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Karen Inge’s tips for planning healthy and affordable meals in lockdown

Dee Dee Dunleavy
Article image for Karen Inge’s tips for planning healthy and affordable meals in lockdown

By Karen Inge

A new VicHealth survey has revealed one-in-two Victorians started meal planning during the coronavirus pandemic, and almost one-in-three have been cooking more dinners at home, as the financial strain of the pandemic hits.

With Stage Three and Stage Four restrictions now in place across the state, VicHealth and Nutrition Australia have unveiled a new website, Cook Well, Eat Well, to ensure Victorians are supported to make easy, affordable and nourishing meals.

The site features a range of free healthy eating resources, including simple recipes and videos, for Victorians to use and for organisations to share with their communities.

Press PLAY below for Karen’s tips.

Karen’s tips to help you plan and prepare healthy food:

Tip 1: Design nutritious meals

We all need to do some meal planning and think about what we are going to be eating over the next week. Taking the time to do this will make it easier to keep your shopping times to a minimum, and if you order online it will make the ordering much simpler.

To ensure you are getting the right balance of foods each week for all the family check out:

You may find these links useful too:

These simple steps to planning a balanced meal are very helpful.
And use these strategies to create or adapt meals to improve their nutritional profile.

Planning healthy snacks: snacks for every occasion

Tip 2: Plan your menu and the ingredients you need for a week, so you only buy what you need

Identify alternatives for some items that may not be available, and choose some long-life options, canned or frozen ingredients. Spread the load, so everyone in the family is involved in preparing, cooking, serving and cleaning up.

  • Use what you’ve already got: If you’ve lots of pasta in the pantry, purchase ingredients for a range of tomato, vegetable and herb sauces. Or, if there’s lots of flour, try baking fresh bread or rolls – the prep time is short, it’s only the proving that takes time and that can be done overnight.
  • Try different cuisines: Take your tastebuds on a journey, without leaving home, by planning theme nights with classic dishes from other countries, with the whole family preparing new recipes together. Create a themed playlist and decorate the table according to the theme.
  • Get creative with herbs and spices: Develop taste sensations with combinations of spices and herbs, rather than using creamy sauces for flavour for chicken or seafood.
  • Buy enough fresh produce: Make sure your shopping list includes enough fresh, frozen or canned vegetables and fruit for everyone, every day (Frozen food is equally nutritious as fresh, and canned beans, lentils and chickpeas are nutritious, inexpensive additions to meals).
  • Plan snacks: It’s easy to feel bored at home, so you don’t want to be reaching for high fat or sugar snacks. Consider nutritious snacks like nuts, popcorn (you pop yourself), pita chips (made by cutting pita bread into triangles and sprinkling with lemon pepper or parmesan cheese and toasting in the oven), vegetable chips you make yourself using kale or other vegetables), fresh or canned fruit in water, or raw veggie slices/sticks with a natural yoghurt dip. If you prepare your own snacks, aim for options like vegetable muffins, home made biscuits with oats or nuts. And if you do have some ‘treat’ snacks, make sure you don’t put them all out at once. Keep most inaccessible (e.g. many biscuit doughs freeze well, so only cook a limited amount at a time; if you make cupcakes, freeze most, then defrost only what you need).

So, eat well and stay well!

Dee Dee Dunleavy