A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mealtime Musings: 10 Must Haves in My Pantry

Once upon a time in the not too distant past, I did something radical called "meal planning". You disbelieve me? I have note books to prove it. Alright, alright... A notebook... That high-minded, grandiose scheme came to a screeching halt for a couple of weeks in the summer when I came down with a bad cold. Organization doesn't seem to be a priority when you're breathing heavily through tissues. Since then, I've been struck by meal planning ennui haven't been able to restart the scheme. In my current state of disorganization, I leave everything to the worst possible time of the day... Aggravation Hour... the time between 4:30 and 5:30 while I'm tap dancing between two children, food preparation and making sure homework plus extra maths plus Chinese gets done. I used to do some of my dinner cooking at lunch time but that's the good o'l days when the 3 year old actually slept in the afternoons without my interference. And on nights, when I have 4 or 5 hours of broken sleep, I feel completely knackered after lunch the next day.

It's 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Officially it's homework time but the almost nine-year old is stalling for time by munching very slowly on her afternoon tea and sneaking peeks at the open book beside her. I deliver my usual admonishments about time wasting and am rewarded with sheepish looks. I make way to the kitchen and open the cupboard... I have a vague notion that I'm doing chicken today 'cos I've defrosted some but what kind of chicken, there's the rub.

As much as I love cooking, there are days when I just don't feel like fussing. Since I've been bashed over the head with the realities of raising children, I don't have an overdeveloped sense of snobbery about using shortcuts. Just so my blog can contributed practically to the life of those who follow it, I'm going to include, in this post, 10 things I use and stock up regularly in my tiny pantry.

  1. Canned Tomatoes: Great for soups and tomato-based pasta sauces. I see that Jamie Oliver uses a couple of cans to throw together a decent homemade tomato sauce.
  2. Can of Tomato Soup: An inexpensive base for pasta sauces. Goes well with cream, milk, bacon and cheese. A nice trick I learnt from my parenting mentor, Helen.
  3. Canned Chickpeas/Cannellini Beans. Chickpeas can be used to buff up bolognaise sauces, stir-fries, soups
  4. Packets of assorted pasta. Handy substitute for bread or rice. I make some up for the kiddies to take to school or kindy
  5. Canned Tuna: For tuna bakes, tuna sandwiches, tuna salads and tuna mornays
  6. Canned Fruit Salad: For cereals, quick desserts and snacks for hungry children
  7. Baked Beans: Not just on toast but with sausages, eggs, bacon omelettes and quesidillas
  8. Bread crumbs. They're cheap and can be used in mince patties, meatballs, meatloaf to give the meat some body. 
  9. Stock and stock cubes. I do make my own... occasionally... when there's space in the freezer but I can't indulge in culinary snobbery when I'm being hijacked by hungry horrors in the background clamouring for attention.
  10. Spam or its equivalent (although I don't think there's any): It's really flexible. I use it chopped up in fried rice, omelettes, noodles.
I'm sure you have other things you use as your favourite short-cuts on those I-can't-be-bothered days. I would love to pick your brains (you can have them back, promise) and expand my repertoire.


  1. I feel your pain when it comes to making the evening meal. NOT my favourite time of day. I have a couple of quick dishes I make on days when I can't be bothered. Would you like me to email them to you? One is a basic fried rice dish and the other is spinach and ricotta pancakes that are always a hit with the kids.

  2. Sure Ky... That would be great. Yeah, vegetarian ideas are good as well.

  3. Hi Lillian, nice to connect with you through C2M! I think my staples are pretty similar to yours actually. Apart from those, I always have rice, dried noodles, soy sauce, oyster sauce and sugar for quick stir-fries. I also keep grated cheese in the freezer, as my husband likes it with pretty much any pasta dish. I use dried oregano a fair bit with baked veges, lamb etc too.

  4. Must have :
    1. Gravy packs. Colin just started me with gravy packs. On days that I don't know what to do with the meat, Just throw in the gravy pack and stir fry. If I'm organised enough, I'll throw it into the slow cooker. Doesn't matter if it says for stir fry or not, it works well in the slow cooker.
    2. Canned soups, to stir in with pasta for a creamed pasta bake.
    3. Seaweed sheets. On days that cooking is a hassle, just cook a pot of rice, open a can of tuna and it's tuna sushi.
    4. Milo and Honey are must have drinks for me. On those busy days or tired nights where eating is a chore or no time to eat at all, it keeps the energy going and fills me up for the moment.

  5. Michelle... I use lots of cheese too but the hubby does most of my grating.

    YN... I've also started to stock up on seaweed lately. Yeah, we don't often think of it as convenient food.


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