store-cupboard essentials stored in glass jars, all labelled

In order to cook good, wholesome food for your family every day, you need 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.


Whole plum tomatoes

  • Essential for sauces, soups, stews, casseroles – a true all-rounder!

Pulses and beans (chickpeas, cannellini, kidney, and lentils)

  • Great fillers and bulkers, a source of protein and fibre.

Light coconut milk

  • Add to soups and curries for a mellow, creamy flavour.

Good-quality tinned tuna, salmon, or sardines

  • Great for simple pasta dishes and fishcakes.

Good-quality anchovies

  • The perfect salty seasoning for sauces and stews.


Rice (brown and/or white)


Dried pasta

  • Perfect for pasta bakes or straight-up stovetop wonders – make sure you hang on to any leftover bits to stir into soups and stews.

Dried noodles (egg or rice)

  • Great for stir-fries, soups and curries.


  • Made from semolina, couscous is 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.

Grains (bulgur, pearl barley, farro)

  • Also great and relatively cheap bulkers for stews and soups. Cook a larger batch than you need and turn into delicious salads, warm or cooled.

Jars & bottles


  • Add a touch of sweetness to sauces and marinades. At breakfast and in baking, you only need a little drizzle!


  • Add a bit of a kick to stews, sauces and marinades, or use as a condiment.
  • Tip: a tablespoon of grainy mustard and a tablespoon of honey make a great coating when roasting sausages.

Olive oil


  • Use as a basic cooking oil for lots of Western dishes.

Groundnut or vegetable oil

  • Good flavourless oil for everyday cooking.

Soy sauce

  • Seasoning for Asian dishes, marinades and sauces. Use the lower salt varieties whenever possible.

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.

Smoked paprika

  • Punchy, smoky goodness, from Spain to the American Deep South.


  • Flakes, powder, mild or  hot…we all need a bit of spice!


  • A warming and comforting flavour. Bakes and sauces – both sweet and savoury – love a little sprinkling.


  • 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.

Curry powder

  • A classic blend for basic sauces and curries.


Sea salt

  • Sea salt flakes will last you longer than table salt, and encourage you to use less salt in your cooking.

Black peppercorns

  • 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.

Porridge oats


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)
  • Olives
  • Capers
  • 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)

About the author

Pip Spence

Pip is a junior stylist in Jamie’s food team. She spends her life following Jamie around, testing his recipes and helping out on shoots. She is addicted to Instagram (@pipparoo_spence), fascinated by food history, and obsessed with homemade ice cream. Mostly she writes about store cupboard heroes, using up leftovers and hearty comfort food.

Pip Spence


Family, Kids