Learn to love your kitchen cupboard essentials

Kidney beans with love hearts on it

There are many benefits to having a well-stocked store cupboard, chock full of essentials such as tinned tomatoes, pasta, tinned tuna, rice and lentils. Meals rustled up from these ingredients can help to avoid food waste as well as save you time and money.

Are canned foods healthy?

Canned, dried and frozen food often get a bad rap when compared with fresh food, however the good news is they are also packed full of nutrients.

Canned foods also have a much longer shelf life than their fresh equivalents as they are treated at high temperatures to destroy microorganisms, such as bacteria that can spoil food, and then sealed.

Some canned products have salt and sugar added to preserve the food as well, so it’s best to choose products that have no added salt or sugar.

Is fresh food better than dried or frozen?

Once plant foods are taken out of the ground, the quality starts to deteriorate – this is true for the fruit and vegetables sitting in your fridge as well. Freezing and drying food can help to preserve nutrients – although, like fresh, most plant foods lose nutrients through cooking, especially when boiling vegetables for too long.

But regardless of whether they are dried, canned or frozen, many plant foods – such as fruit, vegetables and pulses – contain a range of vitamins, minerals and fibre and are low in fat. They’re also versatile and can be used in many different recipes.

The problem is, we don’t always know where to start when it comes to cooking with cupboard staples. How often have you looked at that lonely packet of lentils, languishing in the back of your larder, and thought to yourself ‘I’ll definitely give that a go … one day!’ and then promptly forgotten about them for another few weeks? I’m sure it’s not just me.

Bulk buys – have you used yours yet?

‘Store cupboard overwhelm’ probably isn’t helped by the fact that we’re now likely to have ever more items and products knocking about. In the early days of the pandemic, stories of stockpiling were rife, and – aside from toilet paper – the products that we were buying in bulk were those non-perishables with a longer shelf life, such as canned items.

In the week before lockdown was announced in March 2020, canned goods sales doubled compared with the same week the year before. And the trend continued. Three in 10 consumers globally bought more store cupboard products, such as pasta, rice and tinned vegetables, during the first year of the pandemic.

State of the nation’s store cupboards

To mark Cancer Prevention Action Week (21–27 February 2022) we commissioned a survey of over 2,000 people and asked them to spill the (baked) beans on the contents of their cupboards.

According to our survey, the items people are most likely to have in their cupboards are cooking oils (66%), white rice (60%) and tinned tomatoes (56%). However, these aren’t necessarily our favourite items. Perhaps surprisingly, tuna – along with white pasta – are the most popular items, with 27% of the votes each.

The nation’s least favourite cupboard ingredients were – less surprisingly – dried pulses (4%), followed by seeds and tinned carrots (6% each) and tinned peas (7%).

Yes you can!

So how can we show these maligned, yet nutritious, store cupboard staples a little more love? If you’re looking for inspiration for tasty, low-cost meals, you can use our Cupboard Heroes recipe generator to shake up your mealtimes.

Simply type in up to two store cupboard (or fridge, or freezer) ingredients and we’ll show you everything we have on our recipes site that contains both of those ingredients; alongside calorie content and how many of your recommended 5 A DAY each recipe contains.

So, whether, like the majority of the nation your preference is for tuna or other canned fish; or whether you prefer grains and cereals such as wholewheat pasta or oats, or pulses such as lentils and chickpeas, we have plenty of inspiring, delicious and healthy recipes to re-ignite your cupboard love.

Try our Cupboard Heroes recipe generator