This Aladdin’s Cave Could Save Your Life
Keeping a supply of basics on hand has never been more important
My store cupboard is called Aladdin. There will be a prize* for the person who can correctly tell me the reason why in the comments.
Ok enough hilarity, down to business.
I’ve always been slightly mocking of the kind of people who keep an enormous store of food in case ‘something’ happens. You know…preppers. I have one friend whose cold room was filled with shelves full of emergency food. Another whose mother kept a huge packing trunk full of cans. Lunatics, I thought.
With the experience of shortages during early covid, not to mention inflation, war, supply chain issues … well, the world may not be in danger of imminent collapse but it just seems sensible to keep a decent store cupboard. I now like to have enough food in the house to see my family through a couple of months if necessary.
I guess we all have our favorite foods that we might want to keep on hand, as well as some concerns, like allergies, sensory issues, etc., but now seems like a good time for me to share some of my personal tips on store cupboard items. You can tweak them to suit your needs.
These suggestions are also useful just to make it easier to cook day-to-day meals with less dependence on take-out or pre-packaged foods, and good food storage practices will ultimately save you money.
Let’s start with a few cardinal rules:
- Don’t bank on your freezer working – if the electricity goes out, that 10lb of steak you’ve stashed for a rainy day will be no good whatsoever. Frozen food though is a given for storage – I’m not going to talk about it here.
- Get products with long expiry dates – years out.
- Do an inventory every 3–6 months and move items soon to expire into your kitchen cupboard then replace the store items.
- Keep plenty of bottled water.
Carbs store for years. The key is to get a variety of types that can act as the basis of a meal or as a side dish, and different types of each.
Shaped pasta (several packets each of macaroni, penne, fusilli – different shapes have different uses). Buy the best quality you can afford. Often cheap pasta goes claggy when you cook it.
Strip pasta like spaghetti, tagliatelle, lasagne. Same as above, multiple types and good quality.
Rice. In the same way that different pasta suits different uses, you should keep a few types of rice. I’d suggest basmati, Arborio and brown rice.
Noodles eg soba and ramen
Oatmeal – steel ground or rolled oats. You could get packet oatmeal mixes too if you like but it’s not good value for money.
Quick cook polenta or yellow corn-meal – so useful as an alternative to mashed potatoes or made ahead and cut into slices to grill. Or for cornbread!
Crackers like water biscuits, matzos, Nairn’s oatcakes, saltines.
Cereal – but check the use-by date.
Flour – all-purpose and self-raising, and optionally strong bread flour.
Yeast, baking powder, and baking soda to make your bread and cakes. Remember how hard yeast was to get in COVID I? Sourdough anyone?
If you’re a meat-eater you’ll probably keep some meat in your freezer. As a back up though, and to reduce the amount of meat in your diet, you’ll want to store some other sources of protein with a long shelf life.
Dried lentils. Super useful. Choose red and green varieties (and I like Puy ones too) you can put them in soup, curry, oven bakes, cook them with lardons, add to flatbreads, make a dip with red peppers. Go crazy!
Tinned and/or dried Chick Peas. For hummus of course but also good for curries and stews, simmered with tomatoes and garlic as a side, or cold with olive oil, lemon, and herbs as a salad. So cheap and so good.
Dried green peas. For soup or to cook and purée as a spread with some mint.
Haricot and kidney beans. For baked beans and chilies.
Nuts. Whatever varieties you enjoy!
Tinned fish – tuna, salmon, sardines
Tinned meat —if you like that (not for me thanks)
Peanut butter but check the use by!
You might consider dried soy protein as a replacement for meat too.
Oils And Dressings
I keep olive oil, coconut oil, and toasted sesame seed oil in stock. Oils, especially olive oil, are important for health.
Tins of coconut milk for sauces
Hellman’s mayo, ranch dressing
Various mustards (grainy, smooth, ass-kickingly hot)
Balsamic vinegar, wine vinegar
A huge amount of white vinegar– it is so useful for cleaning and laundry! And you can put it on your chips.
Of course, you always want to get your vitamins from fresh produce whenever possible but if you don’t have access to fresh, tinned do serve a useful purpose.
Tinned tomatoes – lots of them!
Tinned fruits – whichever you like
Tinned veggies – whichever you like
Long-life fruit juice
Other Food Essentials
Salt. Never underestimate the importance of salt in your diet.
Black pepper and grinder
Dried herbs – Bay leaves, oregano, basil, thyme, etc.
Mixed spices eg Lebanese, Italian, chili, 5-spice, curry
Single spices eg chili flakes, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric
Jars of garlic.
Spice pastes-eg madras curry, red Thai
Jams and chutneys
Worcestershire sauce. Trust me.
Capers, olives, anchovies
Maple syrup and/or honey
Dried fruits (raisins, apricots)
Dried milk powder
I suppose dried egg would be a good idea but I don’t have it.
Coffee and teas
Booze for cooking and maybe drinking- sherry, wine, port, whisky.
Pet food for your best buds!
Toilet paper. Oh yeah. Been there.
First aid kits – good ones
Painkillers and medication backups
Matches and lighters
Propane stove and propane
Candles and candle holders
Wow, that’s a long list! I bet you have other things you’d add too and definitely some you’d remove but that’s what I keep on hand.
Now – maybe you’re not in a financial position to go and buy all that at once or maybe you don’t have storage room, but hopefully this is good for thought and a starting place for your own checklist.
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