Store Cupboard Heroes
I’m all about a quick lunch or an easy dinner. And I’m not going to lie, there are still times when I go all ‘guilty pleasure’ on the family and bust out the best (or possibly worst) of my freezer … and offer up nothing more creative or nutritious than fish fingers, chips and beans (but that’s just real life right?!)
But as much as possible I try to pre-empt those moments by having a set of hero products stashed my cupboards, fridge & freezer. All of the following items will help form the base of a quick, simple healthy meal … which is about all I can hope for when I can’t even think in a straight line come 6pm on a week night.
Many of them work well together and are interchangeable with one another so the only limit is your imagination (or Google if you’re too tired to be creative.). They are all about saving you time, money, effort and energy and those days when you just can’t be bothered, or when you can’t literally cannot drag yourself to the Co-Op for the twelfth time that week to spend yet another £30 on a fresh injection of food for the fridge. Stocking up savvily will help you stay sane, stay full and keep you well out of the snack box on days like those. Which in my book is a win win.
Omelettes, Frittatas, Baked Eggs (shakshuka), scrambled/boiled/poached eggs on toast. I cannot tell you how many times a box of eggs has saved me and my family from a crappy, half arsed freezer dinner or worse still, an expensive and disappointing takeout. They’ll do breakfast/brunch/lunch & dinner … and their versatility knows no bounds. Get them in your cupboard in abundance, they’ll never let down.
High in protein and a good source of calcium, you can eat this simply grilled in a wholemeal wrap or pitta with tomato, flat leaf parsley and a squeeze of lemon or pimp it up and get it in a burger as a good alternative to meat … get it in a breakfast, salad or traybake (holding it’s shape as it does, makes it really versatile) …. a block of hallumi 100% a hero in our house.
This little tin of pre-cooked quinoa saves on the cooking time and can quickly be made into a any kind of salad … whether that be the main event (eg: a quick lunch bowl thrown together with a tin of tuna, tomatoes, cucumber + a simple French dressing) or a side salad to accompany dinner (+ feta, edamame, broad beans, avocado & French dressing) .. equally it would be a good protein addition to a soup (you could add it in with miso + any other veggies) … super high in protein and fibre and being less starchy than other grains, quinoa is better at stabilising blood sugars and keeping you feeling fuller for longer (I serve this as a side to a veggie or meat chilli instead of rice.)
In a salad, an omelette or frittata, feta is another really good source of protein and calcium. Genuine Feta doesn’t have any additives or preservatives it in either which is always good from a health perspective (look for the PDO approved label on feta for this .. this won’t be the case on cheaper alternatives labelled as ‘feta style’ or ‘greek style salad cheese’) … really versatile, it’s subtle flavour really elevates salads and is a lovely thing to add into burgers, omelettes and frittatas.
I add this anything I possibly can. From soups and curries to smoothies and shakes. Its also great to quickly cook up and have with scrambled eggs and mushrooms on toast. It’s just the easiest way to add nutrition to any meal you can think of. Fresh spinach tends to go soggy quite quickly and can often get overlooked until it needs throwing out, so this is the perfect way to ensure you always have a punch of nutrition (fibre, vitamin K, folate etc) handy to add whenever possible.
FROZEN EDAMAME BEANS
In their pods these are my go-to snack. I just grab a handful out of the freezer in the morning and they’re ready to snack on within a couple of hours. Loaded with protein and fibre + other bonuses like folate vitamin k and iron (anyone seeing a theme emerge here?!) Podded I love to add them to everything I can; miso soup, ramen, salads, rice and noodle bowls.
Tasty, nutritious, … this is a meal in minutes. I throw in whatever I have in my salad drawer and freezer … mushrooms, peppers, carrots, edamame, sweetcorn, then add in some soba noodles if I have them (or any other type of whole-wheat noodle) … I add in leftover chicken if I have it, or gyozas if I have some in the freezer. You could add tofu or prawns/salmon or anything other protein you fancied or had in the fridge. Healthy and hearty … a winner across the board with my family.
Similar to the tinned quinoa, these lentils can form the base of a quick salad for lunch or a healthy side to a dinner. High in protein, fibre, folate and potassium, they are something everyone should be getting in to their diet at some point in a week. There are other variations you can buy on these … Jamie Oliver and Merchant Gourmet ranges have plenty … but their French Lentils Green and Puy Lentils, which are cooked in a tomato and basil sauce are delicious. I cook these (they take 2 mins) with veggie sausages (from the freezer and some julienned courgette and carrot for the speediest of dinners.
Higher in protein than other wholewheat noodles (or pasta) Soba Noddles are made from buckwheat flour and water (its worth checking the labels as as some cheaper brands can contain wheat … important if you’re concerned about any potential gluten content … our buckwheat soba noodles will be gluten free) Soba Noodles are low GI so good at stabilising blood sugars they also contain fibre and other cholesterol lowering properties (rutin.). These go well in Ramen or with stir fried vegetables or chilled in a salad.