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Making use of your food cupboard cache

The kitchen store cupboard is often overlooked in favour of the convenience of chucking something easy into the oven or buying specific ingredients for just one meal, but you’ve potentially got some real treasure on your hands! Moreover, you’ll likely be able to make big savings on the next couple of food shops with what you can rustle up.

By taking stock of your dry and tinned goods, a filling and tasty dinner is achievable. The great news is that a lot of if you mix and match carefully you’ll be able to create a variety of meals. Here’s our guide on store cupboard staples!

store cupboard staples

Tinned foods

Tinned foods seem a little archaic, but they tend to be cheap and have a long shelf life. They retain nutrients long-term and can be used to make all manner of quick, healthy dishes, so don’t limit yourself to baked beans on toast!


Pulses are very nutritious and a useful standby for last-minute dinners such as spicy bean burgers, South American dishes or stews. Dried beans and pulses can be much cheaper but way less convenient, and tins are still cheap compared to most foods.

Starchy foods

Starchy foods are to be eaten in moderation, but we bet you’ll be surprised how many different packets you have in your cupboard!

Pasta and rice and similar foods should make up about a third of your diet according to the NHS, which is great considering they are cheap and store well.

What else you may have:

  • Stock cubes are used in stews, curries, rice dishes, soups and gravy to add flavour. Jelly pots and concentrated stock in bottles can pack more flavour, but they tend to be much more expensive and more awkward to cook with.
  • Tinned tomatoes are a staple ingredient of so many recipes – including pasta sauces, curries, soups and chilli con carne. We recommend tinned tomatoes because they’re the most versatile kind. You’ll get the best out of tomato-based sauces by cooking them low and slow. You needn’t spend lots of money – any will taste great if you cook them for long enough. Many supermarkets will sell them pre-flavoured with garlic or basil which can make things even easier.
  • For a quick dinner, dried pasta is unbeatable. If you have one or two store-cupboard sauce recipes in your arsenal, you’ll always be able to whip-up a meal. Brown pasta is better for your health but it takes a little longer to cook. Good ingredients to keep in stock for pasta dinners are tinned fish and sweetcorn, olives, tinned ham and vegetables preserved in oil like artichokes and peppers.
  • Many dishes require cooking oil, but it doesn’t need to be anything fancy. The most versatile (and often cheapest) option is a flavourless one such as vegetable oil or sunflower oil. They don’t burn at high temperatures, so are suitable for frying, plus their mild flavour means they can even be used in baking – both for greasing tins and in recipes.
  • Tinned vegetables are great to have to hand. Chickpeas and spinach are both great in curries and omelettes and potatoes are brilliant in a soup or a stew. Try to buy tinned vegetables in water rather than brine to maintain a low-sodium intake.
  • Tuna is a popular choice, but you can now buy tinned fish from pilchards to lobster in tins. Anchovies add fantastic depth of flavour to sauces, and are really scrummy on a pizza!
  • Noodles come in many shapes and sizes – they are all quick to cook and whilst a stir fry seems the most likely use for them, they’re great in soups, too! A stir fry is a double threat because it allows you to clear out the fridge, too. For protein, frozen prawns and tofu don’t require fresh produce, meaning it’s easy to whip up if you’re a few days from the food shop.
  • Rice benefits from thorough rinsing with cold water before cooking – particularly if using the cheapest brands. Use cold, freshly cooked rice to stuff vegetables, make special fried rice or as an accompaniment to a delicious homemade curry.

Why not try?

If you want to make your cupboard even more versatile, couscous is very easy to cook – all you need is a kettle to cook it! It can be served in salads, with stews or a piece of grilled meat and can be eaten hot or cold – perfect for lunches!

Bulgur wheat, pearl barley and quinoa can be used in the same way, but are more expensive. They’re worth considering if you want you up your protein intake or you want slightly thicker soups and stews. 

Oats are a good store-cupboard ingredient for a warming breakfast on a cold day or for rustling up into crumble topping or flapjacks should you catch the baking bug!

We hope that we’ve given you a little inspiration as to how your store cupboard can give a little inspiration, but next week we’re going one step further and sharing our favourite store cupboard recipes. We’ll see you there!

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