The Kitchen Starter List

A few months ago, my 18 year old cousin moved from Chennai to Cape Town to study. The first couple of weeks were okay, she was busy settling in and had cousins who would take her out or she would hangout with new friends made in college. But one evening a month or so later I asked her how she was managing lunch/dinner. This question was out of extreme concern because she can’t even boil water, forget making an edible meal. And it really did not come as any surprise when she mumbled, “I’ve been eating bread and butter since three days”.

Cut to today, when a friend who has recently moved to Singapore asked me for a few quick recipes and double checked what ingredients she would need to buy. While I did share all of that with her on chat, I realised that there are many birdies out there who’ve just flown the nest and for whom the kitchen is like the dark woods and the supermarket is a war zone. 

So here’s a shopping list that should help you zoom through the supermarket in record speed. Remember, the first trip will probably be the most tedious and cost you the most. You will have to pick up some basic items that will last you the month or more, some perishables that you can pick up every few days or once a week and some ingredients specific to certain recipes you might want to try. So it might be a good idea to look up a few recipe blogs to figure what you would like to start with that week. Also, when in the supermarket please don’t fall for every ‘buy one get one free’ scheme. Pick up things you need and will use. Do not pick up items you will never consume just because it’s got some tempting deal on it.

Note: All quantities mentioned below are on per person basis. If you are a couple or a family then you may want to alter the quantities accordingly.

Basics:

  1. Oil – 1 ltr of oil should suffice for the month and more depending on how often you cook if you are riding solo. Olive oil is more expensive than vegetable, groundnut or sunflower seed oil. My advice, just buy what your mommy buys. You may not get the same brand, but you will get the same kind.
  2. Spices – 1 kg salt, a bottle of black pepper powder, 100 gm packet of chilli powder or a bottle of chilli flakes and a bottle of mixed herbs.
  3. Pasta/Rice – Pick up 1kg packs of either one to start with or then both. I would choose pasta over rice, since it’s easier to make by using ready-made pasta sauces.
  4. Ketchup – buy a small or medium sized bottle unless you are the kinds who needs ketchup with milk and cookies too! Also, while at this counter pick up your favourite chilli sauce if like me that’s your ‘ketchup’.
  5. Butter – Pick a medium sized box
  6. Cheese – cheese slices, cheese triangles, cheese spread… whatever you prefer.
  7.  Cereal – 1 box of whichever one you like or you could pick couple of small boxes of different flavours. But don’t pick more than two. You don’t want it to spoil and go waste. You could also pick up oats, flavoured or plain, in the same aisle.

Perishables:

1. Vegetables –

  • Onions and potatoes don’t need to be refrigerated and last for a while. So you can pick 500 gms to a kilo of each depending on how much cooking you are actually going to do.
  • For all other vegetables, you need 250 gms or 2-3 pieces of each.
  • Tomatoes can be bought 500 gms to a kilo at a time. But they need to be refrigerated, so it’s best to buy them as and when required.
  • Ideally it’s best to plan your meals before picking up vegetables. That way you can pick up only what is required.
  • Also, at any given point of time, don’t pick up more than 3 vegetables. The other alternative is pick up packs of diced mixed vegetables if your supermarket stocks it.

2. Fruits – 6 bananas, 2 apples and 2 pieces or 250 gms of any other fruit should keep you going for the week.

3. Milk and yogurt – 500 ml to 1 ltr of milk and one 500 gm tub of yogurt. You could also pick the smaller cups of yogurt. If you are picking flavoured yogurts and flavoured milk, pick enough for just 3 days and then you can re-stock.

4. Bread – It’s best if you pick smaller loaves of bread. It’s best to pick up a fresh pack every 2-3 days. You could buy a big loaf and refrigerate it if grocery shopping is going to be a weekend chore. But if you have a bakery next to your place then skip the damn supermarket aisle.

5. Eggs – A pack of 6 should suffice.

6. Meat –

  • Buy a pack of 2 or 4 chicken breasts or legs whichever you prefer, instead of buying a whole chicken.
  • 1-2 packets of sausages
  • 1-2 packets of salamis, turkey ham or any other cold cuts you like
  • Leave the fish and steak for now. You can pick thsoe when you are in the mood to really cook up a meal. You could however, try prawns or shrimps. But be warned, washing seafood is a task else you will be left with a smelly dinner.

Recipe based ingredients:

1. Sauces: pick up mustard, bbq sauce, soy sauce and worcestershire sauce. You can dice up some chicken or sausages and make a quick meal by sauteing it with one these sauces

2. Balsamic vinegar – this is awesome to make a quick salad dressing or adding to stir-friend vegetables, chicken or sausages

3. Salad dressing – at least 2 kinds

4. Honey and maple syrup

Mustard + Maple syrup will give you a delicious sauce to make pan-fried chicken

Soy + Honey + Lime… again a nice way to make a quick chicken stir-fry

Balsamic vinegar + Soy + Worcestershire + paprika flakes is a delicious salad dressing and is good for stir-fried vegetables or chicken.

Happy shopping… happy cooking… happy ‘saving your health and money’ by not eating junk food every single day of the week!

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