Eat well for less
How to balance your diet – and your budget
Food and drink editor Alison Oakervee shares some of her favourite frugal and nutritious buys from the frozen and tinned food aisles – and recipes to use them in. You can now add ingredients to your trolley straight from the recipe pages.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR FREEZER
Stocking up on frozen vegetables is an easy way to your 5 a day. Ready-peeled, podded or chopped for convenience, veg is frozen at its peak, locking in nutrients and flavour. For something super-speedy, consider a vegetable medley – they’re good value, because you’ll only use what you need and avoid unnecessary waste.
Similarly, our bags of Essential chicken fillets and thighs, from birds reared on high welfare farms, make it easy to use as little as you need. And if I’m watching the pennies, I often swap cod and haddock with these responsibly sourced Essential Coley Fillets.
Essential grilled vegetable mix
Keep a bag of this handy mix in the freezer for when you need grilled veg fast. It’s ideal for this speedy spaghetti recipe, which is on the table in 15 minutes.
This frozen blend of onions, celery and carrots is pre-diced – a ready-made base for many a dish including soups, stews, bolognese sauce, and an ingredient in this speedy lasagne. You can also find bags of diced onions and shallots in the freezer at Waitrose.
Most people have a bag in their freezer – and for good reason. They’re versatile, and easy to add to a curry, risotto or sauce for a pop of colour or sweetness. Try them in this recipe, which is high in omega 3 and provides 2 of your 5 a day.
Whole leaf spinach
Spinach is a reliable freezer friend, because it releases less water when cooked from frozen. Use it to replace fresh in recipes such as this quick, veg-packed supper.
Cooks’ Ingredients frozen Thai
green herb portions
These clever herb portions are flavour powerhouses, which bring the signature tastes of Thailand to green curries and soups. Try it in this recipe for Thai green hake, which is packed with protein.
High in protein and made from responsibly caught cod pieces, the traditional freezer filler can be more than a kids’ meal. In this high-protein recipe it’s been given a makeover in tacos with pea and mint salsa.
Berry smoothie mix
Frozen fruit mixes are a handy way of keeping a variety of different prepared fruits on hand all year round. Use straight from the freezer for your morning smoothie, or defrost and use in bakes and desserts. I love this recipe for breakfast smoothie bowls – they’re nutritious, but feel like a bit of a treat, too.
Chopped herbs and spices
Doing the same job as their fresh counterparts, these frozen flavourings such as chopped coriander and basil are great time-savers – and good value because you use only the amount you need. The range also includes jalapenos and semi-dried tomatoes. Use the garlic and ginger in place of fresh in a stir fry or a curry like this one.
CAN DO WITH TINNED FOODS
Canned foods are a convenient and affordable way to add more fruit, veg, fish and pulses to your menu. As with frozen, they’re picked and packed at peak freshness, preserving nutrients and flavour. It’s important to remember that beans and pulses often count as 1 of your 5 a day.
A source of omega-3 fatty acids and rich in protein, sardines make for a surprisingly filling heart-healthy meal. This recipe uses Essential canned sardines along with fragrant fennel for a quick, delicious meal.
Canned beans and pulses are good sources of protein and fibre. Add a tin of cannellini beans to leftover greens to make this quick, tasty dish.
These hearty legumes are a great source of fibre. You can add a drained can to most stews and casseroles, such as this easy and tasty chicken stew recipe, which is low in saturated fat. They’re great for virtuous snacking, too – I toss them with oil, paprika, cumin and coriander, and roast them until crisp.
Canned lentils are a handy store-cupboard hero – use them in place of dried to save time, and as they're already cooked, you can add them towards the end of cooking time. They add fibre to any dish and make meat go further in stews, casseroles and pasta sauces. Try them in this speedy couscous recipe – on the table in 15 minutes.