With only a few ingredients in the kitchen cupboards, you can open the doors to a whole host of delicious meals. Make the most of what you already have, and make the money you spend on food go further.
Lockdown has meant we are trying to go to the supermarket less. Many of us are also thinking about finances, cooking healthy filling meals, so using fresh ingredients can feel more challenging. Your kitchen cupboards are a real treasure trove of meal inspiration. They will help keep your dinners exciting, especially on those tricky days before the big shop.
Frozen fruit and veg
Depending on the season, fresh fruit and vegetables can add to the food bill. By buying frozen, you have the ingredients to hand to bulk up curries, chillis, stews and more, as well as being able to put some of your 5 a day on the side of the plate. Plus, it’s an additional way of getting all the vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants and other nutrients into our bodies.
Whether canned or dried, pulses such as chickpeas, lentils and beans are inexpensive, tasty and endlessly versatile. Butter, cannellini and kidney beans or chickpeas can be used to make dips, bulk out curries and stews, or use as an alternative for mashed potato. Lentils are fantastic in a Bolognese or in a bowl of soup too.
Pasta, noodles, rice and grains
You would have thought at the start of lockdown by the empty shelves that pasta is what fuelled the nation. It does fill you up and will be the star of the plate when paired with rich sauces. Rice also goes with so much, but with a few other simple ingredients can become a risotto or even a dessert. Noodles are not just for stir-fries again they can be added to soups, casseroles and stews along with pearl barley, quinoa and bulgur wheat.
I am all for cooking from scratch and would prefer to use natural ingredients with no preservatives. However, chopped tomatoes and passata cost around 30p per tin whereas making the same amount would require about £2. So, it is something I always have in my cupboard. As a way of getting even more veg on my plate, I sometimes make my gravy for the Sunday roast out of passata – sauteed onion or leeks, a stockpot and gravy browning.
Tinned tuna, salmon and crab are also handy to have. Added to mashed potato you can make fishcakes, or sandwich and jacket potato fillers for lunch.
Beyond a bottle of ketchup and mayonnaise, I have a whole host of condiments to add incredible flavours to my foods. Soy and Worcestershire sauce are two flavour bombs to give recipes a tasty kick. They can be used to marinade meat and fish too.
A variety of kinds of vinegar and oil will also add a depth of flavour to food; balsamic, red wine, white wine or sherry vinegar, or chilli, sesame and garlic oil.
Dried herbs and spices
I don’t think I make a meal without visiting my herbs and spices cupboard. Your spice rack does not have to be huge, but having a variety will make a big difference to your meals. Cumin and coriander are earthy and will give your dish an aromatic spin. Paprika will provide a barbeque flavour without having to light the coals. Curry powder can be used in so many recipes; liven up meat, fish and veg, or sprinkle on your chips before putting them in the oven to cook. Dried oregano will work on pasta or tomato-based dishes for a more authentic Italian feel.
Stock cubes and stock pots
Stock used to just come in chicken, beef, lamb, fish and vegetable. Now you can get mushroom, red wine, white wine, lime and ginger, chilli and tomato, paprika and sundried tomato and garlic and thyme. Which means it is so much easier to add flavour to your food.
It is really easy to think, “I’ve got nothing to eat”, but by being creative and using what you do have, delicious dinners can be made. It may help by pulling some ingredients out of the cupboard and looking at them on the counter top. Seeing them next to each other may help you to visualise the dish. Food can never be boring if it has flavour, so use your store cupboards staples to add some pzazz to the bowl.