The Basic Storecupboard

Storecupboard 17.08.09I have referred in several previous articles to the importance of storecupboard ingredients.  We are fortunate that nowadays we all have a fridge and most of us have a freezer of some description, whereas our parents probably didn’t have either when they were young.  These appliances give us much more scope for planning ahead and for always having something in if we haven’t had time to shop. In an ideal world, we would plan meals days in advance and shop appropriately for the week ahead, but this is not always possible when one is trying to keep track of several people and arrangements seem to change at the drop of a hat.  It is also vitally important not to over shop and end up throwing food away.  Wasting food is wicked, be under no illusion, and it serves only to increase the profits of those who already have too much of the nation’s wealth.  I read in the newspaper recently that the average family throws away nearly £400 worth of food a year.  Four hundred pounds.  That is what I spend on food shopping in ten weeks.  That would pay for the food, clothing, housing and education of a child in a Third World country for over a year.  Don’t waste food.  By the same token, there is no point in leaving 2 teaspoons of gravy in a cup at the back of the fridge unless you have a definite plan for it, as this simply arouses the ridicule and loathing of your peers.

A word about microwaves.  I know that many of you nuke everything that casts a shadow and an equal number believe it to be the Baby Belling of Beelzebub.  The Wartime Housewife uses a microwave for several limited tasks.  Defrosting.  Ovaltine.  Porridge.  Custard. Scrambled egg.  My reason is this: bowls in which the above have been microwaved are far less onorous to clean than a saucepan which will have to be left to soak in the sink for a year and a half and then scrubbed with the domestic equivalent of a sandblaster.  Controversial I know, but I am a modern woman and until I have staff, the microwave stays.

 So what do we need to have in the storecupboard that will reliably prevent you rushing to Macky D’s in an emergency.  Over time I will provide many recipes that rely on storecupboard ingredients, but for the time being just make sure you have these in, adjusting the quantities for the size of your family and always buy the best that you can afford, remembering that best doesn’t always mean the most expensive.  Also, things like herbs gradually accumulate, so don’t feel the need to run to the shops and buy the lot at once.

Tinned chopped tomatoes
Tinned kidney beans
Tinned sweetcorn
Tinned tuna
Tinned mackerel
Baked beans
Custard powder
Raspberry Jam
Worcestershire Sauce
Soy sauce
Porridge oats
Stock cubes – chicken, beef & veg
Tinned whole peaches
Tea and coffee
Red lentils
Green lentils
Rice – easy cook
Tomato puree
Sugar – white and dark brown
Flour – plain white, self raising white, plain wholemeal
Pasta – spaghetti and something else
Cooking oil – pref olive but sunflower is perfectly good
Lemon juice
Golden Syrup
Condensed milk
Mustard powder
Assorted dried herbs esp. parsley, mixed herbs, sage, thyme, oregano, bay leaves  Spices: cumin, coriander, turmeric, paprika, ginger 
Whole chicken
Fish fillets – coley or basa are cheap and as tasty as anything else
Fish fingers
Lamb’s Liver – very cheap, versatile and incredibly tasty
Vegetables – peas, whole green beans, spinach, corn on the cob
Bread (a few slices can be kept in the smallest freezer)
Cheddar – nice strong stuff
Long life double cream (fresh is always better but we’re talking emergency backup here)
Leftover white wine – put it in a jam jar with a screw lid to save space

This may seem like a lot, but I bet if you were to rummage through your cupboards, freezer and fridge right now, you would find a lot more, of a lot less use, and several things that would arouse the ridicule of your peers. From this basic list, you can feed a family for a week, including cake, biscuits and ice cream lollies, perhaps only needing to top up with milk and bread. Remember also that you can buy fresh items such as onions, peppers and leeks when they’re cheap, chop them up and put them in bags in the freezer for use when you haven’t got or can’t get fresh.

Please let me know if there’s anything I’ve forgotten or anything you think is essential to your storecupboard.


Filed under Ethics, Food, Storecupboard

21 responses to “The Basic Storecupboard

  1. Personally, I always keep a bottle of soy sauce to hand. And mustard? – Oh, that’s at the ready on the table with the salt and pepper, I presume.

    • wartimehousewife

      Phil, you’re right as usual. They have been duly added, and I suggest that one buys mustard powder which keeps for much longer and you only make up the amount you need for the table. Quite often a pinch is all that is needed to lift a sauce to new heights.

  2. Stephen Barker

    Personally I can not think of any emergency to which McDonalds would be the answer. But then I do not have children to consider.

    • wartimehousewife

      I wholeheartedly agree Stephen, and a visit to said establishment is a rare thing indeed for WH and The Boys. But I’m sorry to say, that I know people with and without children who eat there practically every day, when no emergency is apparent. These are the people I would dearly love to reach. Failing conversion, a short, sharp custodial sentence would probably not be inappropriate.

  3. Lady B

    What is basa? I’ve never heard of it and am always willing to try anything (obviously apart from incest and country dancing!)

    • wartimehousewife

      Basa is a white fish which I believe comes from the Far East. It’s firm-fleshed with quite a delicate taste and is a cheaper and more responsible alternative to cod. I usually cook it in a little butter and parsley and leave it at that, but it can be used in any fish dish. Ask your fishmonger.
      By the way, there is absolutely no need to fear country dancing in itself. Anyone who has ever seen The Wytch Men doing Morris will confirm that it can be cool and dark indeed. Incest, however, remains unacceptable, even in the more rural reaches of Peterborough.

  4. The mustard powder needs to be Colmans, obviously (there is no other) and I’m glad to see Golden Syrup, which should be in the seven varities of tin they brought out for their anniversary. And the red tin of their Black Treacle? Just for balance on the shelves.

