Many of my friends always complain that they never have anything in their fridge or they don’t know what to make. I think that if you always have some basics at home, it will make cooking so much easier and quicker. I understand that it might feel unnecessary to invest a lot of money in spices or so, but I think about it in the long run as an investment as they don’t go bad quickly. Because if you want to make Asian food, you will need much spices or sauces that aren’t that basic for a Scandinavian cuisine, but they usually store well and can be used many times.
So, let’s begin with the fridge, some really basic items that you should always:
- eggs ( super versatile, you can make omelettes, scrambled eggs, fried eggs, boil them…And they store well)
- bacon or chorizo (easy to whip up a pasta or salad or as a sandwich topping)
- cheese that stores well, for example feta cheese in oil, mozzarella or parmiggiano
- chili, ginger, garlic, limes (stores so well)
- avocados (I always buy a bag of avocados, if they’re not ripe I let them hang out with a couple of bananas)
- basic vegetables for a salad, I usually have cherry tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, spinach and some lettuce
- natural yogurt
- bananas or apples (for topping your breakfast or taking with you to lectures if you don’t have time to eat breakfast)
- canned tuna ( buy the one with the dolphin-free mark)
I eat a lot of eggs as they are good for you, but also it is so easy to whip up something quick for breakfast or lunch. These items are also very cheap, so for a student it shouldn’t be any problem to buy these. Cheese and meat is expensive, so if you are a bit creative you can go a long way.
In your cupboard/spices:
As is tend to do a lot of Asian style food I like to have:
- soy sauce
- fish sauce
- rice wine vinegar
- hot sauce or sweet chili sauce
You will notice that you can come a long way with these, as you can easily do a marinade with soy sauce combined with rice wine vinegar plus garlic and chili.
- salt & pepper
- tumeric (if you like it)
- chili powder
- paprika powder
- olive oil and balsamico
- tomato paste and tomato puré
General dry ingredients:
- pasta ( spaghetti, lasagna sheets) / bulgur / quinoa / lentils
- flour ( for thickening sauces and baking)
- yeast or baking powder
- sugar ( brown and caster)
- vermicelli noodles or regular noodles
- instant porridge ( no added sugar and multi grain)
- crisp bread
- chick peas or beans
I think that this covers the most essential produce that I mainly use. I tend to try to eat according to season so I buy fruits and vegetables that are on an offer, and if there is some products that stores well on special price I tend to buy it (such as tortilla bread or tortellini). I have noticed that the most expensive meal is breakfast, as it is very expensive to buy cheese or sausage to put on your bread, so try to mix things up in the morning and eat porridge, yogurt or crispbread with cream cheese and spinach or a boiled egg.
One important thing when shopping is looking at the “Best Before” date on the products. I might forget it sometimes but really try to look constantly or organize the produce so that so little as possible go to waste. It always breaks my heart when I have to throw away something and the same thing goes with left overs. I usually like to freeze left overs, for example lasagna, in portion sized boxed in order not to throw it away just because you don’t want to eat it the fifth day in a row.
And for those living in Tallinn, I go to Rimi, Prisma and Stockmann when buying groceries. From Rimi I usually buy stuff like olive oil, vegetables ( avocados are the cheapest there) and dry ingredients (pasta) and canned products ( taco sauces, tomato sauces, ketchup, chick peas). From Prisma I try to buy vegetables and fruits, but also milk products and products from the frozen food isle such as fish sticks ( gosh, I love them, but the Estonian version tastes bad, must be Finnish). From Stockmann I mainly buy protein, as everything else is expensive there, it is less expensive to buy from the meat/fish counter than the readily packed meats.
Just shop smart and try to minimize food waste and you will save a lot of money!