By The Top Ten Girl
Believe it or not, almost all of us have been there before. Tummy grumbling and dizzy-headed, you open your food cupboard to prepare a delicious, filling and budget friendly meal. But instead of being greeted with variety you are instead shooed away by bits of rice, a stock cube, a bag of nuts and a sticky jar of mustard. Forgetting your budget-friendly home cooked meal, you head out to the nearest fast food or corner store to fill up on crisps, biscuits and pizza. Sacrificing a nutritious and satisfying meal, you are now settling for a barrage of fattening, overpriced snacks.
In order to combat this problem, here are the top ten things one should always have in the house.
1. Whole Grain Pasta
Whole grain pasta is not only filling and delicious it is also packed with fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals. It also has a long shelf life, so feel free to keep it stored in a cool, dry place until consumption. With an average cooking time of seven to fifteen minutes, depending on the type, pasta makes for a relatively quick meal to prepare. While it is on the boil, toss some tomatoes, spinach, onions, mushroom, garlic, basil and peppers into a saucepan with a bit of olive oil. In the time that it takes for this simple sauce to simmer, your pasta will be perfectly al dente. Not only will your stomach be full, but your wallet will as well!
2. Tinned Tomatoes
While I am not normally a fan of tinned vegetables, tinned tomatoes will always be on my good list. As a simple addition to pasta sauces, stews and soups, marinades and salads, tinned tomatoes come in all types and sizes. Whether roma or vine, chopped or diced, you can never go wrong by having a tin of this in the house.
I know this may seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised at the number of things you can do with milk and how often you will find your kitchen devoid of such an item. Whether it goes into your tea, porridge, homemade dressings or just on its own, milk is one item that is the easiest to forget to replace. As milk does tend to have a relatively short shelf life, try to dig your milk out from the back of the shelf. Milk nearest to its expiration date is almost always placed at the front, so pay attention to the date on the label to get the most out of this product.
4. Dried Herbs
Easy, convenient and with a long shelf life; herbs are one thing to always have on hand. Instead of buying each herb individually, try to buy the combination packs such as ‘Italian Seasoning’ or ‘Herbs de Provence’ which tend to have many herbs in the mix. This way you get the most flavour without wasting too much space in your cupboard with dried sage or thyme that you only used once.
Similar to milk, eggs are something which comes in handy all the time. Whether they are used for a quick burst of protein for breakfast, a main ingredient for your sandwich or a necessary addition to cake recipes, eggs are always a welcome addition. Like with milk, they do come with an expiration date so keep an eye on the carton to avoid any unwelcome stomach upsets.
An absolute necessity for just about anything, having flour in the house will save you from having to run to the shops when making cakes, cookies, pancakes, dough or sauces. Flour also has a long shelf life, but be sure to keep it in an airtight container or dark, cool corner of your cupboard for maximum freshness and protection from any unwanted insects.
Because most vegetables have a short window of freshness in your fridge, I am only going to include those that tend to stay fresher for longer. Such examples are broccoli, onions, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, celery and garlic. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, onion, carrots and celery tend to stay good for up to a week in your fridge (or, at most 1-2 days after their ‘sell by’ date) and tend to avoid the dreaded mushy, rotten outcome of most leafy greens, squashes and green beans. Items like potatoes, parsnips and garlic have a much longer lifespan. If you see them sprouting, don’t fear! Just remove the additions, wash them well and boil or roast them as normal.
8. Oils, Spreads and Spices
It is always a great idea to have plenty of oils and seasonings on hand, just in case. Your mainstay ingredients like olive oil, butter and salt and pepper are non-negotiable. But just in case you feel like branching out, it is always a good idea to have some extra items that appear often in recipes. These include balsamic vinegar, white wine vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes, golden syrup, baking powder, baking soda, mini bottles of white or red wine and paprika. I definitely encourage the latter item as a lovely addition to baked macaroni and cheese!
When it comes to snacks, there are few that can really surpass a banana. Packed with fibre and enough sugar to give you a great boost before a seminar or the gym, bananas are both filling and nutritious. They’re also a great alternative to fattening snacks when you are feeling a bit peckish. For optimum use, buy them when they’re green in the store and not as ripe. Leave them on the counter or table to let them mature fully, but don’t feel afraid to eat them during the process. Once they have started to brown, mash them up to make a delicious banana bread, American style banana pudding or banana cream pie.
This may seem like a strange addition, but citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemon and limes make a welcome addition in any kitchen. Oranges are great as snacks and grapefruits offer a healthy breakfast alternative alongside a slice of toast and strong cup of tea. Lemons and limes can be used to season meats and fish, add in a salad, simmer in a marinade and even keep your kitchen smelling fresh. To do this, chop a lemon and a lime in half and squeeze the juice down your drain. Let them sit in the bottom of your sink and run some hot water over them every ten or fifteen minutes. You’ll notice the difference right away!