How to make the most of the canned staples in your pantry for healthy family meals

Posted: Dec 14 2020

A well-stocked pantry is one of the best ways to set yourself up for success in the kitchen. It also means you’re more likely to live a healthy lifestyle! However, with a pantry full of food it’s hard to know where to start. Here are our tips for using those pantry staples to create meals you and your family will love.

Pantry staples

Be versatile

We all have that one go-to meal that we rely on when we haven’t planned dinner, the fridge is empty and we need to get something on the table quickly (…two minute noodles anyone?). Unfortunately for many of us this situation happens a little too often and we end up eating the same thing over and over again, affecting not only our food enjoyment but also our nutrition and our health. Next time you’re scrounging through the pantry for a last-minute dinner, look away from the noodles and towards other pantry ingredients like canned legumes, canned tomatoes and canned fish.

Canned legumes

Canned legumes like lentils, chickpeas and beans are extremely versatile making it easy to create a delicious meal no matter which type you have on hand. They’re also a great source of complex carbohydrates, fibre and plant-based protein meaning they keep you full and regular! Legumes are earthy and textural but they also absorb flavour well. Lentils make a great substitute for minced meat in dishes like Bolognese, lasagne or nachos. Black beans and pinto beans are perfect for any Mexican-inspired dishes such as burritos, tacos or enchiladas. Cannellini beans make incredible soups, dips and stews. Mixed beans are a welcomed addition to almost any salad and chickpeas are a great all-rounder, perfect for hummus, falafels or roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper for a healthy and tasty snack.

Canned tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are one of the most versatile ingredients. No matter whether yours are whole, diced, crushed, or pureed, there are plenty of ways to use tomatoes that go well beyond the basic pasta sauce. For the ultimate breakfast or brunch, look no further than homemade baked beans or a rich and spicy shakshuka (baked eggs in tomato sauce). For lunch or dinner, canned tomatoes make a great base for a variety of soups, curries, stews and braises.

Canned fish

Canned fish like tuna, salmon, mackerel and anchovies are rich in protein and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids and can be used to create a range of delicious, healthy and budget-friendly meals. If you’re tired of the same old tuna sandwich then try using canned fish to make:

  • Fish cakes
  • Fish burgers or fish pie
  • Add sardines to your standard bruschetta for a real Spanish treat
  • Use anchovies in your next pasta dish for a real flavour punch.

Best before vs use by

How many times have you pulled an old dusty can out of your pantry, seen that it has passed its best before date and thrown it straight into the bin? Australians throw away over three million tonnes of edible food each year, or more than 20 per cent of the food from their weekly grocery shop! That’s a lot of food (and money) being wasted. The lack of knowledge around food labelling, particularly surrounding the use by and best before dates means that many people are mistakenly throwing perfectly edible food in the bin.

To avoid unnecessary food wastage, it’s important to understand what the date actually means. A use by date, which is generally found on perishable items such as meat and dairy, gives you an idea of how long the food can be consumed before it becomes unsafe. On the other hand, a best before date is about quality rather than food safety. Foods that have exceeded their best before date are still perfectly safe to eat but the quality of the food might have changed, for example it may be less fresh or less flavourful.

So, the next time you see a food has passed its best before date, instead of throwing it out use it as inspiration to cook up a delicious new recipe to add to your (growing) repertoire!

Look before you buy!

Finally, you may be familiar with the saying ‘don’t go to the shops on an empty stomach’ to avoid over purchasing, but similarly, don’t go to the shops without being familiar with what is in your pantry! Scan your eyes over your pantry before you leave home and write a list of what you have and what you need. This way you may find inspiration to use what you have and avoid overstocking your pantry.

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Posted: Dec 14 2020


The information contained here is of a general nature and does not take into account your personal medical situation. The information is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or used for therapeutic purposes. Should you require specific medical information, please seek advice from your healthcare practitioner. Health Partners does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information provided. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them.

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