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Five Must-Have Ingredients in Your Apartment or Dorm

Every once in a while, my life gets so wildly hectic that I completely lose the ability to plan beyond the next few hours. I have a vague idea of where I need to be by the end of the workday, but my planning doesn’t go far beyond that.

On days like those, I am very grateful that past-me has stocked up on staples. Even though I rarely have any creativity by the end of the day, having a handful of essential foodstuffs makes cooking super easy so that I don’t have to put in too much thought, and I don’t have to rely on the unhealthy and wildly pricy crutch of ordering UberEats (again).

If you find yourself in these time crunches too, here’s a list of my staple foods. You’ll note that my list doesn’t include flour, since anything requiring lots of flour takes more time than I have right now.

Ground Beef

Ground beef (or ‘mince’ as some people call it) has a reserved spot in my freezer. With this staple, diversity is the name of the game. As long as you have half a kilo or so of ground beef, you’ve got the main ingredient of burger patties, meatballs, taco filling, Bolognese, meatloaf, chili, stroganoff… the list goes on. With a bit of ground beef defrosted, I can easily whip up a bunch of delicious recipes.

Canned Tomatoes

If you’ve paid any attention, even vaguely, to what I’ve written about on this blog for the past three years, you’ll know that Italian food is my obsession. While the obnoxious foodie in me will declare that fresh tomatoes are preferable in any scenario, if you’re in a hurry and you need something to help you make a Bolognese, a pizza sauce, a tomato soup, or an easy way to liven up a meat-based soup or stew, tins of tomatoes are incredibly useful.


Potatoes, to quote Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice, are truly an “exemplary vegetable”, which I have spoken about at length before, on this very blog. Mashed potatoes, French fries, latkes, potato chips, baked potatoes, scalloped potatoes, and yes, potatoes stuck in a stew, are all a few minutes away when you’ve got a stash of potatoes ready to go. They truly are the reason why for all those months.

Long-Life Milk

In writing this list, I did a quick sweep of my kitchen, rating the stuff there on a list from “When did I last use this?” to “If this runs out, the house falls apart”, and long-life milk was pretty much top of that list. Apart from having it in my coffee each morning, having something long-lasting that doesn’t require you to worry about whether it has gone off or not is very helpful. Adding it to sauces, or even using it as the basis for sauces, soups, or desserts make long-life milk an absolute staple in my house.

Frozen Vegetables

I keep a bag of cut-up, frozen vegetables in my freezer for throwing into any meal. Do I need a side of vegetables with something? Works perfectly. Are my two-minute ramen noodles looking a little sad? Half a cup of veg from the freezer will help make it a little less unhealthy! While frozen vegetables have gotten a bad rap in the media, and fresh vegetables are my preference, when you’re in need, they definitely come in handy!

These are what I consider the most essential ingredients to have in your house, apartment, dorm kitchen, or pantry if you’re committed to making healthy and delicious food even when you’re overworked! What about you? Are there any staples that make your meals fall apart when they run out?

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Tayla Blaire

Tayla Blaire is a South African writer, teacher, epicurean, and (most importantly) mother to all cats. Tayla has been thinking (and subsequently writing) about food since she was a tiny tot after her mother taught her that measuring ingredients was for the weak. If you’re interested to see what Tayla has whipped up recently, check out her Instagram profile @tayla.blaire to see the recipes that she has lovingly filmed in her very own too-small kitchen.

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