A well-stocked pantry can be your greatest ally when crafting delicious meals that are budget-friendly. Whether cooking for a crowd or enjoying a mid-week meal, these five essential staples will help you create tasty and satisfying dishes without overspending.
It’s a nutritional powerhouse and pantry champion. Rice is a staple food for many people around the world, providing both a source of complex carbohydrates and a blank canvas for other flavours.
There are more than 7000 varieties of rice and several colours, shapes, and sizes. The most common varieties we see in Australia are white rice and brown rice. White rice is the most commonly consumed type, but brown rice is also a popular option.
Rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals, brown rice serves as a wholesome base for countless meals. From curries and grain bowls to soups and casseroles, brown rice effortlessly adapts to various cuisines. It’s especially delicious cooked up as a filling for stuffed tomatoes.
Its long shelf life ensures you always have a foundation for nourishing creations, making it an essential ingredient for budget-conscious and health-conscious cooks alike.
A tin of beans is a great add-in to a meal when you’re looking for a quick injection of extra nutrients or more volume. These affordable gems are packed with protein, fibre and essential nutrients, making them a go-to ingredient for both budget and nutritious cooking.
From hearty stews and chilli to vibrant salads and wraps, canned beans effortlessly add substance and flavour to a range of dishes. With an extended shelf life and a wide variety of options such as black beans, cannellini beans and kidney beans, you’ll always have a quick and reliable source of nutrients at your fingertips.
Even baked beans are a great option. They’re full of fibre and protein and are quick to prepare on those days you can’t be bothered cooking.
Just bear in mind that some baked beans can be high in salt. To find lower salt options, look for a sodium level lower than 300mg per 100g.
There are multiple health benefits to oats. First, they have a relatively low glycemic index (GI), meaning they are digested and absorbed more slowly, leading to a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. This slow release of glucose helps stabilise energy levels and can be particularly beneficial for individuals with diabetes or those seeking to manage their blood sugar.
Oats are also rich in beta-glucans, a type of soluble fibre that has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels. Consuming oats regularly can contribute to reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, thus supporting heart health and reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Here are a few ways you can incorporate more oats into your diet:
Porridge: start your day with a comforting bowl of porridge. Add fresh fruits, nuts, seeds, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.
Homemade granola: create your own granola by mixing oats with your favourite nuts, dried fruits, and a touch of sweetener. Bake until golden and enjoy it with milk or yoghurt.
Oat flour: grind oats in a blender to make oat flour, which can be used in baking recipes for pancakes, muffins and cookies, adding a wholesome touch.
Smoothies: add a few tablespoons of oats to your smoothies for extra fibre and a satisfying texture. They blend well and provide a nutritious boost.
Soups and stews: thicken soups and stews by stirring in oats. They release their creamy texture and contribute to a heartier consistency.
Breading: replace breadcrumbs with crushed oats when coating meats or vegetables before baking or frying.
Salad toppers: toast oats in a dry pan and use them as a crunchy topping for salads to add texture and a nutty flavour.
For as little as 17 cents per 100g, they certainly give you great nutritional bang for your buck.
Dried wholemeal pasta
Packed with complex carbohydrates and dietary fibre, wholemeal pasta offers sustained energy and promotes digestive health. Transform it into comforting pasta dishes, stir-fries, or cold salads with an array of vegies, proteins and sauces.
Its nutty flavour adds depth to any creation, and it pairs splendidly with a variety of ingredients. Whole wheat pasta not only supports your health with its nutrient content but also ensures your wallet stays happy, making it an essential staple for budget-friendly and wholesome meals.
“Wholemeal pasta is higher in fibre as it is made from all parts of the grain – bran, endosperm and germ – so it contains more nutrients than grains that have had the bran and germ removed,” says CHOICE food expert Shadia Djakovic, an accredited dietitian and nutritionist.
“Wholegrains contain 26 different nutrients including carbohydrates, protein and minerals, and a variety of phytonutrients.
“Research has shown that wholegrains are better than refined grains for heart health and consuming wholegrains reduces type 2 diabetes risk and total cancer mortality.”
Wheat biscuit cereal
Whether it’s Weet-Bix or a trusted supermarket brand, wheat biscuit cereals have earned their place as a pantry essential. And the rationale behind their popularity is clear – they cost as little as 36 cents per 100g, are brimming with satiating fibre and have a modest sugar content.
They may be associated with breakfast but they are actually very versatile. They can be seamlessly blended into enriching smoothies, incorporated into pastry for savoury quiches, or baked into delectable lunchbox delights, think the iconic Weet-Bix slice.
How many of these items do you have in your pantry? Are there any other pantry staples you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments section below.