A drought, increasing prices of electricity and water and a weak Rand have caused local food prices to soar. The South African Reserve Bank has estimated that local food price inflation will rise by 11% in 2016. This is the highest food price inflation since 2014.
Higher prices means that budgets are tighter, and grocery lists need to be adjusted.
Healthy eating does not always have to be expensive or comprise of speciality food items. As demonstrated in this book, it’s possible to make healthy meals using low-budget pantry staples.
Below are 9 of our top low-budget pantry staples
Low-Budget Pantry Staples
The less processed the oats, the better they are. Ideally you want to select rolled or steel cut oats, but regular oats will do. What you must avoid is instant oats as they often come with added sugars and artificial flavours.
Oats can be used for your morning meal. Make them hot or cold, sweet or savoury. Add them to a smoothie for added fibre. Use them to make cookies, muffins or breads or grind them up to create your own oat flour.
You can purchase chickpeas dried or canned. Dried chickpeas are cheaper than canned; however they can take hours to cook. Canned chickpeas are great for last minute dishes. They’re a good source of protein and can be used to make vegetable burgers, healthy croutons, adding bulk to salads and soups, or creating dips and more.
Lentils are the cheapest source of protein and they add bulk to any dish, instantly making it more filling.
Green, brown and black lentils retain their shape and sturdiness after cooking, meaning they work well in stews, salads, in tacos (as the protein) and can be turned into patties. Red lentils get soft and mushy during cooking so are best for soups and dips.
- Canned Tomatoes
The price of fresh tomatoes can fluctuate a lot. When they’re not on your budget, choose canned. Canned tomatoes are great additions for thick, chunky soups, stews and curries. A can of tomatoes (choose either chopped or whole) combined with chillies, some spices and herbs -cooked down can quickly become a delicious and healthy sauce for pizza or pasta.
- Canned Tuna
Canned tuna in water is a great source of protein for a small budget. Add to salads, sandwiches or try out budget Tuna Nicoise Salad (available in the Healthy Eating on a Budget Recipe e-Book)
- Dried Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices are essential to any pantry. They have the ability to completely transform a dish and add a huge amount of flavour. They also have an incredibly long shelf life and a small amount is all you need to ‘spice’ up any dish. Aside from the essential black pepper and salt these are our most used spices:
Mixed / Italian Herbs
There are dozens of varieties of rice, but when it comes to using rice as a side dish your best bet budget wise are the basics; White rice or brown rice.
Brown rice is perceived as being the healthier option. However the differences between the two are that the germ and bran of the grain is removed in the milling process (making it white), essentially removing the insoluble fibre. Brown rice is lower GI than white and because it contains more fibre, will make you feel fuller.
If you’re not a rice fan, other budget friendly staple grains are couscous, millet (a great low priced gluten free grain) or pasta.
Not a pantry item per se, eggs are a basic essential (unless you’re vegan). Eggs contain the highest biological value for protein making them an excellent protein choice. They can be made in countless of ways and can be used for any meal or snack. Their binding abilities also make them crucial in baking.
- Peanut Butter
The humblest of nut butters, peanut butter is not only for sandwiches. We use it in baking (Peanut Butter cookies) and dressings (Peanut Sauce). When selecting peanut butter, look at the ingredients – ideally you only want peanuts and salt – no added sugar or oil.
Zissy is the co-founder of Nutreats. She likes to make things, do things and wear things.