Pantry power: seven store cupboard essentials for quick and easy meals
First things first, no store cupboard would be complete without a bag or two of pasta. The perfect option when you want a cheap, easy meal; pasta is incredibly versatile and can be transformed into a huge variety of meals depending on the sauce you have with it (and there’s gluten-free pasta available too!)
Use pasta with leftover or frozen Bolognese sauce, whip up a quick tomato and vegetable sauce to use up fresh veg (see below!) or make a hearty Mac ‘n’ Cheese to use up the last of a block of cheese before it goes off. If you enjoy dishes such as stir fries or chow mein, you’ll also want to keep some noodles in the cupboard ready to use with crunchy fresh veggies.
Rice is a cheap and cheerful staple that you can use to create new meals with leftover curry, stews or chilli, or for Indian dishes such as keema or biryani. Risotto rice is a good one to have in your cupboard, too, as risotto requires surprisingly few ingredients and far less effort than people would have you believe (there’s no need to stir it continuously!) It’s also a great way to use up whatever fresh veg you have in the fridge, as there’s not much that won’t go in a risotto.
3. Tins, glorious tins
Never underestimate the power of tinned food. Tinned tomatoes are great for conjuring up a pasta sauce – just combine them with virtually any kind of fresh veg you have in the fridge and hey presto, you have a delicious meal (also keep a tube of tomato puree in the cupboard to add richness to your sauces).
Tinned tomatoes are also great when combined with another store cupboard essential – tinned red kidney beans – and made into chilli. Tinned sweetcorn is worth keeping in the cupboard, too – it’s great for mixing with tinned tuna, pasta and mayo to form a delicious pasta salad. And on the subject of tuna, tinned fish – tuna, sardines, mackerel, salmon– is perfect for adding protein to a meal without breaking the bank.
There are endless options for the humble spud, so having some in your store cupboard gives you an easy way to bulk out a meal in a host of different ways. Use up leftover roast meat by serving it with a jacket potato and salad, or substitute rice for a jacket potato to use up leftover chilli. Chop potatoes into wedges or chips and roast them ready to serve with - just about anything! Cut deep grooves into the top and bake them for tasty Hasselback potatoes, or boil them and mash to have with sausages and frozen peas. Or boil them and serve them as they are with a fillet of your favourite fish (fresh or from the freezer) and some green beans.
Onions add flavour to so many different dishes, from pasta sauces to omelettes, risottos to curries. Keep some in your cupboard at all times and you’ll always have a healthy way to jazz up your cooking.
6. Herbs and spices
On the subject of adding flavour, you’ll also be wanting to keep a variety of herbs and spices in your store cupboard ready to cover all bases. You’ll find that oregano is one of the most versatile herbs of all – it’s perfect for adding to pasta sauces and sprinkling on pizza. Basil is also handy for a variety of Mediterranean meat-based and vegetarian dishes. If you’re a fan of cooking with fish, dill and tarragon are both good store cupboard essentials.
On the spice front, you can make simple yet mouth-watering curries with surprisingly few ingredients once you have a few spices in your store cupboard. If you’re a fan of Indian cuisine, stock your cupboard with chilli flakes, ground coriander, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, curry powder and cardamom pods and you’ll probably find you have enough to conjure up something tasty no matter what ingredients you have to use up. Paprika is great for bringing a little warmth to stews, while cinnamon is good for Moroccan cuisine as well as baking.
Finally, stock cubes, pots and pastes are another great way to add flavour to all manner of different dishes. Whether it’s making gravy with beef stock cubes, cooking rice in flavourful chicken or vegetable stock or making a soup with all your leftover veg, it’s worth keeping a variety of them in stock (no pun intended) ready to enhance your cooking and transform even the cheapest of meals into a delicious treat.
In short, whatever the fresh ingredients you have to use up, you’ll be able to transform them into a tasty meal with a little help from your store cupboard and our trusty recipe bank.
Whatever the fresh ingredients you have to use up, you’ll be able to transform them into a tasty meal with a little help from your store cupboard.