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12 ingredients for healthy cooking on a budget

Ask the experts Frozen foods

Lots of mouths to feed? Don’t compromise on nutrition with high-calorie, high-sodium ready meals – stock up on these 12 cheap ingredients for healthy meals that won’t break the budget.

1 Frozen chopped peppers/capsicums

An easy way to add colour and nutrients, including vitamins A, C, E and B6, to your cooking – no fiddly prep required.

2 Canned beans and pulses

Much less hassle than soaking and boiling dried pulses, but avoid those with added salt. Whiz with lemon, olive oil and spices for homemade hummus.

3 Frozen prepared vegetables

Not just for steaming… Stir-fry with chilli flakes for a quick and easy side dish. And frozen veg are just as nutritious as fresh.

4 Canned fish

So much versatility in one little can. Perfect for sandwiches, salads, bakes and pizza toppings. This is a very cost-effective way to get your omega 3.

5 Dried penne

The go-to pasta for adding to bakes, sauces and salads. Choose wholemeal for a high-fibre, low-GI meal. Cooked too much? Cool, freeze in food bags, then drop straight into boiling water to reheat. Cooked, cooled then reheated pasta is a good source of resistant starch which is an essential type of fibre.

6 Frozen fish fillets

Cheaper than fresh and easy to cook – oven cook straight from the freezer or add to curries or stews.

7 Eggs

One of the best fast foods! Boil, scramble, poach, etc. Or beat and fry in just a little spray oil to make a thin pancake, roll up and slice into ribbons to throw into stir-fries. Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein and other nutrients such as carotenoids, vitamin D, B12, selenium and choline.

8 Frozen spinach

Great heated with cherry tomatoes to serve with eggs. Thaw and squeeze out the water first. Spinach delivers 20 per cent of our daily folate needs, a vital mineral for our immune system, and is a source of potassium and vitamin A. Spinach, like other dark leafy greens, is also source of lutein and zeaxanthin which are important nutrients for eye health.

9 Canned chopped tomatoes

The canning process intensifies the flavour – a better option than fresh for making rich pasta sauces and stews. Canned tomatoes are higher in the antioxidant, lycopene, than fresh tomatoes

10 Frozen prawns

They may not be as meaty as king prawns, but these thaw quickly and are ideal for tossing with Asian rice and noodle dishes.

11 Basmati rice

Don’t throw away any leftovers – cool cooked rice quickly by spreading on a large clean tray, then freeze in portions. Reheat straight from frozen in boiling water for 1–2 min.

12 Frozen herbs

A fuss-free way to inject flavour into whatever you’re cooking. You can also chop and freeze leftover fresh herbs in small food bags to save waste.

Date modified: 16 March 2023
First published: Nov 2016


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