The roads are icy, it’s almost dinner time, and your neighbours pop ‘round for an unexpected visit. Not to worry. With a pantry packed full of practical ingredients, you make a meal at a moment’s notice.
Key to keeping a well-stocked pantry is choosing ingredients that you can use for multiple meals—essential items that will easily morph into a range of dishes depending on what’s in the fridge. This increases your versatility and makes it easier to think on your feet.
- Tinned tomatoes — One of the most useful pantry items, tins of chopped tomatoes can form the base of pizza sauces, pasta sauces, curries, chili, soups and so much more.
- Potatoes — When stored in a cool, dry pantry, potatoes last a while and are reliable as both an ingredient (in soups, curries, shepherd’s pie, etc.) and on their own as a side dish (chips, mash, dauphinoise, etc.).
- Onions — Another durable vegetable that will last weeks in a dry pantry, onions are a guaranteed flavour booster and found in so many easy winter dinner recipes, from chunky chili to spicy chicken tikka masala and, of course, French onion soup.
- Beans and legumes — Stock your pantry with kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and any other members of the bean and legume family that you fancy. Use them in soups and curries, or blend them with olive oil to make delicious bean dips or hummus.
- Canned fish — Perhaps controversial, but for those who enjoy them, tinned tuna, mackerel and anchovies work well for lunchtime sandwich melts, as pizza toppings or atop a savoury biscuit as an hors d’oeuvre.
- Nuts — Wonderful winter superfoods, nuts are an incredibly versatile ingredient, not to mention a great snack. Walnuts, pecans, almonds, pistachios and cashews will all add a nice, rich crunch to salads, sweet breads and curries. You can also blend them into tasty smoothies and dips.
- Rice — An absolute must-have, keep lots of rice stored away for curries, soups and as a side to any featured protein (chicken, fish or steak, etc.). Mix in a tin of tomatoes, a chopped onion, chili powder, garlic, salt and black pepper for instant Spanish rice (perfect for taco night).
- Couscous — When cooked with butter and a stock cube, couscous makes for a nice, fluffy side dish. Transforming it into a couscous salad is as simple as adding veg, dried fruit and seasoning.
- Pasta — Fill the shelves with all types of pasta, from big lasagna sheets to conchiglie shells and classic spaghetti. Having plenty of pasta in the house means you always have options when it comes to last-minute meal planning.
Sauces, liquids and spreads
- Olive oil — Definitely don’t let your olive oil supply run low. You need it for salad dressings, pasta sauces, blending into dips, drizzling over homemade oven chips, sautéing veg and so much more.
- Balsamic vinegar — Mix this Italian favourite with olive oil for an easy salad dressing, or as a dip for fresh bread. Create a marinade for chicken, fish or beef by combining it with soy sauce, olive oil and Dijon mustard.
- Pesto — It’s useful to keep a few jars of pesto on hand for those last-minute meals. Spread it on sandwiches, enjoy it as a pasta sauce or use it atop a pizza instead of the standard tomato base.
- Pizza base mix — Making pizza dough from scratch is time-consuming. If you don’t have time to go the traditional route, using baker’s yeast, waiting for it to rise and flattening it with a rolling pin, a “just add water” pizza base is a perfectly acceptable alternative.
- Brownie mix — Cake and sweetbread mixes have come a long way in recent years, and brownie mixes are the tastiest of the bunch. Just add egg, oil and water, then throw the box in the recycling so your guests are none the wiser!
- Biscuits (both savoury and sweet) — It’s customary to keep a jar of biscuits handy for that afternoon cuppa, but don’t forget to stock up on savoury biscuits and crackers too. When unexpected guests arrive, set out a plate of crackers topped with apple and sharp cheddar, brie and cranberry, soft cheese and smoked salmon, or another classic pairing of your choice.
What foods do you always keep stocked in your cupboards?