What's in your lockdown store cupboard?

Never have the ingredients of our store cupboard been more important. As lockdown looks set to continue, and we are being urged to shop just once a week, most people I know have been getting to know the contents of their lockdown store cupboard a lot better.

Staying healthy in lockdown takes some careful planning and preparation, but with a bit of savvy know-how, you can create so much flavour and variety from a few key ingredients.

Here’s what’s on my lockdown store cupboard shopping list:

Tinned pulses

Chickpeas, red kidney beans, butter beans and borlotti beans – whatever you can get. Canned pulses are more than something to bulk out a stew. High in fibre, a great source of protein and easy on the wallet, they can be used to make veg burgers, houmous, curry dhal or salads. Just add a few chopped scallions, some sun-dried tomatoes, a bit of chilli and add a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice and mustard and you have the basis of a very healthy lunch.

Tinned tomatoes

Everyone’s favourite store-cupboard essential. There’d be no spag bol without tinned tomatoes! Use to make pasta sauces, soups, chilli, curry…

Porridge oats

Jumbo oats have a very low glycemic index and will help keep you going for ages. At this time of year, most of us are changing our diet to match the season, so you may not feel like porridge first thing, but why not use your jumbo oats to make homemade granola or overnight oats? If you are looking for a healthy snack mid-afternoon, then using oats to make some healthy flapjacks, or as an ingredient in protein balls is a great idea.

Frozen veg

You’ll find a lot more than frozen peas in the frozen veg aisle of your local supermarket. From roasted Mediterranean veg to stir-fry mixes and cauliflower rice, frozen vegetables can help add interest and variety to your diet. With less food waste and a very long shelf life, popping a few bags of frozen vegetables into your trolley on your weekly shop will make sure you are maxing up your nutrient intake too.

Frozen fruit

Shopping once a week can limit the variety of fruit in our diet, so I am finding that frozen fruit is a great way to bridge the gap. Look out for berry mixes, frozen pineapple or mango or smoothie packs.

Pasta, rice, couscous

Always choose the wholegrain option for these store. Not much difference in taste, but a whole lot more nutritious, the wholegrain varieties are lower GI, higher fibre and pack a lot more vitamins and minerals into your diet. You’ll find you need less to fill you up, so easier on the waistline too.

Herbs and spices

Add some garlic, ginger and chillis for a spicy kick and a nutrition hit. Herbs and spices can transform the most boring diner into something worth getting excited about. I have been using a lot of cumin, turmeric and smoked paprika – lovely added to roasted vegetables and served with grilled halloumi and wholemeal pittas for a tasty meal. Don’t forget parsley, rosemary and thyme – these herbs have anti-inflammatory and immune support properties – so important at this time. Most fresh herbs freeze well. Just chop them finely and freeze, so you can take out a little at a time as you need. I keep my ginger in the freezer too, and just use a fine grater to use what I need.

Yoghurt

Forget the low fat crap – full fat, natural yoghurt is a really versatile ingredient. Serve with low-sugar granola and berries for breakfast, add your own fruit and a grating of dark chocolate for a healthy snack, stir into soups and sauces, or add some fresh herbs like mint and parsley for a herby dip.

This blog post first appeared as my column in The Irish News on Saturday 2 May 2020.