Back home in Jamaica, my mother never really had
stores supplies of groceries in the kitchen. In fact, most days, the ingredients for each day’s dinner were bought fresh. Oh, how much things have changed from back then! Now, for most of us, we have pantries and kitchen cupboards bursting at the seams with enough ingredients to last for weeks at a time.
With the introduction of technology to aid our modern lives, we have goods in cans, bottles and jars that can last for months and even years. These new convenience foods are sometimes lifesavers. We always kept stocks of things such as beans, pasta, pies, corned beef etc so that we could always put something together quickly when the need arose. Well, we used to.
When my sister bought her house some years ago and we went by to help with cleaning, we found a few cans of soup and kids food that seemed to have been stored there in the back of one of the cupboards. The cans looked fine but when we checked the dates, we found that the contents’ expiry dates had gone years before she even purchased the property!
Since then, I’ve made sure to use the ‘first in, first use’ system. So I practise stock rotation so I never have food stored so long that they are likely to expire before I get a chance to use them.
Anyway, cutting to the chase, I’ve sometimes run out of lots of groceries but at those times we have found that we have the best tasting meals ever! I’m now a pro at putting quick delicious meals together with whatever we have.
I’m going to share with you how you too, can put simple ideas together with what is left in your kitchen to cook and serve some amazing meals that your family will enjoy. As I say, I always seem to be able to put some amazing things together when I’m late to do my grocery shopping.
Here are a few bits and ideas that will make things easier for you.
- Dried herbs and spices last really long and are amazing for flavour
- Pasteurised long life milk can save the day
- Aslow cooker or a pressure cooker is indispensable
- Try to have a mix of starchy food ((carbs) but also protein
- Cooked rice, when cooled and stored properly can be the base for several dishes
- Always have some stock/flavour cubes or sachets on hand
Here are some of my favourite last minute idea meals
Egg fried rice
For this, I like using leftover basmati rice, whether brown or white. All you need to do is to scramble an egg or two and set aside. Then you can sauté some chopped onions and garlic in a little butter or oil in the same wok or heavy bottomed frying pan. Make sure the pan is really hot before adding the cooked rice. Light soy sauce, which gives a lovely salty flavour, can then be added, along with the egg, and your choice of what you have like, sweet corn, Spring onion, chopped or even chopped peppers. Keep stirring until completely heated through. Serve with a fresh vegetable salad.
Pasta and tomato sauce
Pasta is one of those staples that we always have around. For some reason, we always have even a bit of pasta left when the kitchen is sparse of groceries. So if you have some pasta and a can of chopped tomatoes, you can let loose the aroma of an Italian kitchen, while you prepare this dish. By the way, if you don’t have a can of tomatoes, fresh tomatoes will do fine if you add a bit of water. Sauté some chopped onions and garlic in a little oil until softened. Add the chopped tomatoes, with some dried herbs, salt, pepper and a tea spoon of salt. Let it simmer and then serve with cooked pasta and a shaving of cheese.
Egg and noodles
For this dish, all you need are these two ingredients: eggs and noodles. They will form the basis, but, if you like, you could cook and serve it up with whatever you have such as mushrooms, sweetcorn, tomatoes, etc. Your chosen herbs and spices will come in handy and give you the desired flavour. Go ahead, be creative, and see what you come up with.
If one day you run out of groceries and find that you have a joint of meat in the freezer, you’re lucky, and your family is in for a treat. Here is where your pressure cooker or slow cooker will come into play. The pressure cooker comes in handy if you haven’t got a lot of time as it speeds up the cooking process. Make sure to add lots of seasoning and something for colour; chopped tomatoes, browning, or soy sauce. If you’re going to be away from home or otherwise busy for hours, you can use the slow cooker. Still, remember to season adequately and add ingredients for colour. When the meat is almost cooked, you may add potatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, or any other such ingredients. Whatever the meat you have, you are bound to create an amazing, juicy, mouthwatering stew that they’ll love.
Do you sometimes find that you have a few lasagne sheets left over from the last time you made that dish? Well, when I find that I do, and not much else, I make a vegetable stew with whatever I have, making sure to have some gravy, and then I layer that with some lasagne sheets in an oven proof dish. I sometimes don’t even use a cheese sauce on top. I may use a can of chicken or mushroom soup, with just a few shavings of grated cheese as the topping for my lasagne. Baked in a hot oven for at least 30 minutes and no one would know that this dish isn’t a part of my weekly menu plan.
Spicy Cous Cous with Vegetables
I must admit that I am not a big fan of cous cous, but because it’s so easy and quick to prepare, I always have some on hand for the rainy day when groceries are scarce. Today, for example, I just got out a small bowl, added a table spoon of olive oil and a Maggi flavour cube to it, along with a cup of cous cous and two cups of hot water from the kettle. All I then needed to do was to stir it then cover it and leave it to soak up all the liquid and flavour. Then I made a quick stir fry of peppers, mushrooms, chilli, and frozen vegetables and added it to the cous cous. It was absolutely delicious and though we missed the meat, our dinner was filling and healthy.
Ideas like these just need some experimentation and in no time you will become proficient at putting together some amazing meals even when the kitchen cupboards are almost bare.
Do you have a favourite meal that you like to prepare in times like these? I would love to hear them so please share them with my readers and me in the comments section below.