04.Quick and simple meal ideas
Supermarkets have plenty of products that will give you a dinner for less than half the price of a typical takeaway, with no more than 15 minutes’ preparation time. We’ve provided recipes, below, while the Homemade Fast Food table shows comparative costs, nutritional information and preparation times.
Simmer sauce meals
Sauces in a jar (or sometimes a can or plastic pouch) are now a multimillion-dollar industry, and there’s no lack of choice. Chilled sauces have a limited storage life and are more expensive, but you may prefer their flavour. For Asian dishes, you can use precooked rice that comes in a sealed plastic pouch and only needs a quick zap in the microwave.
In the Homemade Fast Food table we’ve included a Thai chicken curry, Indian-style butter chicken and tomato-based spaghetti napoletana, all made following the instructions on the jar. You can easily give the nutritional quality a boost by adding some frozen mixed vegetables. Pappadums can be microwaved to make them crisp – and they then have a lot less fat than the restaurant version.
Heat-and-eat whole meals
Frozen Despite the convenience of frozen meals, some of them are only marginally cheaper than their takeaway equivalents – and nutritionally can be much the same.
Shelf-stable meals These are a relatively new product and you’ll find only a limited range of dishes (in the table we’ve included spaghetti bolognaise and a butter chicken curry). They’re complete meals sealed in one or two plastic pouches that you reheat in the microwave. They don’t require refrigeration (unless opened) and have a shelf life (at room temperature) of about a year.
Home cooking in a flash
Here are three easy meals that take less than 15 minutes to prepare and cost less than half the price of a typical takeaway.
- Cook pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
- While it’s cooking, lightly fry chopped onion (frozen) and garlic (from a jar) in a little olive oil.
- Open a can of good-quality chopped tomatoes or half a bottle of passata and pour into the frying pan.
- Add some fresh or dried herbs, such as basil, oregano or Italian herb mix.
- Simmer briefly.
- Drain the pasta, put into serving bowls and top with the tomato mixture.
- Serve with a little parmesan.
- Note: Check the nutrition information panel when buying canned tomatoes, as some brands contain added sodium.
- Spread pasta or pizza sauce (from a jar) on pita bread, wraps or a good-quality pizza base.
- Sprinkle on some oregano, maybe add a few olives or button mushrooms and top with grated mozzarella cheese. Chopped onion, capsicum and fresh tomato are also good additions.
- Cook in a hot oven (about 220˚C) until the cheese is brown and bubbly – about 8-10 minutes.
- Top with fresh basil leaves, if desired.
Note: To make your own pizza sauce, combine 1 small can of diced tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 clove garlic crushed, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, salt and pepper. Leftovers can be frozen for your next pizza.
- Empty a packet of precooked hokkien noodles into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave them to sit for a couple of minutes.
- Heat a wok or large frying pan and add chopped barbecued chicken meat and frozen or fresh stir-fry vegetables (fresh are the pre-cut, packaged version from the refrigerated vegetable section of your supermarket).
- Stir until warmed thoroughly.
- Drain the noodles and add to the wok or pan and mix through.
- Add a little sesame oil and salt-reduced soy sauce for flavour.