We’ve all been there. You’ve just clocked in another exhausting shift at work, navigated the stressful commute home and finally stumbled through the door… with a rumbling belly and little enthusiasm to invest much time in creating a Cordon Bleu dish. While it’s tempting to whip out the takeaway menus and dial in a dinner, it’s also an unnecessarily expensive option.
Keeping the pantry (and the freezer!) stocked with just a few simple items means that you’ll never be far from a satisfying and nourishing meal. Ideally, you can throw together some dishes over the weekend and keep them refrigerated for the coming week, but if all else fails, make sure you’ve got these ingredients in your cupboard and you’ll be just fine.
With the average egg containing six grams of protein, these versatile little fellows are the perfect addition to any stir-fry or rice meal to inject an extra nutritional boost. Alternatively, they can also act as the base to your dinner in an omelette or as scrambled eggs. Plus, with as little as 70 calories apiece, they won’t ruin your dietary plans, either.
- Ramen noodles
Speaking of stir-fries, ramen noodles are a great staple to have in the kitchen when you need a quick fix for dinner. All you need to do is dice some vegetables and meat, sauté in oil, soy, fish sauce and perhaps a little Tabasco for an extra kick, then add in the boiled noodles and voila! You’ve got a tasty, healthy meal in next to no time.
- Jacket potatoes
Many people have the erroneous impression that cooking a jacket potato has to be a labour of an hour or more. Of course, you can bake them in the oven if you have the time and inclination, but using the microwave to cut corners doesn’t detract from the taste at all. Throw on your favourite topping and add a side salad and your dinner will be both healthy and filling in one fell swoop. Just don’t forget to prick the skin of the potato all over prior to blasting.
- Oven chips
While we’re on the subject of potatoes, it would be remiss of us not to mention the nation’s favourite variety – the humble chip. Keeping your freezer stocked with a bag of McCain Oven Chips allows you to pad out any dish with a tasty accompaniment and the minimum of effort. Only 5% fat, too.
- Frozen vegetables
Frozen veggies have a number of advantages over their fresh and canned counterparts. For starters, they’re often pre-chopped, which saves on time when you’re drained and hungry. They’re also picked during season, meaning the optim levels of fibres and nutrients are locked in during the freezing process. And in comparison to canned options, they contain little to no sodium.
- Chicken tenders
Smaller than regular chicken breasts, tenders are a great freezer option because they thaw out so quickly and can be rapidly diced up and thrown into any meal, including that ubiquitous stir-fry mentioned above. If you’re really well prepared, you can even marinade them in your own particular favourite flavour overnight to add an extra zing to your dinner.
- Frozen pizza
Yes, yes, yes, so it’s the cop-out of all cop-outs. But there’s a time and a place for frozen pizza – namely, when you’ve had the day from hell and you can’t even summon the energy to prepare a simple meal for yourself. Make sure you keep the freezer stocked with at least one or two pizza pies for an emergency get-out-jail-free dinner… just don’t make a habit of it.