Your Store Cupboard Essentials List

Dried food in jars

Once you’ve equipped your kitchen with the essential tools that you need, the next task is to stock your kitchen cupboards. Here’s your store cupboard essentials list.

But what should you buy? Walk around any supermarket and the sheer range of products is mind-blowing. Everything from Miso paste to spelt flour and chilli sauce.

So what do you really need? In this article, I will advise you what to put on your store cupboard essentials shopping list. Don’t be alarmed, it looks like a lot of food; but most of these items will last a while, so you don’t need to add them to your shopping list every week. Great news for your wallet.

Oils, Vinegar, and Canned Foods

Oil is a very versatile ingredient; different oils have different purposes when cooking. Start with a flavourless vegetable or sunflower oil for everyday cooking, and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil for salads and for dressing pasta dishes and vegetables. Buy the best you can afford. Cheap extra virgin olive oil can taste bitter. At a later date, you could add toasted sesame oil which is great for oriental cooking. Or even truffle oil. This is expensive, but you only need a few drops to add amazing flavour to your food.

When I was growing up, we only had one kind of vinegar, and that was the sharp, brown malt vinegar. There wasn’t any other kind. Now you can buy balsamic, red wine, white wine, sherry, and apple cider vinegar, amongst other, exotic flavours like raspberry vinegar. I would choose balsamic vinegar and red and white wine vinegar. That will be sufficient to get you started.

Canned foods are vital in any kitchen store cupboard. Chopped plum tomatoes are always handy to knock up a quick pasta sauce, but it’s also useful to have canned beans, such as black beans, cannellini and red kidney beans. Canned lentils are great for a quick vegetarian curry or authentic dahl and since they are already cooked you just warm them through. A great time-saver.

Dry Goods

Other items you might want to add to your shopping list are baking staples like flour, caster sugar, and soft brown sugar. There are both dark and light varieties. Which one you use depends on the recipe. Dark brown sugar has a deep, treacly sweetness and light brown sugar is more caramel in flavour. Buy both, just to be prepared.

Salt and pepper are essential for all your savoury cooking, but be sure to buy whole black peppercorns. Ready ground pepper has very little flavour and will just make you sneeze. Freshly ground peppercorns, on the other hand, have a wonderful fragrance and flavour. I never used to like pepper until I tried the freshly ground kind. Now I use it on everything savoury. It really enhances meat and pasta dishes. And things like rice, eggs, pasta and potatoes are very bland without any salt.

Speaking of pasta, it’s always good to have dried pasta available in your store cupboard. Long, thin pasta like spaghetti or linguine and pasta shapes like penne (quills) or conchiglie (shells) are good ones to start with. Rice is another staple food. Use basmati rice as it has a good flavour and a lovely, delicate fragrance. White or brown, it’s up to you.

Just bear in mind that brown rice takes more than twice as long to cook as white rice (about 25 minutes) so if you want dinner in a hurry, go for white basmati rice rather than brown. You can add a pack of risotto rice, arborio being the most widely available, or Thai jasmine or sticky rice, but it’s not absolutely necessary. Add these at a later date.

Fridge and Freezer Essentials

As well as your store cupboard, it makes sense to have certain items in your fridge and freezer. Not just eggs, milk and butter but ingredients like mustard, mayonnaise, curry pastes, different cheeses, jars of roasted peppers and artichokes, sauces such as ketchup and sweet chilli sauce, and plain or flavoured yoghurt. Depending on the size of your freezer, store loaves of bread, bags of vegetables such as carrots, peas and broccoli, chips, fish, including prawns, and fresh ginger. And if you cook too much food, put the leftovers into a freezer-proof container and pop them in the freezer. Just make sure that you label them so you don’t have trouble finding the one you want.

Herbs and Spices

Without these, cooking would be a bit boring in my opinion. Herbs and spices are not only essential in lots of recipes – curry would not exist without spices –  but they add flavour to just about anything, sweet or savoury. Fresh herbs can be chopped, bagged up and stored in the freezer to be used straight from frozen. Dried herbs will keep for ages in your store cupboard, but try to buy your spices whole and grind them as needed. Ready ground spices lose their flavour very quickly and that’s not what you want.

For more information see herbs and spices and their uses.

Dried herbs should include oregano, thyme, and bay leaves. Spices should include whole cumin and coriander seeds, fennel seeds, green cardamom pods, and whole star anise, then ground spices like turmeric, smoked and sweet paprika, chilli flakes, garam masala, curry powder, and Chinese five-spice.

The first time you go out to buy all these items it could be an expensive shopping trip. But like I said, you won’t need to buy them every time you go shopping. Bottles of oil and vinegar will keep indefinitely, as will rice, flour, sugar and pasta. If you have pasta to hand along with a can of chopped tomatoes you will always be able to whip up a satisfying meal in less than 30 minutes.

So now you have your essential kitchen tools and gadgets, a full store cupboard and a well-stocked fridge and freezer. Your bank balance may be smaller but I hope that you’re feeling excited about the possibilities for all the wonderfully tasty meals that you’re going to create, right there in your kitchen.

Even if you’ve never cooked a complete meal before, I promise that you will soon learn the necessary skills that you need to nourish yourself, your family and your friends. Stick with me and I will show you how it’s done.

For a list of basic kitchen equipment that you will need go to this basic kitchen equipment list

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4 thoughts on “Your Store Cupboard Essentials List”

  1. Thank you very much for this detailed cupboard essential list post. I’m not really interested in these things. But I think this post will be very important to mom. Because he is the one who goes shopping in our house. I am sending this post to my mother. I think this will mean a lot to him. Keep posting like this. Thank you very much.

  2. It is an excellent blog of essential items in the kitchen to start cooking homemade food and enjoy.

    The ingredients are well thought out and described which really makes sense.

    One can try stuff out of these ingredients and look at the internet for quick dishes to feed one’s family or self.

    I like the collection of herbs and spices that you have selected. Your cabinet and refrigerator carry all essentials to have home-cooked meals.

    I didn’t know about truffle oil and will give it a try in my kitchen.

    I will stick around for your next post. 

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, I really appreciate your views. I will be publishing many articles on food and cooking in the near future so hopefully that will give you some good ideas for tasty meals. Meals that don’t cost a lot to make and don’t take hours to cook. Apart from casseroles and stews, which are better with long, slow cooking. 

      Truffle oil is very strongly flavoured, you only need a few drops. It has a taste rather like mushrooms. I like it on pasta dishes, it adds another dimension to the dish. Please come back soon, your opinion is always welcome 


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