When you’re busy juggling work and family, eating well, especially at home, can be a challenge. Shopping for groceries is a chore — not to mention the actual slicing, dicing and cooking that comes with putting together a decent meal.
That’s why it’s good to have these 10 items stashed in your freezer or in the pantry. They all have a decent shelf life and are super convenient to use. Think of them as healthy “fast food”.
Have you ever bought a week’s supply of fresh vegetables and fruits with plans to meal prep at home, only to see them wilting and rotting due to a change in your schedule?
Switch instead of buying selected frozen vegetables such as broccoli, edamame, diced carrots, sweet corn kernels. These are easily blanched and added to soups and salads. Choose fruit like raspberries, blueberries and diced mangoes that can pair with other frozen veggies like kale in a smoothie.
The advantage of frozen vegetables and fruits is that they are harvested at their prime, then flash-frozen to preserve the nutrients. They can be stored in the freezer for a longer period of time as compared to their fresh counterparts. If you did buy fresh and can’t stand to see the waste, then set aside an hour to wash and chop your purchases, store them in a Ziploc bag and stash them away in the freezer so you can use them later.
Available in various forms (canned, carton, cubes, powder) and made with various ingredients (chicken, beef, pork, vegetable); stock is used mainly for making soups and sauces. These are perfect for a quick meal like a simple noodle soup or clear vegetable soup. They can also be added to pasta sauces and stir-fried for an umami taste.
Do check the ingredient list when choosing stock powder to ensure you buy one that has the most natural ingredients. Chose one without MSG, additives, preservatives and artificial flavourings. If you want to control the saltiness, go for powder it’s easier to work with and adjust as you go along. These also last longer as they’re dehydrated, as opposed to a liquid stock that must be used within a few days of opening.
Oats are among the healthiest grains and contain important vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. They are a complex carbohydrate that keeps you full for a longer period of time by providing a slow release of energy. Low on the glycemic index, oats make a nutrient-dense and delicious breakfast to kick-start the day, and are way better than the sugar-laden, store-bought cereals.
An easy recipe is overnight oats, which just requires you to soak rolled oats in soy milk, adding a sprinkling of chia seeds for a bigger protein boost. For sweetness, add in diced apples and a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup.
A nourishing soup makes a hearty and nutritious meal, and is a good way to get your five-a-day (the daily recommendation of veg and fruits) if you select healthy options such as minestrone or vegetable soup. A far cry from their canned counterparts, ready-to-eat soups tend to be generously filled with wholesome ingredients and made without preservatives. They are usually pasteurised and sealed for the chiller section.
With a short shelf life of weeks instead of years, the new generation of gourmet soups are tastier and healthier, and pretty close to what you would make it at home. The only difference is you just need to heat it up and serve. Always keep a few packs at home for those long days when you can’t face spending time in front of the stove.
Rich in potassium, vitamins and anti-oxidants, the banana is a nutritious and versatile fruit to keep at home. Low in calories and almost fat-free, it makes a good pre- and post-workout snack, thanks to the boost of energy it provides. Sliced bananas can be added to breakfast cereals or serve as a quick and portable snack on the go.
Depending on how ripe they are when you buy them, you can usually keep them for a few days at room temperature, but the warmer the temperature, the quicker they’ll ripen. Put them in the fridge to slow down the ripening process. You can also freeze banana slices to add to smoothies or make single-ingredient ice cream by putting frozen banana slices into a food processor, or through a slow juicer.
There’s truth in the old Welsh saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” because apples are extremely rich in antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins and dietary fibre. The long list of its health benefits includes lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and hypertension. What’s also impressive is its long shelf life of up to 1-2 months if kept refrigerated, and its versatility as an ingredient.
You can eat it on the go or use it in your morning juice (recipes here) or smoothies. Dice them and add them to your cereals or yoghurt, or slice them to use in your salads. Stew them, add a spice like cinnamon, and you’ve got a dessert at hand.
Soy is quite a wonder bean among its peers because it contains all of the essential amino acids that make up a complete plant-based protein. Drinking soy milk easily helps you meet your protein needs, while boosting calcium and iron intake.
It is a great alternative for those who are lactose intolerant, allergic to dairy, dislike the taste of milk or are vegans. Not all soy milk is created equal, though.
Good ones to go for are unsweetened, organic and non-GMO. Opt for powder as it is easier to store than liquid and has a longer shelf life.
This pungent bulb has a long history of medicinal use and its list of health benefits includes boosting the immune system, reducing blood pressure, lowering the risk of heart disease and inhibiting the growth of cancer.
If, like many Singaporeans, you love garlic but are not a fan of chopping, the convenient way to store and eat garlic is to buy it ready-chopped. It keeps well in the fridge for weeks and is a great time saver during cooking prep.
However, if you are a purist, then (truth be told) pre-chopped garlic can’t beat the taste of freshly minced. But whole garlic bulbs can be kept for months and are a good staple in the pantry because they’re great as a flavouring for any type of cuisine.
Not only does lemon make you drink more water with its refreshing taste, it is high in vitamin C, helps the body to detox and aids in digestion. Besides adding it to water, you can also use lemon juice to make a simple three-ingredient salad dressing, along with olive oil and salt. Whole lemons can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 months and sliced lemons for 2-3 days.
A little goes a long way when it comes to nuts and a handful of these daily (approximately 30 grams) offer lots of health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. The healthy fats in nuts help to make you feel full longer and are a great natural appetite suppressant.
Certain nuts such as almonds are also a good source of calcium and protein and make great healthy snack substitutes over the usual tea break suspects of muffins, pastries, cookies and chocolates. A quick breakfast of nuts and soy milk can also work when you’re in a rush.
Text: Marie Choo
This post was updated on August 23, 2020.