If you are like me, your store of ingredients will probably expand to fill every inch of space you have available. A little bit of discipline goes a long way to keep this under control. My top tips would be:

  • Keep similar things together – flours, sugars, rice and pasta, spices, dried herbs, vinegars etc. This means that you will know at a glance whether you have what you need for your chosen recipe and won’t double buy.
  • If you can, find a way to make it easy to see what you have. I use labelled containers for frequently used items like flour or rice. I bunch together spices or baking ingredients in plastic containers that I can pull out of the cupboard easily. I also keep a shopping list on the fridge and immediately add any standard I use up when I am cooking.
  • Invest in something to tie/seal bags, and some large sturdy Ziploc or similar bags into which you can pop open packets of sugar or other ingredients when the bag tears open too far.
  • When you are buying stuff for a specific recipe and won’t use the whole packet try to work out in advance what you could use leftover non-standard ingredients for.

Basics (which assumes you will be baking):

  • Plain flour
  • Self-raising flour
  • Wholemeal flour
  • Baking powder
  • Breadsoda/bicarbonate
  • Cornflour
  • Dried yeast
  • Vanilla extract (not essence, please!)
  • Vanilla pods (terribly expensive, snap them up if you see any good value)
  • Caster sugar
  • Icing sugar
  • Treacle
  • Cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)
  • Maple syrup
  • Honey
  • Dried fruit – raisins, sultanas
  • Porridge oats
  • Long grain rice
  • Risotto rice
  • Basmati rice
  • Pasta shapes of choice – one long, one short/tubular.
  • Tinned tomatoes (more expensive is usually better, look for varieties made with San Marzano such as Mutti)
  • Tomato paste/puree
  • Passata
  • White wine vinegar
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil (good extr- virgin for salads and ordinary for cooking)
  • Sunflower or Rapeseed oil

Flavourings and spices

  • Black pepper – whole for grinding
  • Salt – table, kosher, rock, sea salt (all of them if possible)
  • Stock powder/cubes – I love Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Turmeric
  • Paprika (smoked and sweet)
  • Whole nutmegs (they keep for years)
  • Ground coriander
  • Dried chilli flakes
  • Chilli powder
  • Cajun seasoning (excellent on roast veg of many types)
  • Mustard (English mustard powder and a jar of Dijon)
  • Saffron
  • Garam Masala
  • Fish Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sweet Chilli Sauce

In the fridge (stuff that will keep reasonably well – pick up other stuff as needed)

  • Regular and unsalted butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt

Veg stuff

  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Onions
  • Butternut Squash (keeps for ages unpeeled and is a wonder for soup or roasted with some spice)


  • None, unless you can grow them. Unfortunately those little bags of fresh herbs have a tiny shelf life. Dried herbs (Oregano in particular) are probably useful to have, but most of them just don’t replace fresh adequately.

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