise to your liking
For the freezer:
Grainy bread or flatbread
- Grainy, wholemeal high fibre breads and flatbreads (like pita) are packed with vitamins and minerals, and are also more satisfying as they can keep you full for longer
- The best choices are high fibre breads like multigrain, soy and linseed, rye, wholemeal, sliced loaves are perfect for the freezer
- Easy meals: the all-day favourite scrambled eggs or beans on toast, make a toastie using a frying pan or a jaffle-maker with grated low fat cheese and tuna. Flatbreads can be rolled up into a simple salad wrap or warm bean burritos, or make a pita pizza with tasty toppings like capsicum, mushrooms, tinned pineapple (drained) and lean ham.
Reduced fat grated cheese
- Cheese provides protein, vitamins and minerals including calcium
- Best choice: choose reduced fat varieties, which contain just as much goodness without the extra saturated fat. Grated cheese can be stored in the freezer and easily defrosted.
- Easy meals: cheese is quick and easy to melt, grate and slice on sandwiches or pasta. Try macaroni and cheese with frozen vegies.
- Frozen peas can be incorporated into dozens of easy meals, but no need to limit your frozen veg selection, as there are plenty of mixed veg varieties which will last in the freezer (unless you need an ice pack!)
- Serving tip: small, diced veg are great in soups and stews, while larger mixed veg like frozen broccoli and cauliflower are perfect in a stir-fry or straight on your plate
- Easy meal: simple fried rice with egg and diced veg (use pre-cooked rice if preferred).
And don’t forget you can freeze your leftovers from meals like soups, mince and pasta dishes in single serve portions for more easy meals.
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