Saturday, 29 October 2011

Rubber Chicken - Part Deux!!

As promised here is the second part of my Rubber Chicken post. I was really craving 'takeaway' food tonight so I deviated from my plan and made chicken nachos instead of pasties and I'm so glad I did!!

This morning I popped my roasted chicken bones into the slow cooker along with:
2 carrots chopped in half
Half a leek chopped into 3 big chunks
One onion chopped in half
2 Bay leaves
Parsley and mixed herbs
8 peppercorns
2 sticks of celery chopped in half

This is still cooking on low now, I like to cook stock for at least 8hours to get a really deep flavour. I'll pour it into a jug and when cool scrape off the solidified fat and put into a freezer bag and freeze. But in this instance i'll make it into a nice chicken soup with lots of veg and the leftover chicken from yesterday.

Tonight for Serens' tea I made her a chicken wrap using the leftover curry from yesterday. I mixed in a little mayonnaise, lemon juice and some raisins so it was a bit like coronation chicken and put some chopped up avocado in there too. She wolfed it down!
I however fancied something a bit spicier! So I shredded some cooked chicken and added it to a dry pan with half a pack of Fajita seasoning and a handful of chopped cherry tomatoes and cooked for 2 minutes. I then topped some nachos with the mixture, grated over some cheddar and popped in a warm oven for 10 minutes, just so the nachos heated through and the cheese melted.
 I then added my fave dollop of sour cream and LOTS of jalapenos (I have an unhealthy obsession with jalapenos!) and job done that was my tea!! And delicious if I say so myself! ;)

The last thing I made today was Chicken Enchiladas. I didn't make this from scratch as I had a jar and pack of seasoning in the cupboard which I bought on offer a few weeks ago.
So whilst the nachos were in the oven warming I fried off some leftover chicken with the enchilda seasoning until the chicken was completely coated and warmed through. I then filled two big tortilla wraps with the mixture and put in a foil lined tupperware box. This was then topped with the jar of enchilada sauce and grated cheddar. When this is cool I will put it in the freezer for another day. When it is frozen i'll just pop out the enchilada foil package, and wrap it in clingfilm twice. This then means I can use my tupperware box for something else and more importantly free up space in my freezer!!

After all this I still have enough chicken to make chicken soup and perhaps a few sandwiches! It really is rubber chicken!! Enjoy! xx

Friday, 28 October 2011

Rubber Chicken!!

Rubber chicken...........not the strange plastic toys that sometimes squeak but the theory of making ONE chicken stretch and stretchhhhhhhhhh like rubber giving you and your family a few meals out of one chook!
Sometimes I roast a chicken on a Sunday and then make one or two meals after it with the remaining meat. However when it comes to batch cooking I prefer to slow cook a bird and then I can get MUCH more meat out of it.

So today at 9am I popped my slow cooker on low and put a chicken in there, just an average sized 1.5kg one. At 2pm it was cooked so I took it out (I had to use two big spatulas otherwise it'll just fall apart....its that succulent!!) then comes the best bit......the messy fun job of taking all the meat off of the carcass!
I always set out two bowls. One for the skin and fatty bits/gristle and one for the meat. Then I have a baking tray nearby that I pop all the bones in.
Because the meat has been slow cooked it will literally fall off the bones, and there are lots of bones in chickens so I have to be extra careful when I'm doing mine as I have a small child.
I preheat the oven to 170degrees and pop my baking tray of chicken bones in there to roast for 30 mins - 1hr til they are nice and golden. It adds delicious flavour for when I make my stock.
So then I was left with a huge mixing bowl full of chicken meat! So I have decided to make the following:
- Toasted Coconut Chicken Curry (this was lush, made it and ate it tonight)
- Chicken stewp (something halfway between stew and soup)
- Chicken Enchiladas
- Chicken and Asparagus pasties
- Coronation chicken for lunches in sandwiches or wraps.

