Find yourself blankly looking at a piece of chicken and a wilted lettuce leaf far too often come dinner time?
A fridge full of mismatched ingredients (or nothing usable at all), makes it tricky to pull something tasty and healthy together for dinner.
But if you ensure your fridge, freezer and pantry are always stocked with these 10 ingredients, you’ll be able to MacGyver up something fab every night of the week.
1. Tinned tomatoes
This pantry staple is the base ingredient for casseroles, pasta sauces, homemade BBQ sauce (great for marinading), risottos, chili con carne or a variety of vegetarian meals. Tinned tomatoes also bump up the health factor in a veggie soup or curry.
2. Frozen or canned vegetables
Having a good stock pile of veggies on hand opens up a lot of options. Add them to rice and bacon, a little soy sauce, garlic, salt and pepper to whip up an easy fried rice (even better if you happen to have some chicken and eggs on hand). You can also add them to beef mince, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, stock and mashed spuds for a shepherd’s pie, or mince for a Chow Mein.
If you’re looking for a lighter meal, they can be whipped up with eggs for a yummy omelette or mixed with flour and eggs for a kid-friendly fritter. The corn, pea and carrot mix work in the widest variety of meals, but peas, beans, chopped onion, corn and kale or spinach are also great additions.
Be it chicken, beef or the more neutral veggie option, stock powder or cubes pack a flavourful punch to almost any meal. A splash of soy sauce is another handy ‘stock’ option and can enhance flavour further even when stock is used.
Beef is the more versatile choice, but chicken, pork, lamb or faux meat can also be kept in the freezer for months to make all manner of meals using pantry staples. If you’re not a meat eater and you’re not up for the fresh faux mince price tag, tinned lentils are a good match texture wise, or chickpeas for bulk. Bonus budgeting tip: you can often snap up mince with a reduced price tag at your supermarket. Pop it straight in the freezer and use as needed. It defrosts easily in the microwave if you’re really stuck.
As well as an easy one ingredient meal – boiled eggs or omelettes are both filling and delicious – eggs are a key player in many a meal, often only requiring other basics to create something special. Add a little milk for scrambled eggs with a side of toast for a more filling meal if you have bread on hand or soak the bread first in the egg and milk mixture for French toast!
6. Tinned beans
Make your own baked beans with whatever winter veg you have in the fridge. Try finely diced zucchini, carrots, or capsicum and mix with diced onions, garlic, tinned tomatoes, stock, tomato paste, and ginger. Tinned kidney beans can be used to whip up a vegetarian chilli, while cannelloni beans can be used in veggie patties for a burger, or served simply with chutney and a salad.
7. Good quality bread
The quicker you get a fresh loaf – a crusty ciabatta is ideal – into the freezer, the fresher it tastes when defrosted. You can use it for jumbo toasties, fancy French toast, grilled cheese, the infamous avo on toast, or bulk-up a basic tinned soup meal by adding a little garlic and butter and grilling in the oven for dipping.
8. Dried pasta or rice
If you’ve got rice or pasta in your pantry, you’re already halfway to having dinner sorted. Some folk are happy with pasta a splash of olive oil, salt and pepper. You can even jazz it up using leftover oil from marinated fetta or olives if you have them – yum!
9. Curry paste
Be it a green Thai or an Indian vindaloo, a curry paste is an easy way to turn basics into something special. You can easily whip up a simple veggie curry with your frozen goodies, whatever’s lingering in your fridge or canned beans and vegetables.
Don’t’ underestimate simple seasoning. Salt, pepper, garlic, ginger and your fave herbs can take even the most basic meal up a few notches. Herbs can be kept fresh in your garden, in a tube in the fridge, or frozen from fresh or dried in the pantry. Simply add fresh herbs to olive oil in an ice cube tray and freeze. Not sure what to stock? Basil, rosemary and parsley cover a multitude of cuisines.