When you’re trying to create tasty, home-cooked meals on a tight budget, the store cupboard is your best friend. For me, the fresh ingredients bought in each weekly shop are pretty basic and repetitive to keep costs minimal, but that’s where the store cupboard comes into play. The tricks and tools I keep in there help even the simplest, cheapest ingredients come together as a delicious dinner.
I suppose everyone’s kitchen cupboard supplies are different, but these are my absolute essentials!
DRIED HERBS & SPICES
Fresh is best, that’s something we all agree on; there’s nothing better than the smell of tearing off fresh basil and stirring it into a pasta sauce. Mmm… But for the sake of practicality, dried herbs and spices are brilliant. I use them in everything! Having a great spice rack to hand means you can add flavour to any dish in seconds. The little pots last for ages too so you definitely get your money’s worth, and they really help to shake up the rest of your budget meals.
Beans on toast is a true saviour when it comes to eating cheap. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve come home late, starving hungry, too tired to cook and too skint order in, and thanked the gods that the holy grail of tinned foods was sitting in my cupboard waiting for me! All beans are filling, nutritious and one of your five a day, but baked beans are great for bulking out meals and being a little something extra on the side too.
Lentils are dirt cheap and, like rice and pasta, their volume increases when cooked so they can last you a really long time if used sparingly. I was a bit scared of cooking with lentils at first because I had no clue what to do with them but, as it goes, I’ve managed to make loads of meals more substantial just by pouring in some lentils. I’ve made lentil bolognese, curry, chilli.. it’s versatile and a great store cupboard replacement for when you’ve run out of other ingredients!
Another secret weapon when it comes to improving the flavour of even the most basic meals, stock cubes are a no-fuss, low-cost way of jazzing up your food. Of course stock is great for the obvious, like soup, stews and casseroles, but the cubes can also be crumbled into pasta sauces or added to vegetables while you cook them down. They really help when it comes to making things taste bolder and richer with very little effort.
Chopped tomatoes form the base of so many meals! They’re really cheap, good for you and easy to use – just pour them in! I use them for most of my “from scratch” meals, they’re one of the first store cupboard ingredients I really learned to use to my advantage as a student (things haven’t changed much since!). Even though chopped tomatoes are from a can, they make everything taste so much fresher, lighter and juicer. We’ve always got a supply in our kitchen!
Okay, so I’m not sure if these count entirely as “store cupboard” but mine are kept in an airtight bread bin and they seem to last a pretty long time! The main reason tortilla wraps are featured on my list of essentials is because every week I find myself needing them for something or other. Wraps for lunch? Tortillas. Quick thin crust pizza? Tortillas. Making a quesadilla out of leftovers? Tortillas. Chilli, fajitas, veggies, pretty much anything can be stuffed into a wrap and these are honestly one of the best ways to really make the most of your food.