All pantries (or whatever else you call your food storage area) should contain certain basic items. Why? Emergencies, that’s why. These emergencies aren’t necessarily of the natural disaster type (floods, earthquakes). They can also be of the financial type – too much month left at the end of the money. Or they can be of the social type – sudden unexpected guests coming around at short notice with no time to go to the shops. A good set of basics can fill in to make sure that everyone can eat in this sort of situation. These days, the “pantry” will also include the freezer or deep freeze, as well as the old-fashioned sort of pantry. The list of basics (add or subtract according to allergies or other preferences):
Flour. Plain or self-raising, white or wholemeal. Flour can be used to make pancakes and scones, and if you have yeast (or beer) on hand, you can also make bread, either regular loaves or pita bread. The uses of flour go on and on – thickening gravies and casseroles, dumplings, pastry, home-made pasta… Onions.
The basis for making any basic soup or casserole. Soup is a good way of using up odds and ends, can stretch to feed a few more mouths if necessary, makes the most out of what you’ve got, and fills you up and makes you feel satisfied if you’re eating less, either because you’re on a diet or because you’re trying to make the pennies stretch.
These are great to stock up on and keep for emergencies – get them when they’re on special and keep them for when you need them. The packs are also good ice packs for first aid treatment. Herbs (dried or fresh from the garden): Can be used to put a bit of class and flavour into most dishes, including soup. Oregano, basil, garlic and parsely are among the most versatile.
Go nicely with any sweet dishes, and some (e.g. nutmeg and ginger) go with vegetables. Chilli and/or cayenne add a good bit of zest to anything savoury. Baked beans:
A good emergency source of protein that needs minimal preparation. They’re good on toast, cold or just heated up. Dress them up with herbs, cheese and/or pickles.
Can be used in all sorts of ways for quick, filling and healthy meals. The humble spud can transform itself into the most sophisticated dishes with a bit of imagination, and it’s full of vitamins and minerals, if not overcooked. And they’re not fattening in themselves, although the oil, butter and sour cream often served with them can be. Pickles, capers and olives (and possibly also parmesan cheese)- dress up any meal and transform it into something special. Can also be used for home-made pizzas.
Vinegar – puts a bit of flavour into soup, can be used for salad dressing and as a very basic sauce on meat – and on hot chips. And don’t forget its usefulness as a cleaning product – another very good way that vinegar can help you stretch the pennies.
Rice – brown or white. Makes that soup go further, or can be a dish on its own (a risotto). Can be serves sweet or savoury, hot or cold.
Cooking oil (preferably olive oil)
Can be used for frying or sautéing things, spread on bread as a healthier alternative to butter or margarine, is used for greasing trays, and makes a good basic salad dressing.
A very quickly prepared source of protein. One writer has called them the original fast food. The whites are excellent for binding things together, such as patties, pancakes, muffins and cakes, while yolks on their own are used for mayonnaise or hollandaise sauce.
Nick Vassilev is the founder of Anyclean, a successful cleaning company based in London, UK. His extensive knowledge about the cleaning industry helps him provide excellent cleaning services London and increased value for money to his clients.