From fish fingers and peas for the kids to that emergency loaf of bread, most of us would be lost without a freezer. But it’s good for more than just-in-case supplies. Stock yours with these easy make-ahead meals to save yourself time and money.
Heat oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/gas 6. Spray a large non-stick frying pan with oil and fry 3 leeks and 300g mushrooms, all sliced, for 5 min. Add 350g 5% fat beef mince, 1tbsp fresh thyme, chopped, 1tbsp dijon mustard and fry for 2 min. Add 350ml very low salt veg stock, 300g frozen peas and 2tbsp reduced-salt gravy granules. Simmer for 5 min. Peel and slice 700g each potatoes and parsnips, steam for 15 min, then mash and season with black pepper. Add mince to a 2 litre baking dish, top with mash, sprinkle with 40g reduced-fat cheddar, grated, and bake for 20 min or until golden.
Per serving: 379kcal l 9.3g fat l 4g saturates l 14.3g sugars l 1.1g salt
Spiced sweet potato and apple soup
Spray a large saucepan with oil, add 2 leeks, sliced, 800g sweet potatoes and 3 dessert apples, all peeled and diced, and fry for 5 min over a medium heat. Add 2tsp ground coriander, ½tsp chilli powder and 1tsp ground cinnamon and fry for 1 min. Add 800ml unsweetened almond milk and 1 very low salt vegetable stock cube dissolved in 150ml boiling water. Bring to a simmer, then cook for 20 min or until the veg are very soft. Blend until smooth. Garnish with dairy-free yogurt and chopped apple before serving.
Per serving: 175kcal l 3.8g fat l 0.7g saturates l 14.4g sugars l 0.4g salt
Lentil and chickpea dahl
Spray a large pan with oil and set over a low-medium heat, then add 2 red onions, peeled and chopped, and 1 green or red chilli, sliced. Fry gently for 8 min, adding 2tbsp garam masala for the final 2 min. Add 150g dried red lentils, rinsed and drained, 400g can chickpeas, drained, 250g fresh tomatoes, chopped, and 500ml very low salt vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer, stir, cover and cook gently for 15–18 min. To serve, stir in 200g baby leaf spinach and 2tbsp mango chutney and heat until wilted.
Per serving: 282kcal l 4.5g fat l 0.8g saturates l 12.5g sugars l 0.5g salt
All-purpose vegetable ragü
Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan set over a medium heat. Add 1 large onion and 1 large carrot, both peeled and chopped, 2 celery sticks, 2 peppers and 4 garlic cloves, all chopped, and a pinch of chilli flakes. Cook gently for 10 min. Add 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes and simmer for 15 min. Add 3tbsp fresh basil, chopped, and season with black pepper. Serve with pasta or gnocchi, spoon over meat or fish before baking, or mix with cannellini beans for a jacket potato topper.
Per serving (ragù only): 75kcal l 2.3g fat l 0.3g saturates l 10.9g sugars l 1g salt
Slow-cooker beef and butterbean casserole
Spray a large non-stick frying pan with oil. Set over a medium-high heat and stir-fry 1kg lean braising steak, diced, until browned. Transfer to a slow cooker. Spray pan with oil; add 150g smoked bacon medallions, sliced, 3 onions and 3 carrots, all peeled and chopped, 3 celery sticks and 1½tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, all chopped; cook for 5 min. Add 300ml red wine, 250ml very low salt beef stock, 1 bay leaf, 2tbsp wholegrain mustard, 2 x 400g cans butterbeans, drained, and 2tbsp reduced-salt gravy granules. Bring to the boil; add to slow cooker. Cook on high for 4 hr.
Per serving: 340kcal l 9.6g fat l 3.8g saturates l 8g sugars l 1.3g salt