There are very few ingredients that I would consider musts in a kitchen. And this is my list of 10.
Most lists of basics are usually biased towards the preferences of the author. So many times I’ve seen ingredients listed as must-haves that I rarely use and are most definitely not basic.
This list is all about those things that are so basic that you would be in a tight spot if you were missing more than 3 and that are used by all cultures (in one form or the other).
They are more than anything else categories that give you options to suit your budget, preferences and dietary needs. For example, I am lactose intolerant so my milk is always soya. And I don’t really like the taste of butter so my hard fat is usually margarine.
Here is the printable shopping list with these 10 ingredients at the top and space for you to add more. Before you head for the shops, check your pantry and fridge to make sure you don’t buy something you already have.
From a decent cup of tea to good pasta, you need good water to cook, no way around it.
If you live in an area with hard water, you could buy bottled or use a filter. For years I used a filtering jug, it was a bit of a pain to only have 2 litres at a time and to have to wait until the whole thing was done but it was a game changer.
Salt is important not only to make things salty but as a way to bring out the flavours. If you check sweet baking recipes, they all (at least the good ones!) use some salt.
You can choose from super-budget table salt to posh hand-dried sea salt. There are also many options of low-sodium salt.
If you enjoy those salts mixed with herbs and spices, make sure you also have plain salt for recipes where those herbs and spices might not be a good a idea.
A sweetener is basically anything that could make your food (or drinks) sweet.
They can be classified in either solid or liquid, and natural or man-made or processed.
Whether you go for natural (for example raw honey), processed (such as syrup) or man-made (like saccharine), it’s up to to you. The point is that you need something that allows you to sweeten things.
As for liquid vs solid (or powdered usually), powder is usually more versatile but any liquid sweetener can be used in a recipe that calls for sugar or artificial sweetener usually by reducing the other liquids a bit.
Eggs are used throughout the world in a ridiculously massive number of recipes.
If you’re allergic, vegan or watching your cholesterol you can use chickpea flour instead. It can replace eggs in pretty much all applications by using 3 tablespoons of water and one of chickpea flour. If you want to keep some of the fatty mouthfeel of eggs, add 1 teaspoon of oil or butter. Just don’t try it raw, it tastes awful!
Oil is short for a liquid fat, it could be oil or ghee.
Oils come in all sorts of flavours and price-points. An oil with a neutral flavour is the most versatile, but stronger flavoured ones can be fun to have around.
If you are a ghee fan, there are vegan options available usually under the name of vegetable ghee.
If you are trying to limit your oil intake, many uses of oil can be replaced by either water, stock, or coconut milk (the canned kind).
Similar to oil, this is short for hard fat. It could be butter, margarine, lard, coconut oil or any fat that stays hard at room temperature.
A number of recipes call for hard fats, usually for flavour. In this case it can almost always be replaced by oil if the loss or change of flavour doesn’t bother you.
When a baking recipe lists a hard fat it’s usually harder to replace with oil as the results could change massively. In some (but not all) baking, butter can be replaced by nut or seeds butters. If you are someone who enjoys baking, it’s best to keep a hard fat around. If you don’t bake much, then you can get away without (unless you want something to spread on your toast in the morning).
Plain flour (+baking powder)
No need to say how important flour is for baking. But it is also used for many sauces and for coating ingredients before pan or deep-frying.
For maximum flexibility get plain flour and baking powder instead of self-raising flour (which is basically plain flour with baking powder added). If you like making bread, don’t forget to buy some yeast or start a sourdough starter.
There are so many flours around now! From budget basic white flour to hand-milled organic rye, and now even budget supermarkets carry gluten-free versions. As long as the one you buy gets the job done, you’re good to go.
For sauces, drinks, soups, baking, batters…. I could go on and on.
Many varieties and many price points. Dairy comes in a number of possible fat contents, and from different animals. Plant-based milks can be made from pretty much anything these day, and are easy to make at home with just a blender. And don’t forget options like evaporated, condensed and powdered milk.
Play around with different ones as they all have different flavours, textures and will produce different results.
Stock or something that will give you nicely flavoured water in a fast way. It could be actual stock, stock cubes, melts, powdered stock, or even liquid flavouring.
Chicken stock seems to be the go-to, but I’d like to make a case for vegetable stock. The flavour is usually richer but not overpowering, and if you have vegetarians or vegans around they’ll be able to eat more things. Just be careful because many vegetarian stock cubes are not vegan.
Much like eggs, onions are used worldwide. Most savoury recipes start with some sort of plant from the onion family.
Brown, yellow or white onions are the most neutral and versatile. But red onions, shallots and even leeks are possibilities.
Click here to read all the posts in the Spring cleaning the kitchen: a no-buy month challenge topic. And don’t forget to check my Instagram to see what I’m eating and cooking as I go through the challenge. Join me by tagging with #springcleanthekitchen