The whole point of meal planning is to make your life easier by making the whole process quicker. So that means using ingredients that last or you can create a number of different meals from. To make your shopping list easier to create, I’ve put together my top 10 ingredients that you can use to make multiple meals.
🫒 Extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
These are some of the only cooking oils which are made without chemicals and industrial refining. Because of this, they are some of the healthiest fats you can use. Other oils are also good and less flavoured if you want something plain but try to go for a cold-pressed oil as this means it hasn’t been refined or been processed with chemicals. Just be aware that these oils shouldn’t be exposed to very high heats and you should use sparingly.
Tinned beans are a really helpful and easy way to bulk up a meal, from chickpeas to kidney beans, there are loads and enough to suit anyone’s taste. With tons of protein and fibre in them, beans are also inexpensive yet filling. They’re a good way to make a meat dish such as chilli or casserole go further or to have decent sized portions whilst reducing your meat consumption.
Eggs are massively diverse, whether you want them scrambled for breakfast, boiled to chuck into a salad for lunch or fried for a dinner. They a delicious way to get protein into your diet, and when you bulk buy them they’ll last in your cupboards for a few weeks. We have 9 chickens so eggs are a staple of my diet these days! Here’s a nifty trick to test the freshness of your eggs: https://www.deliaonline.com/how-to-cook/eggs/how-to-tell-how-fresh-an-egg-is
It doesn’t really matter what type. There are so many available these days from bog-standard table salt to Himalayan salt to sea salt. Most scientists agree that they all contain the same amount of sodium. Table salt is more processed than the others. All should be used in moderation. Gotta keep that blood pressure low, right? Added to meals though they can make a huge difference to the flavour and enhance the flavours of the food you’re eating.
🌱 Fresh or dried herbs
Herbs can make a dish. Whether it’s basil in a bolognaise sauce or rosemary on top of a roasted lamb joint. If you’ve got green fingers (which I’m trying to sport at the minute), then fresh, home-grown herbs are a really handy way to make sure you’ve always got what you need. If you can’t do fresh, then dried herbs do the job just as well. You don’t need them all but certainly a few key ones can add a lot of versatility to your food. My go to’s would be basil, coriander, sage, parsley, rosemary, mint and thyme.
As with herbs, spices can transform a dish and give it lots of extra depth and flavour. My go-to spices would be chilli flakes and powder, chipotle flakes and powder, curry powder, cinnamon, cumin, ginger and smoked paprika. These are definitely ones that I use multiple times each week.
Fresh garlic keeps really well, plus it tastes amazing and is massively versatile. Whether you’re making home-made garlic bread or want to give your roast potatoes a bit of a kick, garlic is all you need. Not to mention it’s amazing health benefits, which including reducing blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels. If you don’t use enough to buy fresh garlic, check the freezer section in the supermarket as you can often buy it there. Alternatively, mince your own garlic, freeze it in teaspoon-sized lumps on a parchment-lined tray and then pop it in a freezer bag. It’ll keep for months and you can literally just throw it into any pan or dish frozen.
Another money saver, rice lasts in the cupboard for a really long time, it’s filling and is good for you. From providing energy to helping controlling blood pressure, rice is definitely a staple worth having. If you can, go for unrefined rice such as wholegrain or brown rice.
🍝 Wholegrain Pasta
Pasta is a great staple to have for those days you forget to get the meat out of the freezer or if you’re just in a rush. Using wholegrain pasta, over white pasta gives you more fibre, so is a lot healthier.
🫑 Frozen vegetables
Having a few bags of frozen vegetables in your freezer is a cost-effective way of making sure you have veg in your diet regularly. It also means less waste if you only use what you need and aren’t throwing away fresh veg at the end of the week because it didn’t get used. It’s also a quick way to get your five-a-day. Good ones to have are onions, peppers, peas, sweetcorn, green beans, carrots, and broccoli. Good to add to a traditional plate of meat and veg or chucking into other dishes such as stir-fries, curries, casseroles, etc.
🥭 Dried fruit
Dried fruit is a great snack. It’s also a tasty extra to put into home-made stuff. Dried fruit is surprisingly versatile in that it can be added to curries, casseroles, bread, chutney, jam, porridge, yoghurt, cakes or muesli. Think raisins, apricots, prunes, apple, figs, dates…..
Having a store of these ingredients will go a long way to perking up your meals or being able to create last-minute meals. Once a month check what you’re running low on and top up your cupboard to make sure you’ll always be prepped.