Some of you might have just left home for the first time. Some of you might have just had one of your children leave home for the first time. Some of you might fall into neither of these categories and are just looking for some tips on how to keep your food costs down. For whatever reason you’re reading this post, I hope you can either take away some advice to help fashion your shopping lists in the future or to bestow onto your offspring.
It’s a well-known fact that students eating habits tend to veer between eating beans on toast to ordering takeaways and not very much in between (I’m speaking from experience here), so before you (or your student offspring) get into this cycle, it’s advisable to have a good grounding in basic food cupboard budgeting – keeping a good supply of those good value ingredients that can prove handy on a day-to-day basis. So here they are…
Tinned Tomatoes – You can use them to makes pasta sauces, soups and stews and trust me, your love of them will extend well into adulthood when you’ll break out into a cold sweat if you don’t have at least 4 tins in your cupboard at any one time. Or maybe that’s just me?
Soy Sauce – Great as a base for any stir fry sauce, or just to season some emergency noodles.
Sweet Chilli Sauce – Talking of stir fries, this is a great addition to any store cupboard if you want to keep your choice of ingredients to a minimum, and if you live near an Asian supermarket, you can pick up large bottles for a very good price indeed.
Runny Honey – Again, another good ingredient for stir fries (you’ll probably be eating a lot of stir fries by the way), but also great on cereal or in porridge.
Worcestershire Sauce – An all-round great seasoning, be it in pasta sauces, on cheese on toast, or if you want to go to trouble of making your own marinade (possibly a bit far-fetched, that last one).
Coconut Milk – Great if you want to make an easy curry. Adds instant sweetness and richness.
Tinned Tuna – Not just useful in sandwiches, but also pasta sauces if you want some protein but don’t have quite enough money for that mince.
Dried Pasta and Rice – Carbs that will keep for ages, in other words. Most supermarkets have some in their value ranges if you want to save even more money.
Stock Cubes – Absolutely essential as an easy way to make any sauce tastier. It’s a good idea to have beef, chicken and vegetable varieties to hand, and even though some supermarkets do offer very cheap stock cubes, I would recommend paying that little bit extra for better quality ones as it really makes a difference.
Tomato Puree – Another way to add richness to your pasta sauce, especially if your chosen brand of tinned tomatoes is slightly watery (which is more than likely with some cheaper supermarket brands).
Recommended Herbs and Spices – Don’t go overboard as the chances are most of them will not get used, but I would recommend you have some curry powder, chilli powder or dried chilli flakes and dried herbs to hand (dried oregano) – the former two will help you rustle up a simple curry in no time.
Salt and pepper – A no brainer for ANY kitchen whatever your budget, I think you’ll agree!
Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list, but a good round up of the basics and if you always have most of these to hand, a half decent meal will never be out of reach.