    • wartimehousewife

      I understand the psychological need for Black Treacle but it has limited use, predominantly being Christmas Cake and as part of a rather effective treatment for arthritis (when combined with cider vinegar). How do YOU use it?

  5. I use Black Treacle on its own, on toast. It has that hint of the exotic, something to victual a ship with in wooden casks, probably like the one in Frenchman’s Creek with a hint of tobacco on the evening air, the anchor straining rustily on glistening mud, the weeping cry of a curlew, the….

  6. Left over wine? Unthinkable!

  7. Guylian

    A supply of vanilla essence (or vanilla paste/extract etc), cooking chocolate, cooking apples and frozen puff pastry will provide many quick and tasty desserts. A good dukkah mix – it can be used in marinades, seasonings, added to dressings, sprinkled on salads or soft cheeses, or simply served in a shallow dish with some good olive oil and crusty bread as an appetizer. Dukkah keeps fine for months in the freezer without solidifying and can always be lightly toasted to increase flavour and reduce any staleness.

    • wartimehousewife

      Welcome to a new friend from Australasia! Good advice on the Pudding Front.
      But what is ‘dukkah’? It sounds extremely useful – could you let us know? We may call it something else over here.

      • Guylian

        Dukkah is an Egyptian spice mix made up of a range of various spices, nuts and seeds. Traditionally there’s supposed to be no one recipe as each family/household makes their own special blend. You can of course source each ingredient separately and make your own blend, but as some ingredients are very difficult to find it may be prudent to purchase one already made, at least until you find a blend you like. I buy mine from Paddymelon because I like their Australian native ingredients versions.

        Google result for ‘dukkah spice blend recipes’:

        Also, I forgot to add potatoes and pumpkin to my basics list!

      • wartimehousewife

        That sounds really good – I shall see if I can get some and then report back.

        Speaking of pumpkin, next month I shall do a Pumpkin Special as I think it’s appalling that most of the pumpkins grown in this country are simply made into lanterns and thrown away ( see Today’s Daily Telegraph).

  8. Hi Guys – I was just compiling a larder list and came across this forum – I respectfully would add noodles above as well as a good curry paste and coconut milk? Btw, a spoonful of treacle is a gorgeous addition to the making of brown bread!

    Great work!


    • wartimehousewife

      Welcome Sandra. Thanks for that and I agree that a good curry paste can be a great way of turning leftovers into something fabulous. Spread the word!

  9. Cicely

    Just a quick note to let you know how helpful I found your larder list, Wartime House-Wife.

    I’m a 19 year old (extremely poor) student, and I live with my (equally poor) fiancee, and just today we spent the very last of our funds for the next couple of weeks.

    I was feeling rather alarmed at how bare my cupboards seemed, and so I thought that I would have a quick trawl on the Internet to see what others deemed to be store cupboard essentials. I can’t tell you how gratified I was when I realised that I have many of the items you mention in my own cupboard. Unfortunately, for the moment, luxuries like cheese, wine and cream are forgone, but for the most part, I have the items you mention.

    I know you listed plain flour, but I just thought I’d re-iterate the point a little. I can’t say how indispensable plain flour has become in our household. When we have run out of money, (which happens far more often than it bears thinking about) some plain flour, a teaspoon of mixed herbs, a pinch of salt and a slosh of water makes an incredibly quick and surprisingly filling tortilla. Not necessarily the most enticing thing by itself, but spread with a little butter even, it becomes infinitely more appealing. A true lifesaver in these times of austerity.

    The other thing I was pleased to note was that you share my love of freezing things. I adore the satisfaction of buying vegetables when they are cheap and then freezing them for use at a later date. I also have a great passion for the filling of jars – Nigella Lawson recommends that when one has the time, it is an excellent idea to chop and cook onions which can then be stored (either frozen, or as I choose to – in a jar in my fridge) and used when required as a base for sauces and stews. Extremely handy, and dispenses with the need to make my mascara run on a daily basis.

    Just before I sign off this absurdly long comment, I’d like to add my own store cupboard essential, if I may?

    One can purchase from most supermarkets bags of root vegetables very cheaply. At my local supermarket, I can buy a bag containing a swede, a parsnip, three or four carrots and an onion for a pound. These bags are supremely handy to just have in the house (though I must admit, I unpack the vegetables and store them in the fridge rather than my cupboard) as an almost instant dinner. All that is required of me is twenty minutes of lazy chopping, and then I can bung everything in the oven to roast with a slosh of oil and a scattering of sea salt and voila! – dinner is served.

    Anyway, enough of this rambling, I must let you go. Thank-you again for allaying my fears that all I was to eat for the foreseeable future was gruel.

    • wartimehousewife

      Dear Cicely. Welcome to the Wartime Housewife! I can’t tell you how delighted I was with your comments and how pleased I was to have reached a younger audience and to be of some help. There are lots of recipes on my site which are very low cost (particularly the soups) and I would always be happy to offer advice if you were stuck. Your tip about the root vegetable selection packs is great, I use them all the time, sometimes in soup and sometimes in a big sausage casserole, which, when the sausages have gone, can be eaten as a veg stew the following day.

      You sound like a very sensible and resourceful woman and I wish you every success and hope we hear from you again.

      I have no fear of scavenging, or any dignity for that matter, and if you have a Co-operative near you, it’s worth asking what they do with their out of date veg as what doesn’t make it into the bargain bucket is often left very conveniently in an outside storage area even though it’s perfectly good.

  10. Pingback: Stolen Muffins « Wartime Housewife

  11. Pingback: Another emergency storecupboard pudding « Wartime Housewife

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