One way to make cooking good food for your family easier is to keep a well-stocked store cupboard full of good-quality basics.
This is the definitive list of those all-important basics – it may look like a lot to start with, but these ingredients will last for a while and make a world of difference to your cooking.
Head to our budget-friendly recipe hub for more inspiration on how to save money in the kitchen.
Whole plum tomatoes
Essential for sauces, soups, stews, casseroles – a true all-rounder! Dive into our collection of tinned tomato recipes here.
Pulses and beans (chickpeas, cannellini, kidney, and lentils)
Chickpeas, cannellini, kidney beans, butter beans and lentils are all great fillers and bulkers, as well as excellent sources of protein, fibre and vitamin B, too. Check out our collection of delicious lentil and chickpea recipes.
Light coconut milk
Add to soups and curries for a mellow, creamy flavour.
Good-quality tinned tuna, salmon, or sardines
Tinned tuna, salmon and sardines are fantastic in simple pasta dishes and fishcakes; while tinned anchovies make the perfect salty seasoning for sauces and stews. Head to our collection of tinned tuna recipes for some inspiration.
For easy, budget-friendly meals packed with flavour, try out our best recipes that use tinned food.
Rice (brown and/or white)
Wholegrain rice is full of fibre, which is great for our digestive system. Add a handful to soup, or use leftover cooked rice in a stir fry. Learn how to make perfectly fluffy rice with our step-by-step guide and top tips here.
Ideal for pasta bakes or straight-up stovetop wonders – make sure you hang on to any leftover bits to stir into soups and stews. Check out our selection of perfect pasta recipes to get you started.
Dried noodles (egg or rice)
Great for stir-fries, soups and curries.
Made from semolina, couscous is a great alternative to pasta and rice. It’s a beautiful accompaniment to a tagine or stew, and makes the perfect base for a salad. Add chopped dried cranberries or apricots to really jazz it up, or take a look at our couscous recipes for more ideas.
Quinoa, bulgur wheat, pearl barley and farro are all great (and relatively cheap) bulkers for stews and soups. Cook a larger batch than you need and turn into delicious salads – warm or cooled. Not sure how to cook quinoa? Follow our easy step-by-step guide.
Jars & bottles
Add a bit of a kick to stews, sauces and marinades, or simply use as a condiment. Tip: a tablespoon of grainy mustard and a tablespoon of honey make a great coating when roasting sausages. Learn how to make your own mustard here.
This store-cupboard hero will set you up for plenty of amazing meals. Here’s Jamie’s rule: extra virgin for dressings and drizzling over salads; straight-up olive oil for cooking.
Groundnut or vegetable oil
- Good flavourless oil for everyday cooking.
Makes a perfect seasoning for so many marinades and sauces. Use the lower salt varieties whenever possible. Use it to have a go at making this beautiful fridge-raid stir-fry or this lovely soy baked trout.
Vinegars (red wine, cider, balsamic)
Lots of dishes benefit from a little vinegar – think dressings, marinades, sauces and stews.
Herbs & spices
Mediterranean vibes. Also an essential flavour in Italian-American cuisine. Make the most of dried oregano in this quick and easy Sicilian tuna pasta.
Punchy, smoky goodness, from Spain to the American Deep South. Read more about this ruby-hued spice and how to use it here.
Flakes, powder, mild or hot…we all need a bit of chilli!
A warming and comforting flavour. Bakes and sauces – both sweet and savoury – love a little sprinkling. Make the most of this aromatic spice by adding it to your porridge or using it to make these delicious vegan treats.
Robust and earthy, and integral to Indian and Mexican cooking. Buy the seeds and toast in a dry pan to release another level of flavour.
Lemony and fragrant.
A classic blend for basic sauces and curries.
A fabulous blend for marinades, rubs, and noodle dishes.
Sea salt flakes will last you longer than table salt, and encourage you to use less salt in your cooking.
Buy whole peppercorns and grind them when you need them in a pepper mill or pestle and mortar. It tastes a hundred times better than stale, pre-ground pepper.
Good-quality stock cubes
An excellent way to add flavour and seasoning to loads of different dishes. Try the low-salt versions – they’re often just as good.
Perfect for a filling breakfast, even in the warmer months. For a change from porridge, try making a big batch of Bircher muesli – it’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. Oats are also super useful in baking, from cookies to crumble toppings.
Plain flour, self-raising flour (wholemeal or white)
For thickening sauces, coating meat, fish and veggies for frying, and baking.
Nuts and seeds
Have a couple of packets of your faves for toasting and sprinkling over salads, soups and stews, or onto yoghurt.
Good-to-haves (extras but not essentials)
- Extra virgin olive oil (for dressing salads and drizzling over finished dishes – never cooking)
- Tomato purée (add a flavour punch to lots of different dishes)
- Bread flour
- Dried yeast
- Dried fruit
- Cocoa powder
- Sugar (white and brown)
- Toasted sesame oil (a flavoursome oil used often in South-east Asian cuisine)
- Baking powder
- Turmeric (beautifully yellow, and a secret weapon in lots of Indian recipes)
- Garam masala
- Ground ginger
- Fennel seeds
- Your favourite condiments (ketchup, brown sauce, mayonnaise, Tabasco – you never know when you’ll need ‘em)