Last week we looked at the importance of frugality. Putting this into practice will be the focus of today. Changing the way you eat and increasing the helpful information we have about food will benefit us inside-out.

Buying ingredients for a meal most often works out cheaper than buying ready made products. Preparing a few vegetable sides is both healthier, fresher and cheaper than buying frozen, microwavable medleys. Just two vege is enough, try to get two different colours though. We do eat far too much meat as a society. There use to be so many, tasty, cheap ‘meat-free’ meals. Don’t think vegetarian or you will give yourself and your family a headache. Macaroni and cheese is a great example; just cooked macaroni tossed with fresh diced tomatoes, shredded quality cheese, and a little ham, bacon or onion, then baked until the top is crisp. You can add garden fresh herbs if you are lucky enough to have them and maybe a few whisked eggs to increase the protein. Or you could even add a can of beans! With a salad of dressed lettuce leaves you have two vege already, counting the tomatoes.

I you are vegetarian then make sure you get enough protein through easy, cheap sources such as beans, chick peas, nuts and organic soy products. Mac’n’cheese is just as easy to make vego or even vegan by blending tofu/cashews with a little corn flour and hot soy milk or vegetable stock and using this as the ‘cheese’. Then just add heaps of your favourite diced vegetables and some beans.

Some convenience products are indispensable: tinned tomatoes, various tinned beans and chickpeas, stock cubes, some tinned fruits, quality dried pastas, caned fish, a selection of really nice spice pastes and sauces, jars of pickles/olives, and some different breads in the freezer. With these in your pantry it is easy to whip up a meal with hardly anything in the fridge. For example blend a can of chickpeas with a clove of garlic, sesame seeds, lemon juice and oil. Adding herbs if you have them. Heat up some bread such as flat bread or sourdough and make a platter of hummus (the blended chickpeas), bread, olives, salad greens, hard boiled eggs and whatever vegetables you have in the fridge (tomato wedges, carrot or celery sticks). Or, cook a pack of pasta and toss with canned tuna/salmon, a diced onion, a tin of tomatoes and cheese or whisked eggs. Add the zest of a lemon if you have it, or fresh basil. Bake and serve with a vegetable or salad side.

Always make sure that the convenience products you have are of quality: no additives, no added salt or sugar. Tinned tomatoes should be local or from Italy. Some of the cheapest brands are the best. Tinned fruit is best in its own juice rather than syrup. I only buy sustainable canned fish, which is so expensive its a rare treat. Good bread, sliced or separated with paper on the day it is bought tastes as fresh as the day it was frozen, so take out a few slices and freeze the rest! Olives in oil, mean you can use the oil for cooking. Even good quality pickles can make a taste and health treat. Hard to find are ‘lactic fermented’ pickles, they give your tummy the same good bacteria boost of live yogurt.

My most important convenience food is eggs. Quality, free range, preferably organic, local eggs are my staple. We don’t necessarily eat them everyday, but they are the most versatile food there is. They add protein, they bind, they fluff things up and they fill my up!

Lastly I will leave you with a note to make a plan. The only way to shop and cook effectively is to do a little planning. Either stop daily on your way home and pick up just what you need for that nights dinner and fruit for the next day. Or plan a few days in advance. When you know what meal you are buying food for, you will have less waste. Try to use leftovers the very next day rather than letting them accumulate in the fridge to be tossed. The best use is lunches, you or your partner or even the kids can take just about any dinner for lunch. Either make sandwiches with leftover meats and use vege in that nights salad or pack it up as portions to be microwaved.