You’re busy, we’re busy, hell, everyone’s busy.
But your local takeout restaurant has started greeting you on a first name basis and knows your order by heart so something’s got to give.
Of course you need to eat, but sometimes that means cooking something up with little notice.
That doesn’t mean you have to hit the grocery store every night after work. Simply stock your cupboard with these simple items and the rest will do itself (well, almost).
Always keeping these 14 ingredients on hand will ensure your dinner is sorted out quickly – and with delicious results.
Take those lemons and make some lemonade – or just squeeze a little into your dishes to liven up a salad or give your chicken or fish a bite of flavour and a kick. Plus, it’s pretty handy for slicing up when happy hour strikes…
Good Olive Oil
Emphasis on the word good here, because you’ll definitely notice a difference between a quality bottle of oil and the budget variation. There are many types of cooking oils out there, so it’s worth having a selection – and you can always keep the nicer bottle aside for your salad dressings.
A Block of Fresh Parmesan Cheese
It lasts forever, plus Parmesan cheese makes everything taste and look better once you sprinkle some of it on your meal. Add to salad, pasta dishes, or even pizza if you’re looking to jazz up a classic dinner staple.
If you have some meat or chicken and you’re looking for a way to liven things up, having soy sauce in your cupboard means you can always replicate an authentic and delicious Asian flavour at the drop of a hat. If it’s becoming a regular fixture, consider adding fish sauce and sesame oil so you can rustle up a curry in a flash.
Glaze your veggies, add to your yogurt and oatmeal, or use to make dips or rubs for meals like chicken wings. You may be surprised by how much you use it, so pro tip: buy it in a squeeze bottle so you’re not struggling to get it out of a jar.
We’re not expecting you to fit in time for baking – all-purpose flour is yet another versatile ingredient that can be used in a myriad of ways. Make gravy, thicken up sauce bases, or fry fish and anything else you want to coat.
Chicken or Vegetable Stock
Perfect for soups but also great for thickening up sauces, having chicken or vegetable stock pretty much covers you on all bases – add to grains to make risotto or polenta, a miso or Pho type noodle soup, or to make a casserole.
Perfect for stir-frys, curries, soups and even adding to a hot drink (along with your lemon and honey) if you’re feeling a little under the weather. Either keep the ground version in a jar in the cupboard or keep the root in the fridge and cut of a little each time you need it.
This vegetable has a ton of health benefits and can really transform the most basic of dishes – so unleash the garlic and prepare to get stinky. You don’t have to use a ton, but you can put it in virtually every meal if you’re a fan – and buy a good crusher to avoid tedious chopping.
Sugar isn’t great for us, so use in moderation and choose brown as it has more nutrients like potassium and Vitamin B. It’s incredibly handy to have it in the cupboard for when you’re making sauces, caramelizing meat and vegetables, or for rubs and barbeques.
A Well-Stocked Spice and Herb Rack
We’re not just talking about salt and pepper here. Outfit your cupboard properly with the whole spectrum of herbs and spice. Garam masala, curry powder, dried chillies and cumin seeds for your curries; basil, oregano, fresh bay leaves and paprika for your European dishes. It may cost a bit to get you going but it’ll last for ages and add flavour to any meal.
When it comes to quick food in seconds, you’ll be hard pushed to find a speedier snack than cous-cous. Simply boil the kettle, pour over the grains in a bowl, cover and wait for five minutes. Mix it up with fork and you’re good to go. Try adding some salad and feta into the mix for a yummy summer meal.
Frozen Fruit and Vegetables
Finding the time to buy fresh produce is a challenge – and watching it die in your fridge when you forget to use it is even sadder. So to make sure you’re getting your five-a-day, have some frozen fruit and veg in the freezer ready to use whenever you need it. The greens are picked when they’re at their best, so frozen produce definitely shouldn’t be sniffed at.
Canned Tomatoes or Paste
A great base for a wealth of meals – spaghetti Bolognese, risotto or chilli – having canned tomatoes in your cupboard can elevate your dinner game from dimly lit meals for one to a gourmet feast – and all you need is a can opener.