Low Budget Foods for Every Store Cupboard
If you're living on a budget and finding that food shopping is taking up a good proportion of your weekly or monthly outgoings, then perhaps you need to rethink the way that you shop.
Being smart about the way you stock your store cupboard will probably mean that you have to take less trips to the supermarket – especially if you're able to bulk buy from a food co-operative. Ultimately, because you're cooking from scratch, you'll also probably find that you're cooking much more healthily . A good store cupboard stock will include those important wholegrains, pulses and other foods packed with natural goodness.
What's in Your Store Cupboard?The term 'store cupboard' may conjure up the image of old, dusty packets of dried pulses, or countless unwanted tins of butterbeans destined for the school bazaar's raffle stall. But stock your store cupboard well, and you will find that you can whip up a low budget meal that tastes good and keeps your wallet well-stocked too!
The first thing you need to do before you start your low budget store cupboard stock up is to remove all the tins, packets and half-opened boxes of food that you know you're just never going to eat. Give them away, donate them, put them on the compost heap – just get them out of there! You want a store cupboard with plenty of space so that you always know what's in there. There's no point in keeping all the unwanted foods at the back of the cupboard, and cramming in everything else at the front.
Once you've cleaned out your store cupboard, you're ready to put together your low budget staple food list. So let's now take a look at some low budget foods that every store cupboard should have.
OilsOils and vinegars are the kick-start of many a meal, and provide subtle taste differences. Having a stock of olive oil (ideal), sunflower oil or vegetable oil and a couple of small bottles of specialty oils such as sesame oil or groundnut oil – particularly if you're keen on oriental or indian cooking – is a very good idea. If you only use olive oil to cook with, then opt for a mild or light infused oil. But if you like to make salad dressings or want to add a bit of sweet and sour taste to your cooking, a good quality virgin olive oil and a small bottle of balsamic vinegar is always a good idea. You'll be surprised at how often you can use these.
Dried or Tinned PulsesAgain, the trick with dried and tinned pulses is to only buy what you know you will eat. Dried pulses are fantastically economical, although you may have to invest some time in soaking them, so they're not always ideal if you have a somewhat hectic lifestyle, or a busy schedule. But again, it's about being smart and having an element of pre-planning in your meal making – for instance, red lentils are very cheap, and only take half an hour or so to cook in soups, stews and broths. Green lentils, on the other hand, take a few hours to soak before they can be used, so buying them in tins is probably a much better option.
Other tinned pulses for your low budget store cupboard include kidney beans (try them in chilli sauce for an extra twist), borlotti beans, pinto beans and chickpeas. Chickpeas in particular are fantastic, as they're not only cheap and a great source of protein and fibre, but also versatile as they can be used in soups, stews, curries, hotpots and even to make cake batter.
Other Tinned FoodsOther tinned foods for your low budget store cupboard include tinned chopped tomatoes, dolphin-friendly tuna, baked bins and a tin of good quality vegetable stock. These are all basic ingredients suitable for an abundance of lunch and dinner meals, and will store for weeks, months, and even years!
Pasta and GrainsSo many dishes in British and world cuisine use pasta and grains, such as noodles, rice, couscous and bulgar wheat. Because they store so well, regardless of whether you live alone or have a large family, you can buy your pasta and grains in bulk and save money. For healthier options, opt for wholegrain rice or wholewheat pastas.
SaucesSauces can often make or break a meal, and either way will add that extra twist to your food. A good low budget store cupboard will have a range of economically-priced sauces at the ready. Worcester sauce, tomato ketchup, soy sauce, passata or tomato puree and chilli sauce are all-important cheap additions to your store cupboard.
Baking IngredientsFlour, baking powder, sugar and mixed dried fruit – the basis of a hundred different sweet and savoury dishes. Cheap and readily available, these are absolutely essential for your low budget store cupboard.
Herbs and SpicesThe final stock up for your store cupboards are your dried herbs and spices collection. Start with the basics – salt, black peppercorns, mixed dried herbs, chilli powder and curry powder - before exploring your tastes and stocking up on a more varied range.
By having many ingredients always on hand, in addition to your supply of fresh vegetables such as garlic, onions and potatoes, you'll be able to have the luxury of choosing to cook a varied and wholesome repertoire of meals.