Pandemic pantry essentials – tips and tricks that won’t break the budget

Tackling grocery shopping and preparing a ‘pandemic pantry’ for the week can be a daunting task even for confident cooks, let alone people new to preparing three meals a day from scratch.

Our friends at LiveLighter are here to share their healthy tips and swaps to help you feed yourself and loved ones without breaking the bank during these challenging and unique times.

Plan ahead

Before you venture out to the shops, plan what you’ll eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week and add ingredients you need to your shopping list.

Limiting your trips to the supermarket to once a week will help keep track of how much you’re spending, and you’ll also be less likely to make spontaneous purchases (which are often unhealthy).

Hot tip: aim to make one of your meals a bigger cook up and take note of how many serves your recipes make. So, if a recipe, like LiveLighter’s zucchini slice, feeds six people, but only two people are eating, freeze what’s left into portions or have them ready to go for lunch or dinner the next day!

To make planning even easier, LiveLighter has put together a sample weekly menu that includes recipes and ingredients lists for three meals and snack ideas.

Harness your pantry’s nutrient power

Make the most of ingredients you already have in your pantry, freezer and fridge while maximising your nutrition intake! If your pantry is looking a little bare, purchase the below ingredients and set yourself up for a variety of low cost, simple meals.


Red kidney beans or lentils – packed with fibre and protein, this ingredient sets you up with a wide range of recipe options to choose from. LiveLighter’s roasted chickpeas make a filling healthy snack, lentils bulk up their healthy sweet potato and lentil soup and chickpeas shine as a meat alternative in their healthy chickpea burger recipe!

Dried herbs and spices

There are few dishes that don’t benefit from a kick of herbs and spices! The flavour boost in LiveLighter’s chickpea curry is thanks to ground cumin and coriander.

Frozen or canned veggies

While fresh fruit and veg, particularly when in season, is the best option these may not always be available or affordable.  Frozen or canned veggies are great alternatives and are often equally nutritious, convenient and a great way to reduce food wastage -  think corn, tomatoes or peas – which are perfect for bulking up sauces and add flavour and colour to salads and soups.

Canned fish

Be it tuna, salmon or sardines – these are all great for snacking on top of wholegrain crackers. LiveLighter’s tuna and lemon pasta and quick tuna couscous recipe makes the most of these .

Healthy swaps and alternatives

If you can’t find the ingredient you’re after on the supermarket shelves, think about what you could substitute. The trick to making healthy ingredient swaps is understanding what job they’re doing in a dish and finding something that you already have that can do the same thing.

Most of the time you can swap:

  • beef for chicken or tofu,
  • pasta for rice or barley
  • and don’t be afraid to mix and match your veggies!

When it comes to adding some zing to your recipes, work with the condiments you’ve got:

  • if you don’t have lemon juice, try vinegar instead
  • switch fresh herbs for dried
  • add pickled vegetables for an extra flavour boost.

When in doubt

Hop online and check out LiveLighter’s recipes – they don’t discriminate, allowing you to work with whatever you have at hand. You may already have plenty of carrots, cabbage, celery or pumpkin and apples or pears because they are in season at the moment.

Check out their healthy chicken fried rice, chickpea curry and fast veggie spaghetti, which all welcome any combination of fresh or frozen veg!

Looking for more ways to shop smart and eat smart?

LiveLighter’s Eat Smart and Shop Smart resources offer the knowledge and skills to help make eating healthy food and saving money achievable.