I made the coconut curry tonight and here is the recipe:
Cooked chicken
2 onions diced
2tsps grated ginger (I had none so used ground ginger)

2garlic cloves crushed
2tsps ground coriander
2tsps ground cumin
1/4tsp ground cinammon
1 chopped red chilli if you want it spicier....leave out if not!
1tsp Turmeric
2 tbsps tom puree
125g natural yogurt (I didn't have any so used abit of Creme fraiche)
1x tin of coconut milk (I found half a tin was plenty...adjust to your tastes)
ground Almonds (50g) (leave out if you dont have it) and dessicated coconut. (a few tbsps)

- cook onions until soft on a low heat and then add garlic and cook for a few minutes, then add all spices and cook for a further 2-3 minutes
- add tomato puree and cook for a few minutes
- add coconut milk, yogurt or cream and the ground almonds. Stir and simmer for 10mins, season and taste, I find a tbsp of lemon juice is nice at this point and either a tsp of sugar of half a dessertspoon of mango chutney. 
- Add the chicken at the very end as if you add it too early it will turn stringy.
-whilst the chicken is heating through toast coconut in a dry pan until lightly golden brown, it browns very quickly so don't leave it unattended. Stir in toasted coconut and serve it with whatever you fancy, rice/naan/poppadoms/chappattis etc etc

The other recipes I will post tomorrow when I make them and will also hopefully do a post on Slow-Cooking and One-Pot Recipes!

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The week before payday blues!

Sorry i've been away a few days but i've been struggling with a nasty bout of Tonsillitis so have let the blog go to the wayside a bit. But i'm back today with some meal ideas for the end of the month. You know that horrible week before payday where funds are seriously low and you're wondering how you're going to get by? Well I am going to write 10 storecupboard recipe/ideas today to see you through without having to buy anymore food!

1) Freezer Pot Luck!! - I love these kind of your freezer for a real mish-mash meal! Garlic Bread, Onion Rings, Veg, Pizza, Fishfingers, Waffles etc etc! Kids love these kind of meals, its like an indoor picnic! Plus it means you get to free up some space for when you can go shopping again!

2) Egg Curry - Now before you say 'urgh'....this is a genuine indian curry recipe I have adapted and it is seriously yummy AND so simple!!! You can adjust the spiciness of it too dependant on tastebuds/children etc
-4-6 Hardboiled eggs (less or more depending on how much you like eggs!)
- One onion diced
- garlic clove crushed
- 1tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1-2tsp curry powder....or more if you like!
- Tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1/2pint of milk
- chicken stock cube
Method :-
- sweat off onion until translucent and then add garlic clove and cook for a few mins further
- add all spices and cook for another 2 minutes
- add tinned tomatoes
- crumble chicken stock cube into milk and add mixture into egg curry. You can add greek yogurt instead of milk if you like, just adjust to your own personal tastes.
- Stir until cube has completely dissolved and simmer until sauce thickens
- slice eggs into big slices, and add to sauce. Stir gently as too much stirring will break up the egg yolks.
- Serve with rice or Jacket potatoes, rice or naans. It is honestly the yummiest winter comfort food!

3) Corned Beef Hash - I always used to turn my nose up at the idea of this........until I tried it and now I have it at least once a month, its delicious!!
- One onion diced
- One tin of corned beef cubed
- one garlic clove
- 1tsp paprika
- potatoes either cubed and boiled or mashed
- Saute onion until soft, add garlic and cook for a further two minutes, stir in corned beef and add paprika. Cook until corned beef is heated through (I like to cook it for a little bit longer so I get crispy bets....looooove the crispy bits!) ;)
- Now time to add the potatoes, some people prefer cooked cubed potato and some people like it mashed, I personally use mashed potato. Add to pan and stir together to heat through.
- You can either serve it as it is or pop it into an oven proof dish in a hot oven to crisp up the top!.....For an extra treat pop a poached egg on top and let the delicious yellow yolk run all over your hash. Gorgeous!....serve with lashings of either tomato sauce or brown sauce......tomato sauce always wins in our house!

