A bonus of eating from your cupboard is you can eat for free.
A bonus of eating from your cupboard is you can eat for free.

Save $50 a week by clearing out your pantry

It snowed over the weekend where I live. Well, mostly it sleeted but for a few moments, it fell in thick globs. And, baby, when it's cold outside, I like to stay warm inside.

I love grocery shopping. I love heading to the supermarket and foraging for bargains. I love interacting with growers and sellers at fruit and vegetable markets and pondering the options at ethnic grocery stores. I am a foodie and shopping for food is a passion.

But sometimes, I don't want to go to the shops. Like when it's snowing. Or when, for instance, we are in a pandemic and are isolating at home as much as possible. Or when we are trying to save money and want to reduce grocery spending for a bit.

Canned food is a classic fixture in most people's kitchens - witness Andy Warhol's take on what was (then) a staple classic - a tin of tomato soup. While I'm not a huge fan of tinned food, it's easy to store and perfect for hibernating indoors. When the situation improves, tinned food will be a staple for us on camping trips. 

The Joyful Frugalista Serina Bird at home in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey
The Joyful Frugalista Serina Bird at home in Canberra. Picture: Sean Davey

A bonus of eating from your cupboard is you can eat for free! Rather than ordering a meal or getting supplies from the supermarket (either online or in-person), you can cocoon at home instead. Clearing out your cupboard by using up odd tins and packets is also a great way to give your savings a boost and declutter before spring. You can easily save $20 to $50 per week just by stopping and using up what you already have - even if only for a few days.

Here are some recipe ideas from common cupboard foods:

1. Tinned tomatoes. In Naples, a classic tinned tomatoes dish is spaghetti alla puttanesca (literally whore's pasta). It is said the working women in the red-light district created this spicy tomato, olives, capers and garlic sauce because they were unable to go out in public to shop regularly. Whatever its origins, it's a cupboard classic. Most people have a tin of tomatoes in their cupboard. Try my simple tomato olive sauce that you can make for a midweek meal.

A bonus of eating from your cupboard is you can eat for free.
A bonus of eating from your cupboard is you can eat for free.

2. Tuna. Tinned fish is a great way to enjoy the nutritional benefits of seafood on a budget. A tin of tuna is versatile. A favourite is fishcakes with leftover mashed potato. When my kids were little, I shaped the cakes like a fish before frying, and put a Spanish olive slice on for a fisheye. It's super cheap but it was super cute to them.

3. Sweet corn. Remember those sweet-corn fritters your nanna made? Well, guess what? If you have a tin or two of sweet corn, and also some flour, an egg and milk, you've got the makings of an easy midweek dinner or fancy brunch. Tip: you can make sweet corn fritters in a pie maker or on a sandwich toaster.

4. Baked beans. Joke all you want about baked beans being a musical fruit: they pack a nutritional punch and are a low cost and convenient food. I love baked beans with tabasco sauce as part of a weekend fry up. But they are also delicious on toast or in a jaffle. We once used baked beans to bulk out mince on nachos when we were out of red kidney beans. It was such a hit we've adopted it as a classic.

5. Potatoes. If you have a large bag at home, then you've got dinner. Potatoes are an essential ingredient in soups - think Julia Child's rich potato and leek soup (potage parmentier). Or grate three medium potatoes, wring out the moisture in a tea-towel, combine with an egg, season and fry in oil for delicious potato latkes. You can serve them for breakfast the Austrian way with apple sauce, top with sour cream and spring onions for a fancy canape, or eat them as 'mocked fish' like I used to.

SPAGHETTI ALLA PUTTANESCA

Ingredients

500g spaghetti

1 tbs olive oil

3 cloves garlic

3 anchovy fillets

400g tin of tomatoes

1 cup black olives

4 tbs capers

1 chilli (sliced) - optional

Method

1. Cook spaghetti in boiling, salted water until al dente.

2. Meanwhile, splash oil into large fry pan and add garlic and chopped anchovies. Fry for few mins - make sure not to burn the garlic

3. Pour in tomatoes. If you using whole tomatoes, take a small knife and cut them into pieces while they still in the tin. Add olives, capers and chilli (if using). Cook gently until the pasta is cooked, using a fork to press the tomatoes to reduce any lumps.

4. Drain pasta and add cooked spaghetti to frying pan. Stir to coat with the sauce. Serve hot.

Cost

Tin of tomatoes: 80c, Olive oil: 20c, Garlic: 15c, Anchovies: 50c, Olives: $2, Capers: $1, Chilli: 60c, Spaghetti: 80c, Total: $5.25

Originally published as Save $50 a week by clearing out your pantry



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