So I will often reference in the recipes “store cupboard staples” or “from the cupboard”. (As will a lot of recipes – or they just assume you have them in). But what do I do I keep in my cupboards and how do I try to do it in a thrifty way?
Everyone has their store cupboard staples – things they wouldn’t be without. And whilst the rich and famous may keep tins of caviar and bottles of hand-picked capers pickled in champagne vinegar in theirs, us lesser beings have to be more practical.
Totally syn free?
Are my cupboards totally syn free? No. There’s a few items that have syns attached to them. But I can’t be bothered to check what is what every time I go into the cupboard for something. Anything I get that has syns in them is marked on the packet with the syn value BEFORE it goes into the cupboard. If a packet is left on the work top – it means I don’t know the syns and need to look them up.
And in the cupboard today
On the above note on marking things up before putting them away – the first item, right at the front of the cupboard is a Sharpie pen (or cheap knock off of one anyhow). They write on nearly anything – so I can write on the lid of a tin of curry, or the glossy packet of a savoury couscous mix. If it’s in the cupboard and it isn’t marked – it means it’s syn free.
My first set is herbs and spices – I’ll pick up nearly any tub that’s going cheap that I think I can use. There’s cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, bay leaves, pepper corns, chilli flakes, chilli powder (hot and mild), mixed dried herbs, dried sage, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg. There’s mixes like Cajun spice mix, Chinese 5 spice.
I get these from anywhere and everywhere. The market occasionally, or a local shop I know I’ve mentioned before “Best Before Its Gone” – their website is still down, but their Facebook page is here (but they are promising that their site will be up soon). And failing that, there’s our local independent health food store (Their website is still “under construction” but their Facebook page is here). I’ll also buy from Aldi (cheap but not a wide range), Tesco (not as cheap but quite a wide range), and very rarely, Waitrose (not cheap but some speciality herbs, spices or mixes that I’m not going to find elsewhere in town).
As well as all the dry seasonings (and lets not forget the humble salt and pepper mills here too) there’s the other cupboard staples to add flavour. The just as humble tomato ketchup and brown/HP sauce. I used to buy bottles of both and guesstimate how much a tablespoon was so I knew how many syns I was using. I’ve since swapped to keep the little plastic sachets in the cupboard – they’re about a tablespoon, and I know how many syns by how many I’ve opened. At 1p each from “Best Before Its Gone” it’s hardly breaking the bank. I’m not sure in terms of pence per 100g that they are a better deal though. As well as these – there’s nearly always a bottle of a basic Tabasco style chilli sauce which I buy when they’re on offer somewhere.
It’s also rare for me not to have soy sauce, Aldi’s Worcestershire sauce (it’s cheaper than the “real” Lea & Perrins’ one), and balsamic vinegar (goes a long way and Aldi has a quite decent one for about 60p).
It’s also nice to see that Aldi have restocked on vanilla and almond extracts after being missing from the shelves for a while as in terms of money these are often the cheapest in town. That said – “Best Before” often has some in – including ones like pineapple flavouring as well as almond flavouring.
The seasoning sections of my cupboard is probably the most numerous. Even a humble tin of baked beans can be raised to something different just by adding some herbs and spices or a splash of Tabasco.
Other Store Cupboard staples
I’ve always got tins of baked beans and mushy peas. Quick, syn free, ways of adding something “wet” to an otherwise dry dish. Additionally beans can be thrown in stews, meat sauces (such as my vegetarian mince mix). There’s nearly always tins of kidney beans in there as well to add into other stuff to bulk things out. Then there’s tins of chopped tomatoes and cartons of passata that I use on a regular basis so are always in my cupboards. All are relatively cheap and can be used to make simple meals more tasty and extra filling.
There’s always a pasta, sometimes spaghetti but more likely some kind of shaped pasta – tubes, bows, spirals, etc.. And generally dried noodles too for adding to stir fries. And as well as the pasta, I always try to keep a bag of plain white rice in the cupboard – if for no other reason to mix into the more expensive pudding/short-grain rice to make that go that little bit further.
Tinned fish – I always keep a tin or two of tuna in. It’s a free food and I can use it in my fish cakes or just as a general snack item straight out of the tin as a late night protein snack. Occasionally when I find it going cheap there may also be a tin or two of salmon in there as well.
There are also a few packets of “Mug Shots” (or equivalents). Personally – I don’t like using these except when I’m really desperate. I know some people always have them around and use them on a regular basis – and I always kept a pack in the desk at work “just in case”. But I don’t find them as they are to be that tasty for the most part, and not all that filling either. Great for an “It’s that or a Greggs Sausage roll” moment though.