Learning how to make family meals with store cupboard essentials is a good skill to have at any time.
As I write this, we are in the grip of a crisis, as you will know. It feels as if the world has gone into a meltdown. Perhaps this is a good time to hark back to past times and develop a WW2 mentality? To get the best from what you have, to waste nothing and to learn to look at your ingredients available and rustle up something tasty and nutritious.
It’s certainly worth developing the sort of frugal habits our grandparents had, as I explained in this post.
No matter how organised you are when it comes to food, sometimes the unexpected happens and you have to be adaptable. This is most certainly that time!
Keeping costs low
I am generally pretty good at keeping our grocery bill low whilst producing healthy food. I find that meal planning and writing a shopping list are key when you need to feed your family on a budget. However, at the moment you may not be able to slavishly stick to a recipe and need to be flexible.
In addition, if you have concerns about your finances – as many of us do at this time – you will want to produce something tasty at minimal cost. We are actually watching our portion sizes to help stretch the food we have. There may not be a supply problem long term but we don’t want to go out shopping any more often than is absolutely essential. We also definitely want to save money on food wherever we can.
With all this in mind, I have been thinking about how to make good family meals with store cupboard essentials and thought I would share. Please add your ideas in the comments below.
Family meals from store cupboard essentials
Lentil Bolognese with rice or pasta
I make this in a similar way to meaty bolognese, with onions, garlic, tomatoes, mixed dried herbs, some vegetable stock and about 30g of dried red or brown lentils per person.
You could use any pulses really for this and mash them up a bit.
If you have them, you could also grate a large carrot and add that, or mushrooms, chopped celery, etc.
Hopefully, you will have managed to stock up on rice or pasta before the hoards descended. However, even if you didn’t, this could be eaten with bread or potatoes.
I remember having a version of this that my mum cooked over the open fire during the power cuts in the 70s (yes, I am that old!).
This is where you can chuck together lots of things in tins and make your stew in one pot.
Make a base by frying up onions, and garlic. Add a bit of celery and some chopped carrots if you have them. Chuck in tinned hot dogs, tomatoes, potatoes, vegetables and maybe a can of baked beans if you need to pad it out and make it more filling.
Season well and add some herbs or Worcester sauce if they are available.
Of course, if you make this over an actual campfire in the garden the kids will think it is super exciting and eat the lot, as we did when we were children. Odd that of all the meals I have eaten in my life, this was one of the most exciting!
Corned beef hash
Corned beef is actually quite expensive these days. Nevertheless, I bought a few cans to add to the stores and maybe you did too. However, if you don’t have corned beef, you can make a similar dish with any cooked shredded meat. Chicken works quite well.
This recipe includes baked beans, another store cupboard staple. You could also add a fried egg on top to make it more substantial.
Stretched cottage pie
Everyone has a recipe for cottage pie using beef mince, but you can easily pad it out with a can of baked beans, a cup of lentils and even some porridge oats to fill the troops up.
Nice with gravy and frozen peas.
If you don’t have macaroni, any pasta will do for macaroni cheese. If you want to conserve your cheese and use less than usual you could try a vegan trick to get a cheesy flavour and add some nutritional yeast if you can get hold of some.
You can also add less cheese and instead use one or two of the following for added nutrition and flavour: chopped cooked bacon, ham chopped hot dog sausages, sweet corn, canned tuna or fried mushrooms.
A tin of mixed vegetables or mug of cooked frozen veg are also good mixed into this.
I have long been a fan of sardine spaghetti. There are lots of healthy omega 3s in tinned oily fish.
I do something similar to this recipe, but tend to use sardines in tomato sauce and leave out the fresh tomatoes. However, use what you have! Tinned tomatoes would also work.
Don’t worry about adding olives if you don’t have any. Either leave them out, or add some mixed frozen peppers.
Cheese and potato layer
I used to make this a lot when I was a veggie student, many moons ago. It could be an accompaniment to sausages, or just eaten with a green vegetable. It’s a Rose Elliot recipe I think.
Very thinly slice about four potatoes and two large onions. Grate about 150g cheddar. Layer the potatoes, onions and a little cheese in a greased baking dish and some seasoning until all the ingredients are used up. Pour over 5 tablespoons of milk. Bake in a low oven (about gas mark 3) for 1.5 hours.
You could add some mushrooms or peppers if you have them.
Canned veg curry
Many people have a jar of curry sauce at the back of the cupboard somewhere. This is brilliant for adding a bit of flavour to canned or frozen vegetables.
Leftover chicken or other meat can also be thrown in if you have some.
Make a base of fried onions, chuck your veg in then the curry sauce. Add cooked meat if you have some and heat through. Some form of potato is always good in a curry. If you are using fresh, cube and parboil first.
Spam fried rice
Spam or any other tinned ham is not a hugely fashionable ingredient. However, it is handy to have some tins in your store cupboard. I recently picked some up from B&M.
You can do better than Spam fritters, though – anyone of a certain age will remember those with a certain amount of disgust, if they are anything like me!
However, the spam website can do a bit better and has brought this ingredient into the 21st century. I think we will use ours in this Spam fried rice.
Out of bread?
As I said before, many of us have flour that sits unused in the back of the cupboard. Now is a good time to get baking! If you don’t have bread flour, all is not lost. According to this article, you can use ordinary flour. You will, however, need some yeast, unless you make the flatbreads I mentioned earlier, or soda bread.
If you can’t find any bread in the shops, did you know that you can make a loaf in your slow cooker? You can also make damper bread, which is super easy and requires neither yeast nor strong bread flour.
Your bread can make a family breakfast or lunch, or help pad out a main meal if you run out of other carbs like rice, pasta or spuds.
What are your suggestions for family meals from store cupboard essentials? Please share in the comments. I am sure everyone will find your ideas useful at the moment.
For more of my frugal recipe ideas, see here.