4) Omelettes!! - So versatile, filling and yummy! This is all down to personal preference or for this post what you have left! You can chuck in Cheese, ham, veg, meat anything you like! Or you could just have it plain! Serve with buttery bread and no one will be complaining that they're hungry!

5) Fishcakes - use whatever tinned fish you have left to make delicious fishcakes, salmon, tuna, sardines etc all work well. Just mix into mashed potato with some onion and herbs, coat in breadcrumbs or just plain flour and shallow fry. Serve with skinny french fries, salad, beans, whatever you have lying around! (a recipe I saw recently added tartare sauce to the potato mixture....this is very nice and works well with tuna!)

6) Savoury rice - rice, stock cube, whatever you've got left, veg meat etc and you have a rice dish that is easy to make and very filling!

7) Beans Beans Beans BEEAAANNNNS!! - Most cupboards have a tin or two of beans floating at the back! These little squidgy carb filled treats can be turned into the most satisfying meal! Here are a few of my faves!
- Sausage and bean hotpot, brown off sausages, add onion to pan and cook until soft, add chicken stock cube, curry powder, a tin of beans and stir. Pop into a slow cooker, add sliced potato on top and cook on low for a few hours or until needed.
- Poor mans chilli con carne (mixed bean stew) - substitute the meat in your chilli con carne recipe for beans. Baked Beans, Kidney Beans, Butterbeans etc and serve with rice or jacket potato
- Cheese and bean toasties/quesadillas or savoury pancakes.... slightly messy but absolutely gorgeous!

8) Sweetcorn and Pea fritters - tasty, cheap and gets veg in your kids too!
- make a basic pancake batter, add sweetcorn and peas and fry in small rounds. Serve with a salad or with whatever you like really, we have ours with sweet chilli sauce to dip! Yums!

9) Pasta! - Use whatever pasta you have left and experiment with different sauces!
- sometimes when times have been very dire, I have been known to cook spaggetti, add garlic, a few tbsps of tomato puree, olive oil and sprinkle it with cheddar or parmesan. Its so simple but really surprisingly tasty! If I have any olives lying around I chuck these in too!
- make a basic tomato sauce, you can then add veg to this, or meat or just plain chilli powder and add this to your pasta.
- Carbonara - this recipe is yummy!
- Pesto Pasta. I usually have half a jar of Pesto floating around the back of my fridge, I just toss this in some pasta with cherry tomatoes and top with cheese. It is a favourite in our household!

10) This has to be one of my favourite thrifty meals. We usually only have it once a month but its simplicity is what makes it so appealing!
- Homemade chunky chips, Ham and Poached Eggs. Delicious!

The following websites are brilliant sources for end of the month recipes! Enjoy!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

National Apple Day

Yesterday was National Apple Day. A truly British fruit; it is a staple of my late Summer/Autumn diet. Plus at this time of year they are oh so cheap to buy (especially from Greengrocers!)
Apples are very versatile, being used in both savoury and sweet dishes and below are some of my faves! :-

Apple and Pear Crumble
- peel, core and slice apples and pears, pop into a pan and simmer with a bit of water until soft (you can add vanilla to this if you like....or sugar, however I like to keep a slight tartness to my fruit.
- rub together flour, sugar, butter and cinammon until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Pop apple/pear mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with the crumble mixture, bake in 180degree oven until the crumble is golden and the fruit is bubbling up deliciously underneath. I don't really measure as do this recipe from sight, however if you want a more luxurious recipe, Rachel Allen's is delicious!

Normandy Pork with Cider
Meat.....Apples......and Cider.......what more could you ask for in a casserole?!?! Heaven! There are so many variations to this recipe but the fundamental ingredients stay the same!
The above recipe by Delia is yummy. I tend to use any cider, usually the cheaper the better as when it is slow cooked the flavour is still beautiful. You could add apple brandy as well! To cheapen the meal even further or to 'thriftify' it ;) you could use pork belly instead. Or pork ribs!

