store cupboard essentials

My 10 Store Cupboard Essentials

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There are days when I get home from work and optimistically open the fridge, looking for inspiration, only to be faced with the cold (pardon the pun), hard truth.  I haven’t been shopping and the cupboard (ahem, fridge) is bare…

It’s on those days that my store cupboard essentials come into play. They are the stalwarts of the kitchen, the supporting players of the pantry…too much?

So what qualifies as a storecupboard essential?

I’m talking about the type of ingredients that can just sit happily in your cupboard for weeks or months on end, just waiting patiently for that moment when the fridge is bare and they can save your bacon (and no, bacon isn’t one…)


NB – probably best not to leave these for months but I just had to include them because, well they’re essential.

1 – Eggs

I often marvel at the many uses there are for eggs.  These humble little guys are an absolute MUST.  You can have them soft boiled, hard boiled, poached, fried, scrambled… but on top of that, think of all the other deliciousness that wouldn’t be possible without them! Omlettes, fritattas, tortilla, CAKE for goodness sake! ‘Noeuf’ said…. (get it?)


Couldn’t actually think of a separate category to put these under so forgive the repetition.  I think these guys are worth a bit of repetition anyway!

2 – Err…Pasta/Rice/Noodles

Ok, I’ve cheated a bit here and lumped this little lot into one (no – that’s not a recipe suggestion!) – but I figured, it’s my blog so I get to make (or break) the rules! Anyhoo, these guys are your friends, your buddies, your chums.  Bit of boiling water, short 10 minute wait and you’ve got yourself the base of any number of lovely little meals. Try some spaghetti with garlic butter and chilli flakes, or noodles cooked in chicken stock with soy sauce and sesame oil or some fried veg and bacon chucked in with a bowl of rice.  Simple, quick, but delicious.


3 – Tinned tomatoes

Another fantastic, but under-rated ingredient.  Whack in some basil and you’ve got yourself a little pasta sauce, use it as the base for a pizza, whizz it up with some veg and enjoy some hearty soup, not to mention the number of stews and casseroles they form the heart of. Love ’em.

4 – Tinned tuna

When I was at uni, tuna pasta was a favourite of mine.  It incorporates two other of my staples too! Cook some pasta, fry some onion, chuck in some tinned tomatoes and tuna.  If you’re feeling fancy then why not treat yourself to some sweetcorn in there too? My son on the other hand prefers another tuna based treat – tuna mayo sarnies.  Also very good, very quick and pretty good for you too!

5 – Coconut milk

This one’s slightly more exotic than my others – but sometimes, I want something a little more exotic to eat!  Using the spices below and maybe a tin of tomatoes, you can make a lovely little curry sauce to add to vegetables or chicken or fish or even lentils or chickpeas! Beautiful.  Don’t forget my lovely Pineapple & Coconut Smoothie for a quick breakfast too!

pineapple & coconut smoothie

Pineapple & Coconut Smoothie

Dried Herbs & Spices

6 – Chilli flakes, Turmeric, Cumin, Thyme

A rather eclectic mix here but I had to lump them all together or they wouldn’t fit in my list of 10 and I certainly couldn’t miss any of them.  Chilli flakes – perfect for adding some extra pep to any dish (especially good when you have kids who would prefer NOT to have any extra pep and you can just spice up your own plate separately).  Turmeric and Cumin are my most commonly used spices and make the base for any number of little curried dishes if you’re feeling like something a little more exotic from your store cupboard essentials (for this, see also number 5).  Lastly, thyme is probably my most used dry herb and brings to life chicken, fish and steak alike.  If you don’t have any fresh stuff about then this will do the trick nicely.

Other stuff

I’m sure there must be a really good word to describe the rest of these – they’re the kind of ingredients that are part of so many recipes.  They don’t often get any recognition for the hard work they do, being over shadowed by the more showy ingredients like steak or chocolate and whatnot, but I want to show them a bit of love today.

7 – Flour

Picture the scene… you’re suddenly hit with a massive craving for White Chocolate & Raspberry Cookies but you have NO flour in the house. I’m sorry to have to paint you such a bleak picture, but if you’ve learned a lesson from it then we’ll say no more about it.  Oh, and Macaroni Cheese for goodness sake!

White Chocolate & Raspberry Cookies

White Chocolate & Raspberry Cookies

8 – Oils – olive oil, extra virgin, sesame oil, vegetable oil

I can think of very few meals that I make that don’t require one of these guys.  My normal oil of choice is olive, but I use them all and make sure I have them all in my cupboard.  They do so much more than stopping stuff from sticking or helping stuff to brown.  They form the base of dressings, they add flavour AND they help to preserve other ingredients. Big heroes in my book!

9 – Vinegars – white wine, red wine, cider, balsamic, malt

These are often the bed fellows of the oils above.  A lovely, peppery extra virgin olive oil, with sweet sharp balsamic makes a perfect dressing for your salad.   Add in a couple of eggs with your oil and vinegar and you’ve got yourself a lovely little mayonnaise!  They pickle, they’re an essential part of fish & chips and your cupboard shouldn’t be without them.

10 – Stock cubes

Homemade stock is fab – it’s pretty easy to make, you can store it in your freezer and frankly, it tastes better than the cubes. HOWEVER, I know I don’t always have homemade stock in my freezer and I’m sure lots of you don’t either.  These days, you can get really good cubes and they add flavour to any number of dishes – soups, gravy and stews alike.  Sometimes I just whack one in the water I’m cooking my pasta or rice in and it really makes a difference. Go on – treat yourself!

As always, I could go on but I had to make the cut somewhere so here are a few of my other faves that didn’t quite make the list….

Bread – oh bread! What a love/hate relationship we have! Toast and Bovril is one of life’s great pleasures and comforts, and don’t get me started on Gazpacho! If I’m honest though, I wouldn’t want to let it sit for weeks or months…

Bulgur wheat – if you’ve never tried it then please do.  It’s so delicious and so cheap and makes a fantastic alternative to rice.

Baked beans – I really wrestled with this one! Beans on toast? Jacket potato with cheese and beans? LOVE.

Soy sauce – this stuff just adds such great flavour (it’s basically an alternative to salt – but describing it as that doesn’t seem to do it justice.) I’ll tell you this though – I wouldn’t eat my sushi without it.

Sweet Chilli Sauce – great for dips, great for marinades, great for dressing.  Just great.

I’d probably better stop there or I’ll never get anything done today!  Please do share some of your favourite store cupboard essentials in the comments below!

Oh – and know anyone heading off to uni soon?  Why not do what a couple of my best friends did and bundle all this lot into a box as a going away prezzie?  A sort of ‘Student Starter Kit’ of sorts…?


Colette Broomhead

I am a 30 something mother of 2 little boys and I live with them and my husband in Nottingham. My passions are my family and friends, my kitchen, my cookery books and all things food and drink!

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