Checklist: 14 foods you should always have at home

A universal set of products sounds about as unrealistic as a one-size-fits-all basic wardrobe. Each has its own dietary pattern (someone refuses meat, someone adheres to a vegan diet, someone does not eat dairy products), their favorite foods, food addictions and allergies. But we believe that it is possible to make life easier in the kitchen, and therefore we have collected a set of products that will find a place in every (or almost every) kitchen – with it it will be easier to come up with what to cook for dinner. Just in case, we remind you that a varied diet implies more foods than this list contains – if you want to study the issue in more detail, take a closer look, for example, to the advice of the British Ministry of Health or a Canadian nutrition guide .     

Oil is one of the main consumables in the kitchen: it is useful when frying, baking and for dressing salad. There are many oils on the market today, but preference in the daily diet should still be given to liquid vegetable oils , primarily cold-pressed olive. But switching to the popular coconut is not worth it: in small quantities there is no cause for concern, but constant use may not be beneficial .   

Oils also change the taste of a familiar dish: unrefined sunflower seeds will remind you of childhood in the country, and sesame seeds will diversify a simple salad. The main thing to remember about the storage features is the same sesame, for example, after opening it is worth leaving in the refrigerator and monitoring the expiration date.

Legumes are an excellent source of protein and fiber, making them a good alternative to meat and an important part of all dietary recommendations. Beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils – the choice is large, and they are often inexpensive. You have dozens of very different dishes at your disposal – for example, you can make at least chili con carne or lobio from the same beans. If you take the time to soak dried lazy legumes, you can always fill your kitchen cupboard with canned food – the main thing is to try to find options without added sugar. 

If your diet does not exclude animal products, eggs are a great product to keep in the refrigerator at all times. They can be prepared, if not in a million ways, then very close to this: fried eggs, chatterbox, poached (don’t be afraid to try – just use Jamie Oliver ‘s instructions ), soft-boiled, hard-boiled and many more options. Eggs can be the centerpiece of a meal or add variety to a familiar meal, such as salad, fried rice, or noodles. In general, everything is limited only by your imagination.  

We all know that greens will add life to any boring meal – so don’t ignore them. There are many options, but a basic set that will be useful to almost anyone: basil (for example, for Italian cuisine), parsley (it seems that it is equally loved both in Russia and in Mexico) and rosemary (for example, for baked potatoes). Remember, greens are easy to grow at home – all you need is a windowsill and a little effort. And you can also freeze it – so if you understand that a bunch of greens will deteriorate faster than you have time to use it up, boldly chop it and send it to the freezer.

Most of the recommendations for a balanced diet call for more often to eat vegetables and fruits – they should make up about a third of the daily diet. First of all, you want to eat fresh (although freezing and heat treatment are also not so terrible for vitamins, as we used to think) – but let’s be honest, in Russian realities out of season this can be difficult. A jar of chopped tomatoes, although not the most luxurious option, opens up great opportunities to add vegetables right here and now. Here , for example, you can find twenty-five recipes with canned tomatoes, from simple ones like shakshuka or meatball sauce to non-obvious ones – to use them instead of risotto broth. As always, there is only one advice – to look for jars, which would not contain added sugar.     

A quick way to turn a sore dish into something out of the ordinary. The choice of spices is a very individual task, so it is difficult to come up with general recommendations here, except for one thing: beware of huge sets if you are used to using only a couple of spices. Spices are not stored forever – of course, you will not get poisoned, but those that have been lying for more than a few months are likely to lose their taste. Another important point is to choose iodized salt: it allows you to get the recommended daily intake of iodine without additional effort.  

Few things are so capable of brightening up the evening of a hard day at work, like a pack of pasta, carefully folded in advance in the closet. Pasta is often demonized, but it can definitely be part of a balanced diet. The main thing is to pay attention to the filling: for example, take chicken, vegetables or fish instead of bacon in a creamy sauce. You should also take a closer look at the pasta itself – you can take whole grain instead of the usual one.    

Another easy way to dilute your diet and an important part of any kitchen cabinet – a couple of packs of your favorite cereals will help you not to think about dinner. In addition to rice and buckwheat, familiar from childhood, on store shelves there are bulgur, couscous, quinoa, spelled, and what not – simple and with the addition of herbs. We are skeptical about talking about the miraculous properties of cereals – but we recommend making them part of the weekly menu. 

Canned fish like sprat or kilka in tomato sauce in the post-Soviet space have overgrown with certain associations, but in vain. This is, for example, a pleasant and quick snack: a piece of bread or a cracker, sprat, a little parsley – that’s all. A can of canned tuna also opens up a lot of possibilities: it’s a good base for pasta (mix with tomatoes, olives and capers), salad (not necessarily nicoise – you can just add cucumber and a boiled egg) or roll. In general, it will not let you die of hunger.

We all, of course, dream of fresh vegetables and fruits, especially in summer. But also in frozen there is nothing wrong: broccoli, green beans, corn, cauliflower and green peas perfectly amenable to freezing. The main thing is to make sure that everything is in order with storage, and the products are not re-frozen – if it went well, there will be no pieces of ice in the package. Frozen vegetables (like mushrooms, by the way) are a great base for a lazy dinner. And a package of frozen strawberries can be kept in the freezer in case of the arrival of guests – in order to throw the berries into the sparkling wine on time. 

Olives, capers, gherkins

At first glance, a strange and unnecessary item, and nevertheless. All of them are able to diversify many dishes (salad or pasta only benefit from olives or capers), and also become a quick and easy snack in and of themselves – packaging of good olives goes well with wine and not only.

Dissimilar things that have one thing in common: they will instantly turn the most boring food into a favorite. There are, of course, no universal recommendations (a matter of taste), we only recommend assembling a set of the most pleasant and interesting for you personally. Soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, hot sauce, mustard, pesto (homemade or store), Worcestershire sauce and whatever your heart desires – try until you find your best and favorite.

You won’t need a lot of freezer space, and the effect is worth it: pasta, salads, bowls, soups and a bunch of variations available at any time. Of course, we all dream of fresh shrimp, but, firstly, a huge part of Russians live far from the places where they are caught, and secondly, there is always the possibility that fresh shrimps have already been frozen once simply because of how fishing is arranged. Often, those caught are immediately thrown onto the ice in order to keep them fresh – that is, in fact, they are frozen.  

Even if homemade cakes are not at all about you, you can still find a place for flour in the house, for example, in case you want cheesecakes or you need béchamel sauce with the dish. If you love homemade baked goods, stock up on other ingredients you need that just happen to run out at the wrong time, like baking powder or sugar packaging.

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