Saving Money and Avoiding Food Wastage – My 10 Top Tips For Your Store Cupboard
“Necessity is the mother of invention.” A good friend once told me as I regaled stories of my unusual dinner combinations to her. I pride myself on being able to make something from nothing when it appears that I have no food. I have invented some of my favourite dishes when endeavouring to use up the last bits and pieces from the fridge and freezer. It can be particularly useful at the end of the month to be able to rustle up lunches and dinners before pay day.
Having handy items in your cupboard and freezer makes home cooking more likely to happen when you are late home and you just don’t have the time. If your aim is to start being more economical, you may have to spend some time and money in order to get your store cupboard well-stocked. I have included a list of what I stock in my cupboard (see below).
MY 10 TOP TIPS FOR YOUR STORE CUPBOARD
- Have a selection or plastic tubs, freezer bags and bag clips to keep food fresh. Don’t leave packets wide open to the air. A simple clip will keep nuts, pasta and any dry food fresh and crisp. Or if you have the space, transfer to a glass jar with an air tight lid.
- Keep oil, vinegar and spices in a cool dark cupboard, and especially not near the cooker! The heat and the light destroys them.
- Whole spices keep longer than ground spices. If you grind cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle the aroma is incomparable with that of bought ground cumin. Another spice that is handy to have is nutmeg and that keeps fresher for longer when bought whole.
- Don’t store opened tins in the fridge. The air oxidises the tin and will turn any food refrigerated in there bad. Instead, empty contents into a plastic tub to store in the fridge.
- Freeze fresh root ginger. As soon as I buy ginger, I put it straight in the freezer. When I need it, I use my fine micro-plane grater and I leave the skin on. Works like a dream!
- Shop in the World Food section for spices, soy sauce and certain oils.
Spices can have a shelf life of up to 3 years, so for spices that you use a lot of, it is definitely worth it. Or split a bag with a friend.
45g jar in spice aisle – £1.50.
100g resealable packet in world food aisle – £1.15.
250ml soy sauce – £1.60.
500ml soy sauce in world food aisle – £1.79.
- Make your own dressings, marinades and spice rubs. It is so easy to knock up a dressing in a jam jar and it tastes SO much better. Basic rule of thumb – 3 parts oil, 1 part vinegar. You can add like mustard, honey, soy sauce, chilli flakes to make your dressing suit your taste.
An organised well-stocked larder
- Organise your cupboards so you don’t end up buying items you already have! Keep your larder well stocked so you can make something from nothing.
- Don’t always go for the brand name. Check the ingredients and nutritional information of supermarket own brands to see if they compare well. You might just be paying for a fancy label.
- Keep frozen vegetables and fruits. The ability to knock up a healthy soup when you appear to have no food is invaluable. Look at my previous post for tips with fruit and veg.
What should I keep in my well-stocked larder?
Go through your cupboards and see what you have and where the gaps are. You don’t need to get this full list and certainly not all at once. This is only a suggestion, these are the things I stock. If you don’t like spicy food, leave the Indian spices off your list and opt for a mild curry powder instead.
- olive oil / rapeseed oil (for sauteing and frying)
- extra virgin olive oil (to make salad dressings)
- sesame oil (to add a delicious flavour to Asian dishes)
- coconut oil (use in curries and stir fries, but mainly for baking and making chocolates!)
- balsamic vinegar (salad dressings, adding to tomato based dishes)
- apple cider vinegar (‘with The Mother’, for maximum health benefits)
- white wine vinegar (when a dish is missing something, often it needs a touch of acidity, not salt)
- Worcester Sauce (handy for meat and vegetable dishes, soups and dressings)
- Dijon mustard (great with garlic, wine and Greek yogurt for a quick sauce or in cauliflower mash)
- chilli sauce (if in doubt, a dash of chilli sauce can’t go wrong – perfect with eggs)
- soy sauce (not only for Asian dishes, use this to add an umami taste)
- stock cubes or stock pots (making your own is best, but when time is short – very handy)
- maple syrup or honey (always buy raw good quality – check the label)
- cumin (vital in Indian cooking – most aromatic spice)
- turmeric (good for adding depth of colour)
- ground coriander (another must for curries)
- garam masala (Indian spice made up of many spices)
- chilli powder (to add real heat and spice to dishes)
- chilli flakes (I keep this in a salt pig by the cooker – use all the time!)
- Cajun spice (this pre-made spice is handy to jazz up chicken, fish or veg)
- oregano (Italian cooking)
- smoked paprika (smokey flavour to vegetables and soups)
- cinnamon (stewed apples, biscuits and Middle Eastern cooking)
- ground ginger (warmth and heat without spice – biscuits and Middle Eastern)
- rock sea salt (general seasoning – I use a grinder)
- black peppercorns (don’t use pre-ground, peppercorns in a grinder are best)
- oats (use in overnight oats, peanut butter bars, pancakes, smoothies and more!)
- oat bran (pancakes, in burgers instead of breadcrumbs)
- noodles (buckwheat, egg, rice whatever you like – FAST FOOD -ready in 3-5 mins)
- rice (base your dinner around rice when you have bare cupboards)
- pasta (everyone likes pasta – a quick cheap meal)
- couscous (needs soaking, no cooking involved – add roast veg and leftover chicken for lunch)
- flour (for baking, and coating fish, chicken and veg)
- dried beans and pulses (these need overnight soaking and cooking)
- peanut butter (or almond, cashew or hazelnut – delicious protein rich snack with apple or banana)
- seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin – in stir fry, salads, breakfast and Peanut Butter Bars)
- nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews – use in curries, breakfast, salads and baking)
- dried fruit (raisins, dried apricots, dates, prunes – make raw brownies, bircher muesli and Korma)
- coconut milk (smoothies, soups, curries, ice-cream and breakfast)
- tins chopped tomatoes (pasta sauce, curries, soups, chilli eggs)
- tins of beans and pulses (I stock dried and tinned. Tins are great for a quick dinner)
- tomato puree (extra tomato-ness)
- garden peas (pea mash, add to rice, cream of pea soup – my favourite bought frozen veg)
- frozen roasted vegetables (freeze leftovers in freezer bags)
- cauliflower rice (make more than you need when your food processor is out – great quick dinner)
- fruit (either freeze your own or buy frozen)
- chicken, meat, fish (handy to know there is always something lurking in there.)
There are endless possibilities of meals that can be made using store cupboard and freezer essentials. I shall share in another post.
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