My fave winter pudding warmer:
Baked Apples
So easy to make and oh so yummy! You'll need one large cooking apple per person for this recipe.
- Preheat oven to 200degrees. Wash and Core your apples and then make a shallow cut (score) around the middle (waist)  of each one. Place into an ovenproof dish.
- Fill each Apple with Raisins/Sultanas, Brown Sugar and Cinnamon. Place a few cubes of cold butter on top of the mixture.
- Pour cold water in the ovenproof dish around the apples and place into oven and bake for around 45 minutes, test to see if the apples are cooked by using a sharp knife to pierce the apples. If it pierces easily then they're done.

This is a truly calorific dessert as I like to spoon golden syrup on top of the apples when they come out of the oven on the plates. You can serve this with custard, cream or ice cream. Full of calories but perfect as a treat when you're chilled to the bone by the Winter! Enjoy!!

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Pork and Apple meatballs with Tomato treacley sauce recipe

This is one of my fave thrifty meals and I have many variants of it, but this is the original recipe which I have cooked tonight, and both myself and my daughter have demolished it! Yums!
Meatballs -
Pork sausages skinned (I used four...if you have more mouths to feed you can use more)
1 x apple grated
half a large onion grated
2 x slices of bread made into breadcrumbs
Paprika and seasoning
Sauce -
Other half of large onion finely chopped
1 x clove of garlic crushed
1 x dessert spoon of tomato puree
1 x tin toms
1 x dessert spoon black treacle
2 x tsp mustard powder or mustard (I used english mustard but dijon would be nice too)
- mix all the meatballs ingredients together and shape into balls. Pop onto oven tray and bake in an oven at 180degrees
- when you've popped meatballs into oven, put the spagetti or rice on the boil (you could have jacket potatoes or salad or whatever you wanted with this but I like it with spagetti)
- sweat off chopped onions in frying pan and when translucent add garlic. Cook for a further 2 mins
- add tomato puree and cook it for a further 2-3 mins
- add tin of tomatoes, black treacle and mustard powder and stir to combine. Simmer the sauce until the spagetti is cooked through usually 15 minutes.
- Take meatballs out of oven and add to the sauce and meatballs. Pop the spagetti sauce and meatballs into an ovenproof dish and you can either sprinkle parmesan or cheddar on top or leave as it is.
- put back into the oven for a further 10 minutes.
Serve and chow down!! Lovely on a cold winters day and cheap cheap cheap to make!!

Coca Cola..........not just for rotting your teeth!!

Thrifty Cleaning Tips!

I always have a few bottles of coke in the house. I don't drink the stuff myself (unless i'm out and its got vodka in it!) ;) but I like to have it here in case of guests and also for when i'm in the mood to do Gammon slow cooked in coke (heaven!!).
But Coke is not just a's a fab cleaning product!!!! I've seen it used on the TV programme 'How clean is your house' and also my Mother and Grandmother have extolled the virtues of it!
-When I lived in Essex I had a terrible problem with limescale. The water is so hard down there that limescale was abundant in all machines, taps, showerheads etc. A nightmare! This crusty scale is so hard to remove and all of the usual cleaning products did nothing to shift it. So then I read about Coke. I soaked my showerhead in a tupperware container with coke and it came out so shiny and practically limescale free! So then I soaked tea-cloths in coke and wrapped them around my taps and left them overnight. In the morning my taps were brilliantly shiny and the limescale had practically gone! (Vinegar is also brilliant for limescale).
-A tip I saw on a TV programme is to pour a bottle of coke down and around the pan of your toilet and leave it for a while. When you flush most stains and limescale rings are gone!
- My mothers tip: Coffee or tea stained cups. Pour in coke and leave for a few hours, empty cup and wash up as normal and the whiteness of your china will be restored!
- Ever let a pan boil dry and you end up with a horrible encrusted saucepan?? Well pour in some coke and boil it and it'll clean off all of the burnt residue on the bottom of your pan.

