Cupboard essentials for quick meals

Whether it’s juggling career and family or just working hard to make ends meet, our lives are busy. Finding the time to cook, let alone cook healthily, can be a real challenge - but having too many takeaways can be unhealthy and expensive. So before you dial that delivery, see how a well-stocked store cupboard could save the day. Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan explains ...

Takeaways and ready meals are sold to us as being time saving and convenient, but this is not necessarily always the case. Home deliveries can take up to an hour; preparing frozen ready meals can be fiddly and time consuming, especially if you're trying to heat several things in the microwave. You will usually find, too, that convenience foods are low on nutritious ingredients and high in fat.

So, are there alternatives? Yes!

A stand-by cupboard - stocked with time-saving nutritious essentials like tinned, dried and frozen foods - is a lifesaver when you need a meal in a hurry.

What to have in stock

  • Keep supplies of flavourings such as pepper, lemon juice, herbs and spices, curry powder and tomato sauce.
  • Pre-made cooking sauces in jars are quick, convenient and can offer variety and flavour to your mealtimes.
  • Try to use some of your jar of sauce with tinned tomatoes and herbs and spices for a healthier alternative.
  • You can also choose lower fat options of your favourite sauces for example a low fat pasta sauce or low fat coconut milk for curries.

A useful way to stock up is to think of what you might eat at different mealtimes:

  • Breakfast – have cereal, milk and juice in stock
  • Lunch – have cheese, yoghurts, eggs, tins of beans, bread in the freezer and longer life fruits such as bananas or dried fruit
  • Dinner – chicken breasts or frozen mince or fish, rice, noodles and pasta; frozen veg, tinned fruits and longer life veg such as onions are ideal

Make a meal plan!

Plan meals in advance for those days when you’re under pressure. Sit down when you have some time at the weekend and plan for the week. Take a look at our sample weekly meal plan for some inspiration.

Quick and easy dinner recipes

The following recipe ideas should take no more than 20 minutes to cook and prepare, perfect for when you get home from work or with the kids:

For some more recipe ideas visit our recipe section.