16 store cupboard staples


A well-stocked store cupboard is the first step towards being able to cook tasty and healthy meals. Here’s our dietitian’s guide to 16 of the best.

1. Tinned tomatoes

Tinned tomatoes in juice are a versatile ingredient. They can take centre stage as a simple sauce for pasta as well as being an ingredient in dishes like Bolognese or chilli.

2. Tinned tuna in water

Tinned tuna is a useful ingredient to have to hand, whether you use it for a simple tuna sandwich filling, to top a salad or jacket potato or for more substantial meals like a tuna bake or in a tomato based pasta sauce. Don’t just stick to tuna: oily fish like salmon, sardines and pilchards are also a good choice. The important thing is to choose fish that have been tinned in water, tomato sauce or unsaturated fats like sunflower or olive oil rather than in brine to keep the salt down.

3. Herbs and spicesHerbs

Adding flavour is important when it comes to cooking with less salt. Dried herbs and spices are an inexpensive way of doing that and have the advantage of keeping for a while if they are kept well sealed and out of direct sunlight.

4. Unsaturated oil

OilChoose unsaturated fats like rapeseed, sunflower and olive oils for cooking rather than butter, lard or ghee.

5. Whole wheat pasta

Higher in fibre than white pasta, whole wheat pasta is a filling choice and will keep for a long time in your cupboard ready for a quick evening meal. Use it as a starchy accompaniment for main meals as well as having it cold in pasta salads.

6. Onions

A basic ingredient that contributes towards your five a day, onions are a versatile ingredient whether you are making a cooked dish or a salad. They keep well stored in a cool, dark place without needing to be refrigerated.

7. Tinned pulses

Pulses are a good ingredient to bulk out meat dishes as well as being a vegetarian source of protein. Dried pulses keep well too but when they are tinned in water they are ready to eat making them a quick and easy choice.

8. Plain flour

A bag of plain flour can be useful for making pancakes and scones, as well as to thicken a white sauce or casserole.

9. Potatoes

Whether they are baking potatoes, sweet potatoes or new potatoes, these root vegetables keep well when stored in a cool, dark place. Eat them with their skins on to benefit from some extra fibre.

10. Tinned fruit in juice

Tinned fruit keeps for ages and will count towards your five a day. During the winter it can be a good way of getting more exotic fruits in your diet like peaches, apricots and pineapple. Just make sure the fruit is tinned in fruit juice rather than syrup.

11. Dried fruit

Dried fruits such as sultanas, apricots, figs and dates are all useful for adding sweetness to breakfasts, stewed fruit and adding to stews and casseroles. While dried fruit won’t have the vitamin C that fresh fruit does, dried fruit still contributes to your five a day and can also be a source of nutrients like fibre and iron.  

In your freezer:

12. Frozen peas

Frozen vegetables can sometimes have more nutrients in them than fresh and will count towards your five a day. Having a bag of peas in the freezer means you will never be short of a vegetable to serve with your main meals and you can also use defrosted frozen peas as an addition to salads as well as to make a filling soup.

13. Bread

It’s always useful to have a sliced loaf of wholegrain bread in the freezer. If you don’t get through bread quickly, having it ready sliced means you don’t have to defrost the whole thing in one go. Just take out individual slices as and when you need them.

In your fridge:

14. Eggs

At breakfast, lunch and dinner eggs are a quick to cook source of protein and keep well. Use them when they are at their freshest for poaching and for a Spanish omelette, boiled or scrambled if they are nearing their use by date.

15. Low fat milk

Whether it’s for hot drinks, on cereal, or to make a white sauce, milk is in most of our fridges. Using low-fat milks like semi-skimmed, 1% or skimmed milk will help to reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet. It might seem like a small change but because milk is such an everyday food the benefits can add up.

16. Low-fat yoghurt

Use it for breakfast with cereals, to make dips or to have with fruit as a pudding. A pot of low fat natural yogurt is useful to keep in the fridge and can be more versatile than fruit flavoured ones.

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