I am also a huge fan of Bicarbonate of Soda and Vinegar. These two products together are the most amazing cleaning product! They bring back the shine to your sink and taps and can clean grout bringing it back to its true whiteness!
Bicarb is also fab for odours. I sometimes mix essential oils in mine and then scatter over my carpet and leave overnight. In the morning i'll hoover it up and all normal house smells i.e. cooking, kids, petc etc are eradicated and your house smells yummy and fresh!!

This website is fabulous for cleaning ideas using household storecupboard items!

I do not like to use many toxic chemicals in my house as I believe its not very good for our health; so I do use natural products a lot....which also helps thriftiness as i'm not shelling out on expensive cleaning products. I do use bleach/antibacterial products as well but a lot less now I use the other items.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Time to get organised!!

After a good few days off and a weekend away in Manchester I needed to get back on my thrifty bandwagon!! Yesterday some relatives gave me a food parcel! They buy so much food and always have too much leftover so they asked if I would like any. I said yes of course! I came home with three big tubs of houmous which went straight in the freezer and a big cooked chicken and other storecupboard items.
As the chicken needed to be used straight away I got up this morning and got cooking. I made a chicken and vegetable pie and also a healthy chicken curry.
Chicken Pie recipe:
Short crust pastry
Half a large onion diced
Cooked chicken cubed
Frozen veg
300ml milk
Chicken stock cube or gray granules
Flour salt pepper
- sweat off onions until translucent, then add one garlic clove crushed and cook for 2 mins.
- Add a tbsp of flour, pinch of salt and pepper to form a roux, and then cook on low heat for 2 mins
- add milk and chicken stock cube to the pan and cook until sauce thickens, add paprika and add chicken and frozen veg. I had carrots, green beans and peas in my freezer so thats what went in!
- put chicken mixture in bottom of quiche dish or pan.
- the other day I made cheese and potato pie so I still had half a pack of shortcrust pastry. This was exactly enough to top the pie. I just rolled it out, cut out some heart shapes in the pastry, topped the pie and washed with milk was and popped it in a 180degree oven for 30 mins.

Chicken Curry Recipe:
This is basically the slimming world potato and chicken curry recipe; which was nice but lacked a bit of flavour so I tweaked it to make it a bit more yummy!
Cubed cooked chicken
2 x potatoes peeled and cubed
Half a large onion diced
Garlic clove crushed
1tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Curry Powder
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
chicken stock cube
Tin of tomatoes
- Cook onions in oil or frylight until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add all spices except for the garam masala. Cook for a further two mins on low to cook out the spices.
- Add potatoes and around 200ml of water and the tinned toms.
- crumble stock cube into pan and stir until dissolved.
- Simmer curry for 20mins until potatoes are tender. When you can pierce them with a knife add the cubed chicken and heat through. At this point stir in the garam masala too.
Note if you are freezing this like I am, then do not add the Garam masala as it will go bitter. When you take the curry out and defrost it add the garam masala when re-heating.
Note: These curries really do stain tupperware so I tend to wait until they're completely cool and then put in freezer bags. A lot less fuss.....and scrubbing!!!

Now the cooking is done and tea is sorted its time to sort out stuff for selling. Christmas is coming up and I want to make as much money as I can so I need to have a good sort out!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Menu Planning

Since beginning my budgeting journey I soon came to realise that the way to stick to your budget the most was by Menu Planning. It takes a bit of planning and organisation but it soon becomes second nature!
If you have a good idea what is in your cupboards and freezer its even easier! Scour the internet for recipes, or books, or your friends and you'll soon have a huge amount of different things to make. Some budgeters I know like to menu plan for the whole month however I just like to do a week. This is purely personal choice as I find i'm too impatient to sit down and do a whole month at a time! But once a week I go through my cupboards once again, check the freezer make a big cup of tea and with a slice of cake sit down and work out my menu/shopping list for that week.
I try to incorporate the 5 a day ethos in my planning aswell. 3 portions of veg and 2 of fruit.
This is my menu for the rest of this week and beginning of next for Seren and I (I wont include Sat and Sun as i'm away both days)
Breakfast - Peanut Butter on Toast and a portion of fruit
Snack - Carrot sticks and houmous
Lunch - Leftover Cheese and potato pie and Green salad
Dinner - Mushroom Stroganoff and Rice with veg. Pudding - Pear and chocolate cake

