I wouldn’t normally recommend stocking your cupboards full to the brim, as this usually creates more panic buying. The pure mention of gas shortages usually sends hordes of people descending on their local garages to fill up with fuel with queues snaking around the block. The same for talks of inflation and supply chain breaks.
During Covid we all saw this happen, as well as empty shelves in the supermarkets. There is the threat of a world shortage of certain items, so there is nothing wrong with making sure that for a start, your cupboard has all the essentials to cobble together wholesome and tasty meals for you and your family.
Watch the Electrical Power
Presuming we can all afford to keep our fridges and freezers running (expense of our power bills), we have put together some basic ideas to keep families fed! Some factors included will obviously depend on your ability to have some fresh food on your menu and whether you have enough space to keep it all! Food prices for the foreseeable future are not going to get any cheaper.
Before providing you with ‘things to buy’, start to get your brain into batch cooking mode if you haven’t already. Again, this will depend on space to store, but it is infinitely the best way to save money AND provide as much food as supply will allow.
Our basic storecupboard list
Balance is important, so we have tried to give you the best mix of foods to keep your macronutrient intake at a good level. Macros are the largest of the food groups we have and consist of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Lesser amounts of micronutrients are required but still contribute and can be gleaned mainly from vegetables. So here we go..
Canned pulses and legumes
Kidney beans, cannellini beans, butter beans – in fact all types of beans will give you enough protein and fibre. Lentils and chickpeas will be useful in bulking out soups, stews, casseroles and even making veggie burgers with. They can also be used as a thickening agent. Homemade hummus is another good thing to make.
Canned vegetables and fruit
Peas, sweetcorn, green beans – always versatile, and you can have these either canned or of course, frozen. It depends how you prefer to store. However, probably the most useful canned vegetable would be tomatoes – can be used in so many dishes (and they are usually at a reasonable price).
Cans of fruit such as peaches, pears, mandarins provide some essential vitamins and are great for knocking up quick desserts or for having yoghurt with. Try to avoid those in syrup and go for natural juice. Pineapple is another good idea, as you can use it in savoury dishes as well, such as good old sweet and sour chicken and barbecue sauces.
You can of course also store dried fruits for cooking and for snacking. Pineapple fried rice is another excellent ‘filler up’.
Tuna is the first one that always springs to mind in versatility and health. Salmon is ludicrously expensive for a small can in the UK, but very economical when supplied fresh! Also consider canned sardines, mackerel, pilchards etc. – you would be amazed at the delicious fish dishes you can make. You can also use them with salads. Mixed fish kedgeree anyone? It’s amazing what you can do if you were ever a girl/boy scout!
Dried staple foods
By this we are talking about what you really should have in your cupboard to make an all-round dish. With plain flour you can thicken any soup or sauce, make pancakes, scones, flatbread and numerous other ‘bready products’!
Everyone usually has some kind of pasta and/or rice. Even if you don’t eat it yourself, kids seem to love them, particularly pasta. Other than cooking it properly, you can put a tasty meal on the table within minutes. The same applies to rice. Dare I say ‘do try to go for wholemeal or brown varieties’ – you still get the carbs! Noodles are another option.
Dried goods are probably the most essential in terms of crisis – they store well, you can buy them in bulk economically – an all-round winner.
I would always opt for porridge oats. Not just for breakfast but for thickening as well. Oats are also extremely heart healthy.
Difficult – I am an olive oil and rapeseed oil fan, but we all know the problems with cooking with oils and their saturation point. Sunflower or vegetable oils are the most common for cooking but short supply recently, has made this difficult. Hopefully, this can be solved.
Dried herbs, spices and condiments
A little on the extravagant side but spicing up your life can make all the difference to a bland dish. Big packets of mixed herbs can be used in many dishes as well as commonplace items such as salt and pepper (easy on the salt!). Keep sugar to a minimum for obvious reasons, but we have to be realistic with kids! Try to get your sugar fix elsewhere with healthier ingredients.
Other tips for Cooking on an Inflation Budget
Above all, organization is essential. Buying in bulk is obviously cheaper, as long as it’s stored properly. Most items when sealed properly after opening, kept in a dry, dark place will last even over and above the ‘use by’ date, but do keep a constant eye on it. After a period, we all deteriorate, and so does your produce!
Fresh food is often short in supply without a crisis, as it can result from poor harvest or weather conditions. I would suggest keeping a good stock of potatoes, garlic and onions – they rev up any meal and have a long life if kept properly.
When you can (subject to availability) go ‘fresh and leafy green’!!
Hopefully our lives won’t come to this, but there are billions of people worldwide who live in constant food insecurity, even in the western world. But a bit of budgeting and economical eating, as well as no waste could bring us back to reality. If you can’t buy or store in bulk, get the community spirit and buy together and grow together. It can make a difference.
After all, our ancestors coped through The Depression and World War II, see how they coped in our other article.