Easy freezer meals for one

After Julie became ill and had to leave her job, she felt she couldn’t afford the healthy foods she’d enjoyed in the past.


On her low budget, the healthy lean meats and fresh fruit and vegetables she’d enjoyed in the past seemed out of her reach. Julie got into the habit of buying frozen ready meals, even though she knew they didn’t contain everything she needed to stay healthy.

“Being on your own sometimes it’s handy to pop something in the microwave...I tend to buy more frozen meals, things that are fairly quick." says Julie.  "Because I’m diabetic I should be eating more healthily, and I’m very aware that diabetes and high cholesterol put you at risk of heart disease.”

The bulk cooking and freezing stuff is really helpful for me.  It’s good to know I can reach out and cook something healthy. I was quite amazed at the cost of the all the food and also the ingredients that are going in it.

After having a chat with dietitian Sue Baic about the kind of food she liked to eat, Sue came up with a shopping list to help Julie buy healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and showed Julie how to use cheaper frozen veggies to bulk out the more expensive ingredients like meat and fish, making food that was filling, but also low in salt and fat and full of vegetables. 

All the recipes Sue and Julie made can be frozen in portions and heated up another day. Now Julie’s looking forward to cooking the recipes again for friends and family and having something healthy on hand when she needs it. 

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Julie's shopping list

Julie's shopping list is based on having porridge and dried or fresh fruit for breakfast with a glass of fresh fruit juice, then one of her freezer meals a day (see below) for a main meal, with extra food for lunches included, such as soup, mackerel on toast or a jacket potato with baked beans.

Fridge  Storecupboard  Freezer
Fresh fruit & veg 
Reduced fat soft cheese 55p (200g) Wholewheat crackers 89p (250g) Spinach £1 (900g) Onions 79p (1kg)
Lean beef mince £2.85 (500g)
2 Tins chopped tomatoes 68p (400g) Peas £1 (900g) Mushrooms 69p (250g)
Skimmed milk 79p (4 pints) Tin of kidney beans 25p (400g) Sweetcorn £1 (900g) Apples 89p (9 apples)
Olive oil spread 89p (500g) Vegetable oil £1.50 (1L) Fish pie mix £3 (300g)  Bananas 68p (1kg)
Orange juice 65p (1L)  Vegetable soup 75p (400g) Mashed potato £1 (908g)    
  Pasta 29p (500g)      
  Rice 40p (1kg)      
  Tinned mackerel in sunflower oil 59p (120g)      
  Wholegrain bread 59p (800g)       
  4 baking potatoes 99p      
  Baked beans 24p (420g)     
  Porridge oats 75p (1kg)      
  Mixed dried fruit £1.29 (300g)    

Shopping was completed in Spring 2014 at ALDI, with some items from Iceland and Asda - these are shops Julie usually uses. This is intended to illustrate what a healthy low-budget shopping list could look. It is not intended as an eating plan to be followed on a long term basis. Talk to your GP or practice nurse who can advise or refer you to see a registered dietitian if you need more tailored support to plan your meals.

Julie's fish pie recipe

Ingredients  Equipment 
200g reduced fat soft cheese Medium sized pan or deep frying pan
300g fish pie mix (fresh or frozen boneless mixed fish chunks) Cooking spatula or spoon
200g frozen peas Oven proof dish
150g frozen spinach  Freezer bags or boxes
500g frozen mashed potato Weighing scales (optional)
Serves 4

Instructions

  1. Heat your oven to 180oc
  2. Put the soft cheese into a pan with the fish pie mix. Heat the fish and cheese mixture on a low heat on the hob for about 6 minutes, or until the fish starts to look cooked. Stir the mixture to make sure it doesn’t burn or boil and try not to break up the fish too much.
  3. Add the frozen peas and spinach to your pan and heat for about 10 minutes until everything defrosts and softens.
  4. Put the mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with frozen mashed potato.
  5. Heat in the oven for 30 minutes or until the potato is browned.

Julie's mince recipe

Ingredients  Equipment
For the basic sauce: Frying pan
500g lean beef mince Medium sized saucepan
2 tins of chopped tomatoes  Cooking spatula or spoons
1 onion, chopped Oven proof dish
250g mushrooms, sliced  3-6 freezer bags or boxes
Dessert spoon of oil Weighing scales (optional)
For the chilli:   
1 tin of kidney beans    
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of chilli powder  
100g frozen sweet corn    
For the cottage pie:   
100g frozen peas    
100g frozen sweetcorn    
300g frozen mashed potato  

Makes 6 portions

Instructions

Heat the oven to 180oc

Pasta sauce
  1. Chop the onion and fry it gently in the frying pan with the oil for about 5 minutes until it is soft.
  2. Add the mince and cook for another 5 minutes until it is browned and looks cooked.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes and mushrooms and cook for 10 minutes until the tomatoes bubble and the mushrooms are soft.
  4. Put a third of the mixture aside in a freezer container, cool and freeze, to be used as a pasta sauce.
  5.  Take half of the remaining mixture and put it in another pan.
Chilli con carne

  1. Stir the chilli powder, sweetcorn and kidney beans into one of the pans and heat for another 10 minutes, until the vegetables are hot through.
  2. Put the mixture aside in a freezer container, cool and freeze.
Cottage pie
  1. Add the frozen peas and sweetcorn to the remaining pan and heat for about 5 minutes until everything defrosts and softens.
  2. Put the mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with frozen mashed potato.
  3. Heat in the oven for 30 minutes or until the potato is browned.
  4. Put the pie into a freezer container, cool and freeze.