If you cook at home, a little or a lot, you need a cupboard full of good quality ingredients. Knock out amazing stir-fries, sauces and soups without needing to venture beyond your cupboard, plus make yourself delicious lunches for far cheaper than you’d buy them.
As with most things when it comes to home cooking, fresh is best. But having a supply of freshly boiled stock is not easy. Have a good supply of high quality chicken, vegetable and beef stock cubes/powders for your soups, stews and sauces.
The ultimate food-in-a-hurry, keep a good supply of pasta in your cupboard for quick dinners and lunches. Best have a few options for different meals too – tagliatelle, spaghetti, penne, and so on.
Likewise with rice – you can buy large bags of rice for pretty reasonable prices if you shop around, so rice is a really economical cupboard staple. Stick with your favourite, or have a supply of brown rice, basmati and long grain for different occasions.
And once again with noodles: buy a big bag of thin rice noodles and thicker udon noodles for a range of dinner and soup options.
Passata or tinned tomatoes
The base of a hundred sauces, stews and soups, an absolute pantry essential.
You need a good supply of oil for cooking or salad dressings. Depending on the size of your cupboard space, you could use the same for both (such as olive oil), or buy different types for different functions.
Chilli oil (or other flavoured oils)
Very useful for adding a quick shot of flavour to your cooking if you’re short of the necessary fresh ingredients. Go with spicy chilli, or herb blends like rosemary, or aromatics like garlic.
Liquid seasoning for all your Asian cooking needs. Adds a punch of savoury flavour to almost anything.
Fish sauce has a fairly pungent aroma, but don’t let that put you off. It’s a really important addition for stir-fries and sauces, and alongside lemongrass and chillies it’s a signature Thai flavour.
Sticking with the Asian theme, a supply of curry pastes is the easiest way to keep some variety in your curries. Stock up on green curry, red curry, massaman, plus shrimp paste – a stinky paste vital for sambals, sides and salads.
For making miso soup, of course – healthy, quick and versatile.
Important for chips yes, but also for salad dressings, and in cooking when you need a shot of acidity. Also necessary for poaching eggs, and sushi rice. Either stick with one variety, or stock up on a little rice vinegar, white wine vinegar and balsamic to cover all bases.
Not the Heinz kind. A mix of pinto, cannelloni and kidney beans, either dried (if you think you’ll remember far enough in advance to soak them before use) or in cans (where they just need to be drained before use).
Keep for ever and useful for everything. Get a mixed green and red bag and use for soup bases or meals like spicy dahls and curries.
An obvious enough one, but oft neglected. As well as good sea salt for cooking, try flavoured herb blends for quick and easy seasoning.
Again perhaps obvious, but make sure you get some decent pepper corns and a good grinder.
For quick and healthy breakfasts as well as dessert toppings.
Add to soups and sauces like other beans, but also make quick and tasty hummus…
…for which you’ll also need tahini
Toast these to add crunch to salads, but also blend with basil and oil to make a quick and easy pesto…
Red and green pesto jars
…or just buy a few jars for when you need them. Use for pasta by themselves or add to sauces to season them. Basil pesto is also a fantastic addition to bruschetta.
Jar of semi-sundried tomatoes
Used in a host of Italian recipes from salads and sandwiches to sauces.
Add to hot drinks, porridge, marinades, sauces, desserts, fruit… Just like with salts, try stocking up on honeys with added ingredients, like orange, or lavender to kill two flavour birds with one stone.
Get the sugar-free variety for a handy healthy snack, as well as adding to delicious milkshakes and desserts (plus make a sneaky satay sauce).
Make sure you have a few varieties of flour to hand so whenever you get the urge, you can make breads, crumbles and cakes, as well as thicken sauces and coat fish for frying.
In case you need to make some gluten-free desserts; ground almonds are also used in sauces like korma.
Even if you’re a low-sugar eater, you’ll need at least a small supply handy of both white and brown varieties for baking.
Hot chocolates, chocolate cakes, chocolate milkshakes…but also Mexican moles and chilli con carne.
Tea and Coffee
Even if you don’t drink it yourself, keep a small supply of a few types of teabags and some decent instant coffee in the cupboard, just in case.
Dried spices and herbs
Unlike rice or pasta, you’re better off not buying huge bags of these unless you use them quickly. You’ll figure out which ones you need most of, but start by stocking up on the basics: cumin, coriander, ginger, chilli powder, garlic, cinnamon for the spices, basil, parsley, oregano and rosemary for the herbs.