The Basic Store Cupboard

by Gail Kavanagh

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No matter how thrifty you are, there will come a time when you have to fall back on imagination and whatever you have in the pantry to rustle up a filling meal.

That's where a store cupboard comes in. My mother and grandmother swore by their store cupboards, and I have carried on the tradition.

The store cupboard is the economic basis of any household. With just a few basic items, you can eat well without too much fuss when the need arises. When a bill needs to be paid or an urgent purchase made, you can fall back on your store cupboard to free up some money. It's a relief to know that you have it behind you.

The stuff you buy shouldn't be expensive. Supermarket specials and generic brands will do the job, and the variety of meals you can produce from a basic store cupboard can then be supplemented with home grown vegetables, and some more expensive items for variety.

Neither do you have to rush out and buy everything at once. Just add as many extra purchases you can afford to your regular shopping. Use specials, coupons and money saved on other items to add to your store cupboard and in no time you will have a healthy stock of meals to fall back on.

Here's what to have in your store cupboard:

  • Flour: Self-rising can be used for everything.
  • Powdered Milk: full cream or skim
  • One-Minute Rolled Oats: Cheaper than chips and dead easy to cook.
  • Pasta: Different shapes and sizes, it's all good.
  • Sugar: White, for general cooking needs, and a small bag of brown sugar, for your porridge.
  • Dried Fruits: Comes in handy for snacking and adding to meals.
  • Cooking Oil: Canola or sunflower in no name generic bottles.
  • Canned Tomatoes: Buy the cheapest brand.
  • Tinned Meat: Braised steak and onion, spaghetti meat sauce, ham, Spam or whatever is on special. Never buy a damaged or rusty tin.
  • Soup: Packet or tinned soup can be the basis of many meals or provide a quick meal in itself. Chicken noodle and vegetable soup are the handiest.
  • Tuna: Large tins, packed in brine (water). A cheap quick meal.
  • Processed Cheddar Cheese: Ok, so it looks and tastes a bit plastic, but it's protein.
  • Spices and Herbs: Just some basics will do, such as cinnamon, nutmeg, basil (or an Italian herb mix) and some curry powder, mild or hot as you like. Add some stock cubes or powder as well, in chicken, beef and vegetable.
  • Rice: Short grain is useful for everything, long grain is for curries.
  • Dried Potato: Essential and easy to prepare.

What Can You Do with This Stuff?

Porridge: Cook according to directions, add to cookie recipes, or add to minced beef to stretch it round the family. They won't notice, trust me. Use it to make your own muesli with chopped dried fruit. You can also spread the muesli out on a baking tray, sprinkle with a little brown sugar, and toast it in a hot oven for a few minutes.

Flour: Make scones or biscuits, pancakes, and a simple cottage loaf with two cups flour, a teaspoon of salt and water. Mix, form into a round loaf and bake. If the flour is self rising you don't need baking powder.

Tomato, Cheese and Pasta: Simply combine for a wholesome meal. Cook the pasta, stir in a can of tomatoes and some chopped cheese. Add herbs or cooked meat or whatever else you have that would taste good.

Rice: Make a risotto by cooking rice in stock and add vegetable, tinned tomatoes or tuna. Add curry powder and chopped dried fruit for an interesting and delicious curry. Or stir in some milk with the rice, add sugar and chopped dried fruit, and voila! Orchard creamed rice.

Tinned Meat: Add curry powder and rice, tinned tomatoes and pasta, serve on toast.

Tuna: Mix with the reconstituted dried potato, shape into rounds and fry or bake for fishcakes. Add to cooked pasta, top with a little milk to keep it moist, and grated cheese and brown under a broiler.

Dried Potato: Add to pancakes to make potato scones, thicken soups and stews, or serve as a side vegetable with tinned meat.

Soup: Combine with reconstituted dried potato, rice or pasta for a hearty meal.

That's just a sample of the recipes you can concoct with your store cupboard stuff. By adding whatever else is at hand, you can come up with many more, and feed your family wholesome meals through the toughest times.

Take the Next Step

  • Once you trim the grocery budget, don't waste that extra money! Consider opening a savings account to start an emergency fund or save for some other financial goal.
  • Continue to trim food costs by visiting our food & groceries section to get tips and tools for keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.

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