Store cupboard staples to build a healthy meal

The cost of living crisis in the UK doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon. So, I thought a blog post about making a healthy meal with cheaper store cupboard ingredients would be useful. I’ve got another blog post here about how to eat healthier on a budget.

a kitchen sink with jars of food on a shelf above it

I can appreciate this blog post requires you to have enough money to build up your store cupboard, but it will show that you can make a nutritious meal without breaking the bank.

What makes a healthy meal? 

First let’s get into what makes a healthy meal. For a healthy meal you need a balance of the 3 macronutrients: fat, protein, and carbohydrates. A lot of foods are a combination of these nutrients already. Beans or lentils for example contain carbohydrates and they're also a great source of plant protein.

Carbohydrates are your brains preferred energy source and they provide energy for your whole body too. Sources of carbohydrates include: bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, and corn. Fruit and vegetables are also carbohydrates, and they provide lots of vitamins and minerals needed to keep your body working. 

Carbohydrates, especially wholegrain varieties, contain fibre which helps to keep your digestion moving and keeps you full for longer.

Fat is needed in your body for cell structure, as a source of energy, for insulation, and for the creation of hormones to name a few. It’s an important nutrient that can often be demonised due to it being high in energy (calories). Sources of fat include: oils, butter, nuts, seeds, and avocado.

a block of butter, cut into slices

Protein is needed for growth and repair of all your body’s cells and tissues. Proteins also form part of your immune system, your hormones, and speed up all the biochemical reactions in your body. Proteins take longer to digest so they keep you full and satisfied. Sources of protein include: meat, fish, eggs, beans, dairy, and meat alternatives like Quorn.

A balanced plate can look like: ½ the plate full of vegetables, ¼ of the plate a source of carbohydrates, and a ¼ of the plate being from protein sources. This is rounded off with a serving of fat. Of course, not every meal will be perfectly proportioned like this, but if you can aim for this most of the time, then you’re doing well.

How to build your store cupboard: 

You can achieve healthy balanced meals without having to buy fresh ingredients. There’s nothing wrong with convenience, and don’t let the fact that food is more processed stop you. Processing doesn’t inherently mean the food is ‘bad’.  

It can be cheaper and time saving to utilise your store cupboard when it comes to making a meal. Here’s how to cover every food group:


For store cupboard carbs, you can get things like microwave pouches of rice, grains, or lentils and beans. These can be heated up in a couple of minutes and make for an easy source of carbohydrates. Checking the ingredients list for added sugar or salt is a good way to be mindful of what you’re eating. You can also opt for wholegrain sources like brown rice or quinoa pouches to maximise the fibre content.

dried fusili pasta

You can also get dried carbohydrates like pasta, rice, noodles, or cous cous to build up your stores. These last a long time and can be cheaper if bought in bulk. Again, going for whole grains options will add more fibre.

Tinned vegetables are another great store option. Things like sweetcorn, peas, and carrots work well when tinned and can be added to most recipes for a boost of colour and nutrients. Look out for the vegetables in water with no salt added so you’re in control of the amount of salt in the dish.

And I know it’s not a store cupboard, but frozen veg is also a great option and saves waste as you can use what you need and put the rest back in the freezer for later.

Another great tin to have are items like tinned chopped or peeled tomatoes, passata, and tomato puree. These tend to be just tomato in the ingredients list and can be added into a dish to make a sauce. Nutritious and practical!


a bottle of olive oil with a few olives on the side
Having a good oil to cook with is essential for making a lot of dishes. Olive oil is generally a good all rounder for most meals, but extra virgin olive oil is best used uncooked like in a salad dressing or to drizzle over a finished dish. I’m aware olive oil can be pricy, so an economical substitute could be rapeseed oil.

Another fat source you can be keep in your store cupboard to add to a meal is seeds. These can be mixed seeds or individual bags of seeds. They can add a satisfying crunch and lots of nutrition without changing much in the meal.

One seed I always have in the cupboard is milled linseed and I add it to yoghurt, porridge, and salads for a boost of nutrition.

Nuts can be used similarly to seeds as a garnish on top of a meal. You can also use peanut butter to add a savoury nutty taste to things like curries or a stir fry.


Now onto proteins, I’ll start with tinned fish.

I’m sure you’re familiar with tinned fish as these are a common protein source. You can get things like tuna, sardines, mackerel, and salmon all tinned and ready to use for your convenience. 

They typically come in brine, oil, or a tomato sauce. I usually go for the ones in oil and use the oil to cook my meal. This kills two food groups with one stone! If you’re being mindful of added salt, I’d suggest the ones in spring water.

a tin of Grace brand tinned mackerel in tomato sauce

You can also get tinned meat like corned beef to keep in the cupboard. It’s a good source of protein but is high in salt so this isn’t an everyday food, but something to have occasionally.

Even if you’re not vegetarian or vegan I always recommend having some plant based proteins in your cupboard. Tinned beans, and lentils are great nutritious options that are cheap and last long. They can be added to a meal or be the star on their own. You can add a tin of lentils to a bolognaise, throw some chickpeas in a curry, or have black beans in your chilli con carne.


It’s not a nutrient but flavour is the most important part of any meal!

Dried herbs and spices are an easy way to make your dish tasty.  They should be kept in a cool dark place in an airtight container to avoid losing the flavour.

Vinegar is also a good way to add some acidity and sharpness to a meal, and it doesn’t have to be stored in the fridge. Other ways to add flavour include: soy sauce, fish sauce, curry paste, harissa paste, or mustard but these usually have to be refrigerated once opened.

a selection of dried spices

Make it a meal: 

Now let’s put it all together and make a balanced meal! You can make a meal entirely from your store cupboard or you can use majority from the store cupboard with a few fresh ingredients. I do it all the time when meal prepping for work.

A few examples here:

  • Chickpea curry: tin of chickpeas, tin of coconut milk, curry paste, served with a rice pouch 
  • Pasta and meatballs: dried pasta, passata, a tin of beans, dried basil, and fresh meatballs
  • Plant based power bowl: quinoa pouch, tin of lentils, tin of beans, and tinned sweetcorn
  • Fish frenzy: Cous cous, tinned mackerel, tinned corn, and diced bell pepper
  • Chili non carne: tin of mixed beans, tin of chopped tomato, served with a rice pouch 
  • Salmon and/egg fried rice: rice pouch, tinned salmon, tinned carrots, tinned sweetcorn, and eggs

a container with salmon and egg fried rice

Key points:

  • A balanced meal comprises of carbohydrates, protein, and fat.
  • You can make a healthy meal from your store cupboard. This can be cheaper and more convenient.
  • Store cupboard carbohydrates include: microwave rice pouches or dried pasta. You can also get tinned vegetables in water.
  • Olive oil or rapeseed oil are good fat options. You can also use seeds or nuts for healthy fats.
  • Store cupboard proteins include tinned fish or tinned beans.


I hope you enjoyed this post!

Bye for now 👋


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