These are the things I like to keep stocked in my pantry which I find are really versatile, make meals cost-effective and easy to prepare.*
Maybe you are the type of person who pre-plans and then shops for the meals you will eat that week, or maybe even prepares them in advance, you meal-prep ninja you! I've tried this. I felt trapped and bored. I’m not at all saying that planning is sad or boring, it is, for lots of people a necessary and wonderful tool that takes a lot of stress out of getting meals on the table! I’m just saying I am not a planner when it comes to meals. There are exceptions, of course, say if I’m cooking for a dinner party or a special occasion then yes, I would pre-plan for it, but for the most part, the kitchen is where I love to be creative. What works best for me at this stage is having a selection of ingredients, a mixture of fresh and pantry staples, and then deciding on the fly what meals to make, depending on what I fancy and how much time I have/want to spend cooking. #freedom
The following are my pantry staples. Although this seems like a lot of ingredients, most of these items can be bought in bulk, will keep for a long time and can be used in a number of different ways for a huge variety of dishes. The list is not completely comprehensive as I've left a few things out such as herbs, spices and other flavourings. One for another post perhaps.
Yes, brown rice contains more fibre and minerals than white rice but I prefer it because of its chewier texture and delicious nutty taste.
Ground yellow corn, this staple, originally from Italy, is incredibly versatile, quick to prepare and delicious. Add butter, cheese, milk or cook in stock for more flavour!
Yes, fairly expensive but a plant source of complete protein, meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids, as well as iron, zinc and calcium. Once cooked you can store it in the fridge for 6-7 days - great to add to quick lunches!
Packed with nutrients and a good source of heart-healthy soluble fibre. Use to make porridge, bircher muesli, smoothies, in baking, I even add oats to hamburgers and meatloaf in place of breadcrumbs!
Made from semolina, this cooks quickly and is excellent for adding into tagines, stews or makes for a delicious salad base.
A quick and easy savoury snack, high in fibre. You can have it simply salted or jazz it up by adding different spices/flavours such as garlic powder, cinnamon or even some Parmesan.
For baking, thickening sauces and for coating fish, meat or veg before frying.
Arguably one of my most used items on this list. Soups, stews, sauces, curries, casseroles - a real "essential" for me.
Tinned coconut milk
Sweet, creamy and rich I add this to curries, desserts, smoothies and use it to make sticky coconut rice.
They have a buttery texture and nutty taste which makes them perfect for homemade hummus, and to add to curries and salads.
Tinned kidney beans
An excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fibre. Great for adding to a quick chilli or a three bean salad!
Tinned/Dried Green lentils
These have a rich, nutty flavour. I love these in curries, stews, soups and bakes. Green lentils take a little longer to cook than red but hold their shape much better.
Red Split lentils
Sold dried, these tend to go a little mushy when they’re cooked so work really well in soups and for thickening up curries and stews.
Nuts and Seeds
Great for toasting to top breakfasts and salads, desserts or grab for snacks, add to baking and granola, and pesto. My favourites are cashews, walnuts and almonds.
I eat this with carrot sticks, apple wedges, banana, on toast, in porridge, in satay sauce for stir-fry or just straight out the jar! If your immune system is good with peanuts they are an inexpensive and delicious source of protein, vitamin E, vitamin B3 (niacin) and manganese. Oh and crunchy, always crunchy.
Rich in fibre, protein and omega-3 these little seeds, in the mint family, can be sprinkled on almost anything and add texture as well as a nutrient boost. They contain protein, fibre and minerals such as phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, calcium and iron.
Another great plant source of omega-3, when eaten whole these can pass through the intestinal tract undigested so milled or ground is generally a good way to eat them. I like using it to top breakfasts and to add to baking.
Slightly strange sounding but I love Greek yoghurt with cocoa powder and frozen berries/peanut butter. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!
Lovely as a glaze for roasted veggies and a quick, tasty dressing for salads.
Drizzle over veggies before roasting, on salad, great for dry skin and hair too!
This flavourful Asian condiment is great for stir-fries, marinades and sauces.
A paste made from ground sesame seeds. I love the rich creamy, toasty and slightly bitter taste of this and a little adds a lot of flavour to this like hummus, salad dressings, sauces and even desserts.
*I realise that the fact that I can stock my pantry with healthful, delicious food of my choice is a privileged position to be in. In no way am I saying that the way I choose to do this is right for or possible for everyone!