Spice up your Cupboard

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – food is the greatest love of my life and has been since as long as I can remember. I have never been on a diet because I would feel like I was cheating on my other half. I love doing food shops, reading recipe books and of course cooking itself. Sweet or savoury, I’m interested.

My life revolves around food. I plan my day to day life around my meals, going to the shop to buy ingredients, or going to the gym so that I don’t feel guilty about what I plan to eat that day.

That’s not to say I eat badly – some of my favourite food is on the healthier side. Life is not worth living without beautiful, glorious food for every meal, in my humble opinion. I just happen to eat a lot of it.

Image result for ratatouille i like food
Gif by WiffleGif, from the iconic Ratatouille

Some say I’m easily pleased; others don’t believe I’m this passionate about cooking. Not that I do crazy complicated meals, often simplicity is key and there is absolutely nothing wrong with a modest homemade Spaghetti Bolognese and some damn good cheese on top. I don’t eat plain, and if there’s an option, I always choose cheap.

But from planning out this food-recipe-budget segment I’ve realised that there a few staples that I take as a given, always have in the cupboard and rarely cook without, so much so I don’t class it as an expense because it’s a necessity.

I thought before I’m in too deep, better share them here so that my recipes are easier and clearer to follow. So here is a list of the top 10 cooking must-haves (well in my tiny kitchen at the very least)


1. Salt and Pepper is the real elixir of life

Image result for best salt and pepper

To me this has always gone without saying. I think salt and pepper is referred to as seasoning in recipes because the original recipe makers felt they had to jazz up such a staple, but nonetheless, it is vital for everything, and it can turn some boring eggs into mouth-watering sunnyside up eggs on toast with a sprinkle of seasoning. Especially if you get the fancy (Lidl) black pepper and rock salt. Do not waste time with any so-called pepper that is just greying pre-grounded dust.

2. Stock up on Stock

Full disclosure, I never used to cook with stock until about a year or two ago. I always thought it was pointless, unhealthy and just tasted like salt. Unless it was necessary, I found an alternative.

But three months of traveling eastern Europe and trying to make even the saddest meals taste better, the stock was my go-to. Yes, I’m aware that it is filled with salt and additives but if a little bit of stock is an issue I’m sure your local health food shop has a healthier alternative or you can even make some from scratch (I will not be hitting that goal for some time so don’t expect to see the recipe here for a while!).

3. Chilli – Dried or Fresh?

Image result for beautiful chilli

I have always loved my spice, and fresh chilies are essential for me. If I can make a recipe spicy, I will. Chilli flakes are good, convenient and cheap and I always keep a jar of them just in case. But nothing beats a big packet of fresh chilies. I used to buy the small packets because they went off so quickly or lost their spice, but now I just buy the bigger ones (saves money!) and keep them in the freezer. That way I can just take them out as I need them, and they don’t go bad. Run them under hot water for a minute and their as fresh as can be!

4. Garlic is more than a Vampire Repeller 

I have been told on occasion, that I go way overboard with garlic. I never follow guidelines with garlic because there is no such thing as too much garlic in my eyes. I understand the annoyance of the smell on your breath and your hands after cutting, but I see past that with my love for the taste. If the smell bothers you, get some chewing gum and kitchen gloves. I love how it’s never really necessary, but it always makes a meal better. It’s cheap, tasty, and if you have a garlic crusher you are already winning.

5. Paprika to Spice up Life

When I lived with my parents, there were jars and jars upon spices that I took for granted. Since living on my own the last few years and realising how good I had it, I have always associated success and stability with having a house filled with pointless unending spices, even duplicates sometimes. But not having reached that yet I’ve discovered that paprika nearly always covers it. Whether it’s a classic paprika chicken, or you want to jazz up a stir fry or a curry, paprika can do it all. Of course, I love to have a curry spice in my house, but that is quite restricted to a curry dish, unlike paprika.

6. Oil it up

I’m not filling up space here, I just can’t emphasize the importance of oil, especially olive oil and coconut oil. For a while, I’ve been living off boring old sunflower oil, which has its uses, but I’ve recently invested in some good Spanish olive oil and I forgot how much it transforms a meal. Some pasta with garlic and olive oil, bread dipped in it, a salad, everything tastes better with the added taste of olive oil. On the more expensive side, coconut oil is amazing also, especially if you’re making a juicy stir-fry or curry, and it is also healthier and takes out the guilt of frying some quick eggs up on the pan. And it’s a natural moisturizer and I love my go-to coconut oil cleanse routine when I need freshening.

7. Merry Berries

Image result for frozen berries

Frozen, mixed, cheap berries were gods gift to the countries without the year-round affordable fruit, but upon moving here I’ve found it a little difficult to find and not as good when I do. Lucky for me, I can get a box of blueberries for €1. Whether it’s pre-frozen fruit or fresh fruit, I always have some in my freezer. You don’t have to worry about it going off, you can stock up when a deal is on and it’s perfect with yoghurt, in a smoothie or in your porridge (it defrosts so quick!) and I never go without this quick and cheaper way to get one of my 5 a day in.

8. Carbs, Carbs and More Carbs Please

  1. Image result for carbs carbs and more carbs

I haven’t quite embraced the Spanish late dinner time meals of olives and salad yet. Maybe for lunch, but after a long hard day, I just want to be consumed by a bowl of carbs (and vegetables of course).

Sometimes close to bedtime it can be a bit much, and most people prefer not to eat a big stodgy dinner. I, on the other hand, can find that I have a better night’s sleep going to bed with a jam-packed tummy. Every-time I go to Lidl, I stock up on whole-wheat penne pasta, rice, risotto rice, egg noodles, and spaghetti. I always need some form of carb in my kitchen, even if I have next-to-nothing else because you can make something deliciously filling with a simple minority of ingredients (and a kilo of any one of these is a maximum of 80cent in Lidl).

9. Saucy Soy Sauce  

I don’t even think I need to explain this one, its cheap, it’s delicious and it’s relatively healthy in small doses. A busy schedule can mean a lot of quickly-whipped stir-fry’s, or even just some pan-fried vegetables or potatoes. These are all made ten times better with a beautiful drop of the good stuff. A bottle costs a mere 99 cent in Lidl so it’s never a waste, and always an investment.

10. Last but not Least, Wine  

Half a joke and half a genuine necessity, I always like to have wine around. For the classical drinking-after-a-shit-day, yes, but wine can randomly spruce up a simple pasta or risotto dish, and some recipes call for it for no apparent reason whatsoever so it’s always good to have in the house. Being the cheap ass that I am, I have recently started buying cartons of wine. Refrain from your judgments before you try it. I love a good bottle as much as the next girl, but when you’re not exactly a wine connoisseur, on a budget and just want more wine for less money than you can’t knock it. I buy mine in my local corner shop, a liter costs 90cent. Can’t fault that.

I hope you have invested in my must-haves by the time I post the next recipe, to enjoy a cheap and tasty life of food.

Image result for ratatouille food quotes
Image from Ratatouille

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