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We lead busy lives, and sometimes convenience rules the way we shop. We show you how to transform 5 everyday foods that are quicker, cheaper and healthier to make at home than buy.

Hummus

We know what it’s like: friends are coming over and it’s easy to pick up a few dips and chips. But it’s even quicker – and cheaper – to make your own fresh hummus.

1 minute hummus: Place a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 garlic clove, 1 tbsp tahini, the juice of 1 lemon and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl and blend in a food processor till smooth and fluffy. Sprinkle over a dash of smoked paprika and chopped coriander.
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Salad dressings

It’s January so a lot of us have salad on the brain. Commercial salad dressings might seem like an easy way to perk up that bowl of vegetables, but most are laden with fats, preservatives and other nasties.

Make it at home: For a classic, zingy dressing, whisk together the juice of 1 lemon with 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Making a potato salad? Whisk together a small tub of plain yogurt, 3 tbsp capers, 1 tsp sambal oelek or chilli sauce and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Or for a lighter Caesar salad dressing, pound 2 garlic cloves and 2 anchovy fillets in a pestle and mortar, then incorporate 1/2 a cup buttermilk and 2 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise. Loosen with the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Each dressing takes less than 2 minutes to make.

Popcorn

Have you noticed that microwave popcorn leaves a whole lot of popcorn – unpopped? What a waste! Not to mention the huge amount of artificial butter flavourings and salt! Buy popcorn kernels (much cheaper than microwave popcorn) and with only 1 tbsp of oil and 5 minutes on the stovetop you’ll have a bounty of super-crunchy popcorn that you can season to taste.

Seasoned popcorn ideas: Melt truffle butter while you cook the popcorn, then toss in a large bowl to combine. Grate parmesan cheese over hot popcorn with a handful of rosemary spears. Or sprinkle shimichi togarashi, an aromatic Japanese 7-spice seasoning, for the ultimate movie snack.

Fruit salad

When I switched from chocolate bars to shop-bought fruit salad as my afternoon snack, I felt like I deserved a huge pat on the back for eating healthier. And while hitting your local juice bar for a container of fruit salad is convenient, it’s not very smart for your wallet. Shop-bought fruit salad has a mark-up of around 500%, and making your own fruit salad takes less than 2 minutes.

Sexy fruit salad: Chop up your favourite fruits into bite-size pieces. Aim for different colours and textures – passionfruit pulp, halved cherries, tangerine segments – then add some finely sliced mint or a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Burger patties

In desperation for a quick meal, I’ve stocked my freezer with pre-shaped burger patties. But at around $6 for 4 thin patties, that’s at least double what making them from scratch are, and I love adding my own seasonings.

Tasty burger patties: Use any mince you like – turkey makes a healthy alternative to beef, or mix up lamb and pork for a really succulent burger. To 500g mince, add 1 egg, 1/2 grated onion, 1 tbsp chopped thyme, 1/2 cup finely chopped parsley and 1 cup panko breadcrumbs. Shape into patties, then push a cube of mozzarella or feta cheese into the centre, enclosing meat around the cheese. Refrigerate the patties for 30 minutes, then cook on the BBQ or pan-fry.