Some people meal plan and stick to that plan. Others make a flexible plan and some people don’t plan at all. Whether you are a planner or not, there are some days where you open the fridge and think “oh no, not much in here, what’s for dinner?” (or lunch or breakfast or snack). You’d be surprised how many meals you can make with seemingly nothing! And magicking a meal is a useful skill to have, to save time, money, food and stress. Here’s how…
Meals that you can make from an empty fridge, as if by magic!
Ever opened up the fridge at the end of a long week and thought to yourself “I have nothing to cook!” We have all been there, here are some ideas and tips how to make a balanced meal out of seemingly nothing!
Step 1: Consult the fridge and freezer (for a protein)
Your fridge and freezer are your best friend for finding filling ingredients as well as giving you the opportunity to limit waste. Use up those foods before they go off!
Some useful fridge and freezer finds:
Meats: Beef, Kangaroo, Fish, Chicken
Alternatives: Eggs, Fish, Tofu, Milk and Cheeses
No luck in the fridge? In the panty you might find tuna, baked beans, chickpeas, lentils, blackbeans, red kidney beans or nuts or seeds (although nuts and seeds last better when kept in the fridge if you have room).
Step 2: Add some colour
Just because you’re throwing a meal together doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Nothing makes a dish look more appealing than a contrast of colours. Consult your fridge crisper, freezer and cupboards. Veggies can be mixed into the dishes, or served on the side or possibly both, you are in charge!
What colours will you choose?
Reds and purples: Fresh and/or canned tomatoes (these are lifesavers, useful in stocks/soups/sauces), capsicum, beetroot, and red kidney beans
Orange: carrots, sweet potato and lentils
White and yellows: capsicum, cauliflower, potato, onion, canned or fresh corn, chickpeas, cannellini and bortolli beans
Green: Spinach, peas, green beans, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, zucchini and frozen edamame
Or why not all? Think mixed frozen vegetables, mixed beans and salad kits
(P.S.A Low on veg? Add fruit instead)
Step 3: Consult your pantry (for a grainy food)
Adding grains to a dish is so useful. Grains (go for whole grain if you can) helps bulk out meals, giving it this hearty and satiating quality to so many dishes.
Some useful pantry options: pasta, *rice/rice noodles, cous cous, polenta, quinoa, bread, wraps, rolls, pita, crackers
*Rice is such a staple of so many dishes and cultures, here’s a mini guide to match rice to the meal (or go rogue):
- White and brown long grain rice: good for salads, stir fry’s, casseroles, stews and pilaffs
- White and brown medium grain rice (alborio rice): good for Paella’s and risotto’s
- Basmati: good for fried rice, stir fry’s and curries
Step 4: Up the flavour
One of the key steps to cooking is making meals that taste good. Flavour up your meal with sauces, stocks, coconut milk, herbs and spices (fresh, frozen or dried, so
many delicious options). Here’s some flavour inspiration:
- Cumin, paprika, chilli, salt, pepper and garlic flavours up some chicken, lentil
and beef tacos
- Rosemary and garlic flavours up a roast lamb, beef and potatoes
- Garlic, basil and chilli flakes flavours up a tomato sauce
- Thyme, parsley and lemon flavours up any seafood dish
- Butter or vinegar flavours up a white sauce
- Lemon, Dijon or balsamic vinegar flavour up some roasted vegetables and
- Soy, honey, ginger and garlic makes a great stir fry sauce (recipe)
Make it fun and throw away meal rules
We sometimes feel the pressure to eat meals at a particular time because it’s considered a breakfast option or a lunch option. Why? Get adventurous, why not have a breakfast dinner and get some creativity and throw a dish together that’s outside the box. No food rules here.
Make a tapas bar
If you don’t have enough food to make one traditional meal why not make a tapas bar, filled with sides and snacks instead? That way you can pick a little bit of each and use up those leftovers. Think toasted breads and/or wraps, a bowl of salad or a side of your favourite cooked vegetables, warmed beans or leftover shredded chicken.
Last month we chatted about foods we always have on hand. Take a read here, as these are items that heap us magic up meals.
Here are some of our favourite meals from nothing:
- tuna pasta bake (often I add veg to the side instead of mixed in)
- lentil bolognese
- baked beans on toast with carrot sticks
- pasta with cheese and frozen veg (or an apple)
- eggs and avo on toast
- cheese toasties with canned tomato soup
- peanut butter and banana on toast
- ham, cheese, tomato and spinach on pancakes
Try making a list of your favourite meals from what’s on hand.