Quick canned food ideas to keep your January menu delicious and nutritious when the budget is tight by KOO

As the festive season draws to a close, many South Africans are left facing what is arguably the longest month of the year. Along with the hope of new beginnings, January also unfortunately brings with it a host of expenses for households who may be struggling with the overspending brought about by the holidays. As breadwinners contend with January’s financial realities, one of the first budgets usually cut in order to make ends meet until month end is the grocery budget. But, it is possible to keep your family fed without resorting to low cost, high calorie and processed alternatives if you’re smart with your pantry staples.

A balanced diet includes five-a-day – eating at least two fruits and three vegetables daily to ensure you get an adequate amount of fibre, vitamins and minerals. However, a 2021 report by Eat Well Live Institute found that the average South African is not sufficiently meeting this target. A common misconception is that if you’re not eating fresh fruit and vegetables, a healthy and nutritious diet is not possible. But when times are tough, canned fruit and vegetables are not only a tasty alternative, but also a really convenient way to ensure that you and your family are getting all the vitamins and minerals you need for a healthy body and mind.

So, now that you know that canned can be just as good as fresh, here are some ways to zshoosh up those canned staples you’ve got packed in the pantry and surprise your family with delicious and nutritious meals to take you the end of January, and well beyond.

Peas

Peas have a remarkable nutrition profile, they’re low on calories and are rich in vitamins, protein, fibre and antioxidants. Add peas to pasta dishes to bulk them up and make a simple one-pot dinner that uses minimal ingredients for a perfect weeknight meal. Or sauté peas with onions and some mixed herbs to make a hearty side dish. They’re even a delicious burst of flavour in any salad.

Beetroot

Unlike other vegetables that often have a different flavour than their fresh counterparts, canned beetroot retains a flavour that is unmistakable, while providing a good source of fibre, iron and folate – and beetroot boosts immunity. This superfood can be used in so many creative ways. Blend with some garlic and lemon juice to make a delicious hummus that can be spread on wraps and crisp bread for lunch or combine with baby potatoes to make a tangy beetroot and potato salad. You can even be super creative and blend beetroot into smoothies and baked goods like cupcakes or muffins.

Corn

Canned corn delivers a nice punch of fibre, protein and potassium, and is just as tasty and crunchy as it is fresh. Add corn to a simple pancake mix for tasty lunch time fritters or dice up some onion, peppers and baby tomatoes to add to your canned corn for a fresh side salad. Grill your corn on a baking tray for a few minutes for a Mexican style chargrilled alternative.

Chickpeas

As a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fibre, chickpeas can offer a variety of health benefits, like improving digestion and reducing the risk of disease. This nutty legume is high in protein making it an excellent replacement for meat in many vegetarian and vegan dishes. Add them to a curry or stew to bulk up the nutrition at dinner time or toss them into a pasta to add texture and flavour. They can be eaten in wraps or pitas for lunch alternatives and they make a crunchy and nutritious snack when roasted in the oven or the air fryer.

Creativity is key because you have the flavour at your fingertips. By relying on the wide range of pantry favourites that are available to you it is possible to make your money stretch further and still dish up delightful meals for the whole family.