Food & Drink


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Convenience food

Australians spend around a third of their household budget for convenience food such as ready-to-eat supermarket meals and take-out.

There are many reasons people cook less often. The lives of people are more hectic. A two-income household may mean that neither spouse has the energy or time to cook every night. People who live alone are more likely to not want to cook.

Convenience foods are often expensive, and they tend to be high in cholesterol and sodium. Fast food is up to 65% more kilojoules than food prepared at home and can be larger in terms of portion sizes. Fast food meals typically contain half of the daily kilojoules required for the day. Many people eat far more kilojoules than they should, and it is not even obvious.

These suggestions might be useful if you don’t have the time or motivation for cooking.

Make sure you have enough food in your pantry

If you don’t have the time or the desire to cook, ordering take-out may be an option. It is important to have long-lasting ingredients that can be mixed in many different ways to make interesting dishes.

Some suggestions:

  • You can buy long-lasting vegetable such as potatoes, pumpkins carrots and onions that can be used to make soups or casseroles.
  • Keep plenty of lentils and chickpeas in your pantry.
  • You can stock a variety of canned fish, including tuna, salmon, and sardines.
  • Tinned tomatoes, tomato paste and tinned corn can be used in pasta sauces, soups, or casseroles.
  • Other long-lasting carbohydrates such as rice (keep different varieties like white, brown and arborio), Asian-type dry pastas, and couscous.
  • Make sure to stock plenty of dried pasta such as spaghetti, fettuccine and spiral varieties.
  • You should keep a stock of canned soups in your pantry.
  • Keep a supply of oils and vinegars such as olive oil, sesame seed oil, balsamic vining and red wine vinegar. These ingredients can be used to make many different salad dressings and marinades, if you add some lemon juice and herbs.
  • Stock dried herbs including basil, mint, coriander and thyme.
  • You can use condiments such as tomato sauce, mustard and mayonnaise.
  • Keep a variety nuts in your pantry – they are a great alternative to meat and can be used to make pasta, salads, or stir-fries.

Use your fridge and freezer to its full potential

You should always keep your freezer and fridge stocked with nutritious food. Take this example:

  • You can buy frozen fruits and vegetables (eg mango, berries). Frozen fruits and vegetables are not as nutritious as you might think.
  • You can buy crushed ginger and garlic in jars, and fresh herbs in tubes that you can keep in the refrigerator.
  • Refrigerated apples, pears, and citrus fruits (eg oranges), have a very long shelf life.
  • You can buy fresh lemon or lime juice in bottles that you can keep in the refrigerator.
  • A good idea is to keep an adequate supply of eggs in your fridge. Eggs can be used to make quick, healthy meals.
  • Marinated tofu can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a year. It is also easy to stir-fry with a few veggies.
  • To extend the shelf life of grated cheese, you can seal it and keep it in the freezer.
  • De-boned meat is best when buying fresh beef . You can divide the amounts into portions that are suitable for a meal and then freeze them separately.
  • Red meat and chicken can be purchased already cut or diced, or marinated.
  • You can buy bread bulk and store it in the freezer until you need it.

For busy people, here are some meal suggestions

These pantry and fridge items can be used to make a variety of main meals, including:

  • stir fries
  • Salads
  • Curries
  • Soups
  • casseroles
  • Stews
  • pasta
  • Risotto

Get more information about healthy cooking tips and recipe suggestions .

These time-saving cooking tips are great for busy people

Some suggestions:

  • Double or quadruple the amount of food you make in the kitchen to maximize your time. You can freeze the rest in portions so you have ready-made meals for later on in the week.
  • Do two things at once – it saves time. You can prepare your pasta sauce while you cook your spaghetti.
  • To save time and wash up, prepare one-pot meals such as soups and risottos.
  • You can microwave food faster than cooking them in the oven. For instructions on how to cook different foods in your microwave, consult your manufacturer.
  • Do not throw away leftovers. Instead, store them in an appropriate manner (refrigerating or freezing) so you can make a quick meal the next morning. You can also make something new with leftovers. For example, you could use pasta sauce to make delicious jaffle filling.
  • You can meal prep the night ahead and turn on the slow cooker while you are at work. Or, you can have the ingredients ready for when you get home.

Find your passion for cooking

People who live alone may not like cooking for themselves. There are many ways to motivate yourself:

  • Invite people over for dinner more often.
  • Offer to come to your friend’s house and cook one night. (Hopefully they will return the favor one night later).
  • Involve your child in cooking classes if they are a part of your family, such as a grandchild or niece or nephew. You can have lots of fun cooking together with your children, as they enjoy the process.
  • A good cookbook or the internet can help you find quick and easy recipes. You may also find easy recipes on some food packets.
  • Consider how much money you will save by cooking instead of buying convenience food. You can use the money you save to treat yourself.

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