A hearty, easy minestrone soup recipe that you can make ahead of time and freeze. Picture: Supplied
A hearty, easy minestrone soup recipe that you can make ahead of time and freeze. Picture: Supplied

How to prioritise your pantry cooking and make food last longer

By Lutho Pasiya Time of article published Jul 20, 2021

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Many shopping centres in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng have been left empty or in ruins due to unrest that transpired last week.

Many South Africans were and are still unable to buy essentials like milk and bread after the looting of shops.

With the country also in the third wave of Covid-19 infections, long queues and busy shops can be daunting.

To assist, Laager Rooibos has called on specialist dietitian, Mbali Mapholi and chefs Lebo and Tebo Ndala to assist with tips on making food last.

In an interview with IOL Lifestyle on how to create nutritious meals with minimal options, Mapholi said her biggest advice is to not panic-buy because everyone needs to be able to get basic food items.

“During these unprecedented times, we must go back to basics. A lot of people fear using canned food, legumes, frozen and bottled food items, but these are key sources of nutrition particularly when fresh food is scarce,” said Mapholi.

Below are some practical tips and recipes that will make these items go further.

Meat dishes

You can add canned legumes to meat dishes to bulk them up, while also adding whole grains and dietary fibre to your diet. Most people are eating more meat than we need anyway, so this is an opportunity to get used to smaller or fewer meat portions. Not only does expanding these dishes this way help with food saving, but it also helps us eat more whole grains and add more dietary fibre to our diet.

Some examples from Mbali Mapholi include:

  • Adding lentils or canned beans to ground beef or mincemeat (bolognese sauce) - one can of lentils for every 500g ground beef.
  • Adding canned beans or chickpeas to chicken curry. If everyone in the household usually ate two pieces of chicken then it would decrease to one piece of chicken mixed with chickpeas and beans.
  • Expand canned pilchards with canned baked beans. For a family of six, cook one can of pilchards and add one can of baked beans.

Meat tips from Lebo and Tebo Ndala:

  • Portion the meat before you freeze it so you only use the portion you want.
  • Avoid defrosting and freezing again.
  • Be careful with portion control and avoid cooking more than you need.

Frozen vegetables

Frozen vegetables can be more nutritious than fresh vegetables because they are frozen straight from harvest, which saves a lot of nutrients normally lost in the food supply chain of fresh vegetables.

Add frozen vegetables to expand all the food meat dishes mentioned above.

Frozen vegetables can be added to casseroles and stews to stretch these while adding nutrients.

According to nutritional guidelines, it is recommended that ½ our plate at main meals is vegetables. You can use frozen vegetables as a side dish.

It is important to steam, sauté or cook them in little water to preserve the nutrients.


Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and taro (amadumbe) are some popular nutritious tubers in South Africa, and these can expand meat or vegetable casseroles or stews, or be eaten as a staple in main mails. Butternut is also a starchy vegetable that can be mixed in with potatoes or sweet potatoes to expand mashed potatoes for example.

Recipe: Minestrone soup

This is a hearty, easy minestrone soup recipe that you can make and freeze. It can freeze well for three months if stored in an airtight container. This makes six bowls of soup.


4 tbs cooking oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped

¼ cup tomato paste or 1 cup tomato, cut-up

2 cups chopped vegetables fresh or frozen (potatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, butternut squash, green beans, or peas)

1 tbs dried Italian or mixed herbs (optional)

1 large can (800g) diced tomatoes, with the liquid

3 cups stock (dissolve 2 stock cubes in boiling water to make stock. TIP: add 3 Laager Rooibos teabags to enhance the flavour. Allow to brew and then remove tea bags)

2 cups water


1 cup pasta or rice, uncooked

1 can red kidney beans or cannellini beans rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked dry beans.

2 cups spinach or any green leafy vegetables that might be wilting


Warm 3 tablespoons of the cooking oil in a pot over medium heat. Once the oil is simmering, add the chopped onion, carrot, tomato paste, and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often until the vegetables have softened, and the onions are turning translucent, for about 7 to 10 minutes.

Add the seasonal vegetables and dried herbs. Cook until fragrant while stirring frequently for about 2 minutes.

Pour in the diced tomatoes and their juices, stock, and water. Add your seasoning of choice.

Raise heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot with the lid, leaving about a 2cm gap for steam to escape. Reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer.

Cook for 15 minutes, then remove the lid and add the pasta, beans and greens. Continue simmering, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until the pasta is cooked al dente and the greens are tender.

Remove the pot from the heat, then taste and season with more salt if needed.


Most households normally have a box of tea in the cupboard. Tea is usually served hot but those who dislike hot beverages can make delicious home-made ice teas. To make home-made iced tea you can use any tea you have in the home, whether it is Laager Rooibos tea or Tetley Green Tea, or Tetley Black Tea, and add any fresh or frozen fruit that you have available.


Bread is a daily staple in most households, served at breakfast or lunch with non-perishable healthy protein sources such as peanut butter, canned fish with mayonnaise or jam. If you have some bread bought in bulk you can freeze it so it lasts longer. You can also use stale bread to make French toast – simply dredge slices of bread in eggs mixed with a bit of milk and fry in a bit of oil.

Recipe: With Love from Twins bread dough recipe.

You can make as much bread dough as you please and leave it in the fridge. With bread dough, you can make bread, steamed dumplings, fat cakes (amagwinya), or roll it out thinly to make a pizza base.


4-6 cups flour

1 packet yeast

2 tbs sugar

1 tsp salt

1 cup lukewarm water

2 cups lukewarm milk

2 tbs olive oil

Add more liquid if needed


In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.

In a jug, mix all the wet ingredients together.

Slowly mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. It must form a soft dough.

Add more or less liquid if needed.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled glass bowl. Cover with cling wrap. Leave to rise for about an hour.

Once risen, knock it down and shape it into the desired bread shape.

Leave to ride again for 10 to 15 minutes.

Bake for 30 minutes at 180°C.

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