Pantry/fridge staples for healthy cooking when you’re short on time.

A kitchen stocked with healthy ingredients is a sure-fire way to help you maintain a healthy diet. I always make sure I have lots of fresh fruit and veggies in my fruit basket and fridge to eat throughout the week. But let’s face it,  sometimes uni and/or work gets busy and we don’t always have a lot of  time to cook healthy meals.

Having a few nutritious staple foods that don’t take long to prepare will make those “5 min breakfasts before you need to run for the bus” alot less stressful. You’ll also have healthy ingredients on hand for a quick post-uni/work dinner or a throw-together lunch when you’re busy with exams and assignments.

Here’s what I always keep in my kitchen to make meal times less stressful with I’m short on time. Most of these require little preparation and can be incorporated into a meal in <15min.

Plain quick/rolled oats – great for a quick morning breakfast. Microwave 1/3c oats with 1cup milk for about 90 sec. Top with fresh fruit, nuts, cinnmamon etc and breakfast is ready in about 2 min. Generic brand oats cost as little as $1.30/kg at leading Australian supermarkets.

Brown-rice: I like to cook up a cup or two of  brown rice and store it in an air-tight container in the fridge (stays good for a few days). That way during the week, I can throw together quick lunches – usually with some rice, veggies and protein. It is also super handy if i’m working during the week, as i get home at about 7:45pm. I’ll usually stir-fry some brown rice with 2 whisked eggs and some veg for a quick, healthy brown rice ready in about 10 min!

Apples:  generally available all year round and are quite affordable. Depending on the variety, they cost $3-$5/kg. Apples are a great grab-n-go snack when you’re in a rush. They last a while in the fruit basket too so you won’t have to make a trip to the supermarket every few days to re-stock on fruit.

Frozen berries – these retail at about $4/kg and are handy to keep in the kitchen. I like them as a for a sweet, nutritious topping to my morning oats or yoghurt.

Bag of mixed, frozen vegetables: At ~$2-5/kg, I believe frozen vegetables are a staple everyone should have in their freezer. They’re a super convenient source of vegetables as you dont need to wash or cop anything, and you can add them to almost any dish. I always keep a bag in my freezer, which comes in handy when I want to make a quick dinner and also get my serves of veg in.

NOTE: of course I encourage seasonal FRESH fruit and vegetables. PLEASE feel free to add these to your kitchen and diet! The more fresh fruit and vegetables the better! These tips are to help you on days where you don’t have time or are too exhausted to chop up and cook fresh vegetables from scratch.

Bag of mixed greens –Mixed greens  make a good base for salads or can be added at the end of your stir-fries, soups or pasta sauces for some green leafy veg. They cost ~$3 per 120g bag.

Tins of mixed beans/lentils/chickpeas: These are great additions to any salad, pasta sauce or soup. They cost ~80c-$1 per 400g tin (which lasts 3-4 meals). They’re also source of fibre and count towards your daily veg intake! Plus it only takes about 30 sec to open a tin and rinse them!

Eggs: Eggs are a fantastic source of healthy fats and protein and I always have some in my fridge. Whisking up some eggs to make a quick omelette with veggies is another of my go-to meals when I’m short on time. The price depends on the variety you get (cage, free range etc). I  opt for free range eggs, which are ~$6/dozen.

Tins of tuna: These are a great source of protein and are light and easy to carry in your bag. I always have a few in my pantry to take to uni for a quick protein source at lunch. They cost about ~80c-$1 per single serve tin.

Mixed spices: Spices are a GREAT way to flavour foods. A little goes a long way. Chicken cooked in Chinese 5 spice will taste completely different to one with Mexican Taco-seasoning. A packet of seasoning can cost about $2-$4 and lasts for quite a while. My personal favourites are Italian herbs, Chinese 5 spice, Mexican seasoning, Cajun and cinnamon.

Sauces/vinegars: E.g. soy sauce and balsamic vinegar are all great to keep in the pantry to add flavour to your food. Like spices, a little goes a long way and you generally only need about a tbs at a time!

**All prices are based on generic brands at leading Australian supermarkets. Most of the time there is little nutritional difference between say generic and branded tinned beans, oats and rice. Of course if you have a brand preference, purchase according to that and your budget.

Let me know what you think – how many of these do you keep on hand? Or what are your go-to meals and food items when you’re short on time but want a healthy meal?