Stock up with convenience foods

One of the reasons we can struggle with healthy eating and weight control is lack of time. When we’re in a rush, it’s easier to grab snacks, takeaways or pre-prepared microwave meals that are rarely a healthy choice. Full of preservatives, salt, sugar and more – not great fuel at the best of times, let alone when we are busy and stressed.

But, what’s the alternative when you dash in through the door from work, starving, and haven’t planned ahead? Stock up on your own version of convenience foods.

Here are a few of my go-to ‘ready meals’ that can be on the table in about 5 minutes….

Sweet potatoes

Not only are they one of your five-a-day but pop in the microwave for 5 minutes whilst you rustle up a quick topping and they provide a delicious quick meal. Quick toppings from fridge or store-cupboard could be:

  • chopped beetroot, smoked mackerel and Greek yoghurt mixed with horseradish
  • tuna or smoked salmon mixed with quark, or other similar soft cheese, and dill, chives or other herbs
  • feta, spinach, sun-dried tomato and olive mix
  • home-made tomato sauce with beans or lentils

Bags of rice

There’s now a huge variety of prepared sachets of rice, pulse and seed mixes that can be kept in the larder and microwaved in minutes. Tilda, Merchant Gourmet or supermarket own versions include high-fibre brown basmati rice, quinoa and superseeds and many more. Defrost one of your batch cooks (weekend batch cooking and freezing is well worthwhile), cook up a sachet, add some veg or salad and you’re there.

Stir fries

As long as you have a selection of veg in the fridge or freezer (spring onion, courgette, carrot, cabbage, chard, mushrooms), some fresh ginger, some frozen prawns (or alternatively soya, quorn, cashews) you can have a stir-fry ready in the time it takes to finely chop and then flash fry in hot sesame oil. Throw in some seeds or nuts too and eat as it is, or with some wholemeal noodles or a microwaveable rice sachet and you have your 5-a-day on a plate in 5 minutes flat!

Soups

A portion of soup in the freezer is a godsend. Microwaved in minutes it can tide you over until you have prepared a full meal. Or it can be transformed into a filling main meal in its own right within minutes. As it defrosts, choose how best to bulk it out. Add tinned cannellini beans or chick peas, throw in some extra protein like prawns or quorn or simply top with a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt and some seed mix and serve with a chunk of sourdough or wholegrain bread.

No longer the feared cause of high cholesterol, we now know that eggs are a great source of protein and are so quick and easy to cook. I always have a dozen to hand. You can cook a meal in less time than it takes to defrost a supermarket ready meal….

  • omelettes made with chopped spring onion, mushrooms, chilli, peppers or whatever you can stir fry in seconds. Spinach and mozzarella is a current favourite of mine.
  • scrambled eggs made with smoked salmon and served on a slice of sourdough bread, toasted straight from the freezer.
  • quick kedgeree made by frying some spring onion whilst eggs are hard boiling (ok – so this recipe takes about 10 minutes unless you have thought ahead and have some hard-boiled eggs in the fridge!) then mixing and heating with one of the packet rices you now have in the cupboard, some curry powder, smoked mackerel or salmon (keep fish stocked up in the freezer – it’s is so quick to defrost), frozen peas and topping with the egg quarters.

 

Who needs supermarket ready meals when you can do it yourself? Less cost, less salt and preservatives. More nutrients and more satisfaction!