Despite technology making our lives easier we seem to be busier than ever. This plague of modern life requires us to not only think ahead but also make life as easy for ourselves as possible. Unfortunately this can, for some, mean a few too many convenience foods but I believe by keeping our kitchens stocked with time tested basics, we can avoid these ills of modern life and ensure a nutritious meal is always available even when time and energy are not. Now if, like me, space is not abundant in your kitchen then let me share with you which appliances and store cupboard staples have earned their place and enable me to prepare a great meal even with the most basic of ingredients. Here is my guide to what you should have in your cupboards from appliances to foods to save time and effort and offer options when we really just can’t think about to make for dinner!
Stick blender- Now I do have a soup maker which is fantastic when I’m at home and can do it properly but when I have leftover veggies there is nothing easier than boiling them up with some herbs and stock and blitzing them with a stick blender at the end. I find soup such a warming, filling and comforting dish and find when there is a pot on the hob, it never goes to waste. I also like to add a tin of chickpeas or lentils for a protein boost, which are easily kept in reserve for such an occasion.
Food processor- Possibly my most expensive bit of kitchen kit (aside from the obvious oven, fridge etc) I do have a Magi Mix but in all honesty unless you’re a keen baker or competent chef, my original processor from Argos which lasted many years and cost about £30 did a perfectly fine job. Food processors are just perfect for quick chopping, mixing up dips, combining ingredients for meat free burgers and fish cakes and with one main bowl and a blade, they’re relatively easy to clean up. Mine does have a grater attachment and a smaller bowl option as well as a million other fantastic attachments which I have no idea what to do with or even the time to find out so don’t feel you need to spend a lot.
Liquidizer- Nutri bullets are fantastically popular but myself I own a Salter Nutri Pro which is more powerful and cheaper. I rely on smoothies a lot for a quick and convenient breakfasts I can prepare the night before and consume on the go. My experience has shown me that just by changing your breakfast to a smoothie packed with healthful ingredients, health can be greatly improved.
Slow Cooker- Essential for making bone broths but also so convenient. In the morning, you can throw in any vegetables, tinned tomatoes, lentils and some water and leave on a low heat for a ready made meal for when you get home. It really is that simple!
Others- Now spiralisers are fantastic fun but honestly, I used to grate courgette to have with bolognaise long before the spiraliser first appeared on our screens. I still believe a grater or a y shaped peeler can offer fantastic alternatives to a spiraliser and they’re cheaper and take up far less space. Anyone with a spiraliser and a small kitchen will empathise completely with the dilemma that comes from excitedly getting it out the box, spiralising far too many courgettes and then wondering where to store the thing!
Tinned and jarred goods really are my saviour at the end of a long day/week/month when I want something quick and nutritious that’s available with the limited goods in my pantry and doesn’t require too much time or effort. For that reason, I always ensure I keep a sufficient stock of:
Tinned lentils, chickpeas and plain beans- fantastic protein sources, a nice change from meat and fish and can be added last minute to any dish for a filling meal.
Jarred vegetables such as artichoke, olives, peppers and tomatoes- now not always the most economical way to buy vegetables and, of course, fresh is best but as a back up option, these are fantastic hot or cold and up the nutrient score of any meal. Tomatoes can be added to any assortment of ingredients you have lying around to make a sumptuous stew. I feel reassured knowing I have a decent supply of tinned tomatoes as I honestly feel you can make a meal out of anything with a tin of tomatoes added.
Tinned fish- mackerel and sardines are my go to tinned fish options. Lovely in dips, on toast or in stews, filling and handy and a nice alternative to meat based dinners.
Any herbs and spices- pre-mixed options are a great way of adding balanced flavour to any dish if you’re unsure of combinations yourself.
Buckwheat noodles or instant brown rice- Instant brown rice isn’t my preferred way to cook brown rice but when time is of the essence it really does offer a filling accompaniment even to the most measly selection of vegetables. Buckwheat noodles cook in around 5 minutes and, despite their name, are actually gluten free.
Selection of nuts and seeds- not only an alternative source of protein which can be added to soups or salads, these are handy for when I want to whip up a batch of fruit and nut cookies.