Your goto fridge essentials for healthy lunch ideas

A lunch-ready cupboard – the goal of all kitchen owners…

Not really, you’re probably more bothered about having enough countertop space or making sure you’ve got somewhere to put the wine rack, which are all very sensible and reasonable goals. However, we would ask you to set them aside for a moment and consider how well your store cupboards are stocked.

In my wildest dreams, I have a walk-in pantry a la Nigella, with shelves of tins and jars and packets just waiting to fall into my pots and pans so we could make beautiful meals together…ahem….sorry…back to the point….

No such pantry exists, but my cupboards are full of the items below, and having them to hand means that I can take the simplest of ingredients and craft them into something interesting every lunch time.

Grains and Pulses

Carbs get a bad name. But if you actually want to have energy to, you know, do things, then including them in your meals is advised. But take care: go for whole grains which take longer to break down (giving you more energy over a longer time frame and no spikes in blood sugar) and haven’t had most of the nutrients stripped out.

Pasta (of all shapes and sizes)

Noodles (which cook quicker and can be added to soups)

Short grain brown rice (which we love to mix with miso paste for a sticky, umami hit)

Quinoa (high in protein and nutty in flavour)

Couscous (quick and easy to prepare, and light and fluffy to eat)

Pulses are a sure-fire source of protein, as well as many other vitamins and minerals. They are great to bulk out meals, and add bite to things like soups and stews.

Red lentils (quick to cook and great for dips)

Chickpeas (you can make your own hummus, or you can coat them in coconut oil and paprika and roast them for a tasty snack!)

Sauces and seasonings:

These are the grace notes; the final flourishes that take your lunch from boring to brilliant. The more you use them, the more you’ll work out which you love and which you’re not so keen on, and also how much you prefer to use. Recipes are only ever a guide to help you discover your own path. But, if you want to be properly equipped on said path (and to enjoy the yummy recipes on this site), you need these!

Coconut milk – a dairy-free way of creating creamy sauces, and an Asian flavour.

Tinned tomatoes – if you take the time to break these down into a sauce you’d never know they weren’t fresh.

Pesto – this little green jar is the easiest possible way to go from “plain pasta for lunch sucks” to “wow, I appear to have become Italian”.

Soy sauce – we use this in marinades, and to add to noodles.

Olive oil – Dressings, marinades, drizzled over salads or pasta, or just for pan frying, this is an essential essential for your kitchen!

Cider vinegar – this is a really useful, and long lasting cheat for when you’ve forgotten to put fresh lemons or limes on the shopping list. It does exactly the same thing won’t go mouldy in the fruit bowl if you forget about it.

Miso paste – giving you an umami flavour, miso is so tasty in sauces and mixed with sticky rice. It’s also fermented, and fermented foods are brilliant probiotics for your immune system. Try our tasty pan-fried prawns and miso rice recipe here. 

Chilli flakes – how much of this you use is definitely personal preference, but just a sprinkle can liven up veg, or soup easily.

Harissa paste – this is great in marinades, to give a fuller flavour.

Sea salt and black pepper – a simple and well-known way to bring out the natural flavour of the food you’re cooking.

And then we have something that doesn’t fit into either of these categories (and you don’t know how much that annoys me!): tuna! Tuna is such a useful tin to have in your cupboard.

If you’re feeling particularly flustered you can mix it with some mayonnaise and shove it on top of a jacket potato, or add it to some green salad, with some capers for something lighter.

IT’s a really easy and healthy protein to have on hand. And yes, if you have to, you can put it in a sandwich…but we’d rather you didn’t!

So, there you have it: combine these with your fridge heroes and you’re pretty much sorted for a week of glorious lunches, and the opportunity to explore some new and interesting flavours. Walk-in pantry optional!