Store Cupboard Tips

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How to keep your food safe in a store cupboard, to make sure you use everything in date and tips on grouping items so you can find them easily and in time before they go out of date.

A well-stocked storecupboard is the key to good cooking. No-one has the time, energy or money to cook recipes from scratch without resorting to a store cupboard. When you need to add a teaspoon of honey or a splash of soy sauce to a dish you should be able to put your hands out and find it.

You also need dry goods for days when it’s raining and you can’t get to the shop: rice, tins of cooked pulses and good quality tomatoes, condiments such as mustard, jars of cranberry sauce to add to yesterday’s leftover roast chicken to turn it into a sandwich, vinegar and oils for salad dressing, flour and baking powder and chocolate to make a cake when you feel like it. An  intelligent store cupboard is both mainstay and sanity for a cook.

Store cupboard essentials

Store cupboards need to be cared for and well-thought out. They need to be dry places where vermin and insects can’t get access. They need to be positioned close to where you are cooking and they need some kind of order and structure so you can see which items are going out of date and need to be used quickly or need replacing.

Food should be stored in a dry place and the first shelf you use should be a foot off the ground. Keep tins on the ground, but always wipe the top of them with disposable paper towel before opening.

Wide shelves are helpful because you can poke around and see what’s there but things can get lost in them too. If you have large deep shelves use stepped shelves (you often find them in kitchen shops) – they make great space savers and you can group items on separate shelves.

Birds of a colour go together: stack similar items together and if you eat cooked pulses and tomatoes together in a dish keep them together in your store cupboard. They will provide a visual hint when you are deciding what to eat (cannellini beans with tomatoes and pasta; risotto rice with saffron and so on).

Keep spices in jars or sealed bags and only keep sauces and condiments in your store cupboard if they are unopened. Once you open them they should be kept in the fridge.

If you are doubtful of remembering what’s in a bag or box label it clearly with the name and expiry date.

Every month or two root out items that are near their expiry date and either move them into a cupboard you open frequently in the kitchen, or place them in their own corner of the store cupboard so you know they need to be used next.

Keep baking items well-sealed in lidded plastic tubs (flour attracts all kinds of insects and damp) and make sure they are stored high off the ground. Do the same for rice and dried beans. A vacuum packing machine is quite cheap and takes the air out of a plastic bag and the goods will keep longer.

Place some lights in the cupboard so you can see, especially if you are using a dark cupboard. You can buy stick-on battery operated lights to go under each shelf.

If you store tinned or bottled fish in your store cupboard keep it in full view. As a form of protein, it can be the start of any dish and if it is hidden at the back, you will think you have nothing you can make from scratch. Yet a tin of salmon can make a pasta dish with the addition of a spoon of cream and some dried oregano, turn into salmon fishcakes with the addition of some mashed potato or a sandwich with a dollop of mayonnaise and horseradish. That’s the magic of a good store cupboard.

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