The rise of food poverty in the UK and around the world is well documented and shocking, with over 900000 families and individuals being supplied with 3 days emergency food and support over the past year by Trussell Trust Food Banks in the UK alone. This number does not include those turning to other charities, friends and family for support, let alone those who simply struggle through day to day or towards the end of the month with an inadequate budget to put healthy and filling food on the table.
Whilst the reasons for this phenomena are many and varied, it is far from an isolated or short term problem, nor does it affect only those reliant on social welfare on in very low income jobs. The increase in ’underemployment’ which has seen many people accepting positions which are on smaller contracts than they would ideally like, and the fragile and capricious nature of the jobs market in certain areas, mean that many of us are only a small change or a few lost pay checks away from struggling.
Even if this does not sound familiar at present, cultivating some basic cooking skills, and a good stock cupboard can be worthwhile for everyone looking to save a few pennies (whether through necessity or to pay for holidays or treats), or stretch to pay day - but where to start?
Number one - Lentils
If lentils conjure up images of extreme and punishing diet regimes, and bland and soulless food, then now is the time to think again. With benefits for heart health, cholesterol levels, weight loss and high in nutrients, lentils deserve their place in your stock cupboard on their health benefits alone; and are budget friendly to boot. Try them in a curry (fried onion, lentils, curry powder and tinned tomatoes create a surprisingly versatile and delicious dish), or be more adventurous with a lentil pâté or burger.
Number two - Pasta
Everybody loves pasta, right? And what can’t you do with pasta? Keep some pesto jars in stock for a quick and filling supper, stir through some soft cheese or use tinned tomatoes to make a rich sauce. Or try something more adventurous with any of these ideas.
Number three - Potatoes
You might want to keep these in your fridge rather than your store cupboard, but potatoes are great for a quick and healthy supper. Bake one with some cheese, tuna or baked beans, have some mash and a poached egg for a filling and comforting tea, or go a bit wild with a Spanish omelette or frittata. These can be great for using up odds of ends of lurking vegetables from the back of the fridge or freezer, or be a touch more gourmet like this Indian inspired recipe.
Number four - Sausages
Sausages are a great standby for those who can’t go without meat - keep a pack in the freezer for when the urge hits you. You can stretch them much further than a fry up, however, by cooking up a quick and classic toad in the hole, sausage casserole, or squeezing the meat out of the skins to add to a tomato based pasta sauce for a cheap and tasty variation.
Number five - Beans
Keep tins or dried beans on hand and perfect your bean stew, bean burgers, bean pâté, bean goulash; anything but beans on toast (because payday might be a little while away, and boredom will have you reaching for the credit card long before then, if you’re limited to emptying a tin on some toast) and now you mention it, have a go at anything from Jack Monroe’s massive archive of cheap, tasty and inventive fare here.
Number six - Rice
Fry it with some frozen veg and an egg, or go Caribbean here - whilst I’m not sure about the authenticity, who cares if it tastes good?
Number seven - Eggs
Keep a big pack of eggs handy for protein at any time of the days from scrambled, fried, boiled, poached, omelettes and more. Eggs keep well, are versatile and tasty, and can be a great addition to any meal. Take a slice of Spanish omelette or some hard boiled eggs and some carrot sticks into work for a quick lunch, and avoid the meal deal temptation.
Number eight - Chick peas
Falafel is amazing. And who doesn’t like humus? You know when you’re at a festival and you feel all continental and healthy because you’re tucking into a falafel pitta instead of a greasy burger. Well, that. And also, what they don’t tell you, is that they’re cheap as chips to make... Grab a recipe here.
Number nine - Soup
I’m not actually suggesting tinned soup as a store cupboard hero - although condensed varieties are great as pasta sauces as well as tasty and warming with some bread - but home made soup is one of the best ways of hoovering up forlorn looking veg, ends of packets, and odds and ends of beans and pulses. There are thousands of variations, from very simple tomato based through to the significantly more gourmet, but grasping the basics of home made soup is one of the best cookery skills to pick up for the budget cook.
Number ten - If you’re inspired, why not try a whole weeks store cupboard meal plan?
If you’ve got a reasonably well stocked store cupboard already, but are looking to trim a few quid of this weeks shopping bill, try a specially written meal plan. You need some basic cooking skills and the time to cook real meals from scratch - but with a budget of £1 per person, per day, fully written recipes, nutritional detail and shopping lists, this site is well worth checking out for inspiration, even if you’re not stretching the budget.