3 April 2020
With the majority of adults and children across the UK now staying at home, we’re having all of our meals and snacks in the house instead of at work, school or out and about. Many of us might be feeling like we’re running out of ideas for what to prepare next, or may be worried about whether our favourite staples will be on the shelves next time we shop. To help take the stress out of meal planning in these unprecedented times, here are some easily digestible tips and inspiration for making healthy meals.
Shop for variety
Having a variety and balance of foods is the foundation of a healthy diet. If you’re out shopping, look for a selection of foods across the main food groups: fruit and vegetables; starchy foods, like pasta and grains; protein foods, including beans and lentils; and dairy or plant-based alternatives. There may be items available that you don’t usually buy and now is a great time to give them a try.
Use up forgotten ingredients
Don’t forget what you may already have at the back of your kitchen cupboard! Now may finally be the time to utilise that pack of lentils or can of mackerel that you never got round to eating – you could even try doing an inventory of what you’ve got so you can look for recipes and make a plan. If you’ve got a few packets with just a little bit left of foods, like pasta or rice, think creatively to use them up – for example, using the last bit of rice to bulk out a homemade soup.
Substitute pasta, rice and grains
We all know that pasta and rice are popular staples and, as such, have sometimes been selling out far quicker than other products in the shops. Try using what is available, for example bulgur wheat, quinoa, barley, couscous and noodles. Prepared packs of grains may also be easier to find on the shelves and, although usually more expensive than their dried counterparts, can provide a quick and convenient meal option.
Looking up new recipes is a great way to be inspired in the kitchen, but for those wanting something familiar, it’s good to know pasta and rice can be swapped by these alternative ingredients. Good examples of this include combining couscous with a Bolognese sauce, or having quinoa or bulgur wheat with stir fried vegetables.
Canned fish and vegetables can be just as nutritious as fresh
Canned goods come in all varieties and, although some (such as sweetcorn and tuna) may sell out quickly, it is definitely worth considering other canned foods. Sardines, mackerel and salmon all count as oily fish and are rich in protein, omega-3 and vitamin D. Serve on top of salads or toast, or if you prefer something more subtle, they can be added to sauces or made into dips.
Canned peas, carrots and spinach are all nutritious and versatile, and why not try something new like heart of palm or artichokes if these are more readily available? Add canned vegetables straight into curries and stews to bulk out your meals. Canned pulses like kidney beans or chickpeas are also a quick, nutritious addition to things like pasta sauces or salads.
Nuts butters have a good source of micronutrients such as magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, vitamin E and B vitamins, and they are also high in fibre too. Add them to Asian inspired noodle dishes or curries, or just have them with fruit or wholemeal bread as a tasty snack.
Although a large portion of the UK is now spending time at home, this does not necessarily mean more spare time is available to them. With many people now juggling working from home, looking after relatives and home schooling, trying to find the time to prepare meals can be a challenge.
Making a plan for what you’re going to have for each meal for the next few days, or for the week, could really help you work out how best to use the ingredients you’ve got, and what else you may need. If you’ve got the space to do so, cooking and freezing portions using the ingredients you have available to you is a great way of managing your meal preparation around whatever is going on in the house, while cutting down on waste too.
Use our blank Weekly Meal Planner to help you plan your meals for the week ahead.