Breakfast - Cereal
Snack - Apple and Cheese
Lunch - Poormans pizza (Wholemeal pitta bread spread with Tomato puree, cheese, and whatever toppings we have in the fridge) with salad
Dinner (we're away)

Sat/Sun - away (But Sunday night when home i'll bake some goodies for the week)

Breakfast - Poached eggs on toast
Snack - Cheese, ham, carrot and courgette muffin
Lunch - Onion tart with salad
Dinner - Moroccan Lamb tagine with couscous. Pudding - Yogurt.

Breakfast - Mushrooms on toast
Snack - Banana and crackers or rice cakes

Lunch - Leftover lamb tagine on jacket potato
Dinner - Stuffed Aubergine. Pudding - Apple Crumble (the ones in the freezer from last week)

Breakfast - Porridge with fruit
Snack - rice cakes and cottage cheese
Lunch - Quesadillas and salad
Dinner - Aubergine and beef lasagna. Pudding - Jelly

Breakfast - Marmite or Peanut butter on toast
Snack - portion of fruit
Lunch - Jacket potato
Dinner - Pork and apple meatballs, wholewheat spagetti and homemade tomato sauce. Pudding - banana bread

I like to keep things varied. I will use leftovers and make new meals out of them but I don't like to feel I'm constantly eating the same things. Variety is the spice of life!

Todays recipe I cooked was Cheese and Potato pie:
Yesterdays leftover mash
Shortcrust pastry (I used half a pre-bought block)
One onion

I rolled out shortcrust pastry, lined a quiche tin with it brushed with milk wash and blind baked at 180 degrees for 15minutes. (The excess should be used for the pastry lid which you'll add later)
In the meantime I sauteed the onion until translucent, added the mash and a large handful of grated cheddar (this is all dependant on how cheesy you like it), salt, pepper and a pinch of mustard powder.
After pastry case was blind baked I took it out of the oven, filled it with the cheesy mash mixture, top it with the leftover pastry to make a lid and cut a few slits in the top of the pie. Either brush with milk or egg to glaze. Pop it in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. And voila cheesy potato pie is done!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Batch Cooking

On rainy days like this when you're all puddle splashed out there's nothing better than rolling up your sleeves and having a good 'ol session in the kitchen. So after a rainy walk with my daughter we went to the greengrocers and picked up lots of yummy fruit and veg. It works out so much cheaper sometimes shopping from your local greengrocer (and also helping your local community) than going to the big supermarkets.
I managed to come home with:
1 x Aubergine
2kgs of potatoes
700g of pears
1kg of bananas
1kg of onions
500g Beef tomatoes
10 clementines
2 huge field mushrooms
2 x red onion
This all came to £7.39. I priced the same amount of food/weight up at at a big supermarket (I have online accounts so its easy to check) and it came to £10.54. Every penny counts!!
So I made three things this afternoon:
Sausage Pie
Chocolate and Pear Cake
and Pear Crumble
The leftover mash from the pie will make at least one lunch for this week in the form of potato or fish cakes, or perhaps bubble and squeak.

Sausage Pie Recipe:
1 x onion
4 x sausages (skin removed)
Half a tin of baked beans
5 x potatoes
- peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and boil until tender, usually 15 minutes
- saute the onions until translucent, then add the garlic and cook gently for a few mins
- add the sausages and crush them up with a spoon so they break down, cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
- I added half a grated apple at this point (I always try and bulk out with fruit and veg when I can and apple goes well with pork), a few splashes of worcester sauce and a tsp of mustard. Stir to combine and cook off for another 5 minutes. You can add any flavourings you like at this point, perhaps curry or chilli powder, they all go well.
- put sausage mixture in bottom of a quiche dish or oven proof dish, layer the beans on top of it and then top with the mash. Then pop into the oven until bubbling and golden brown on top. You can serve it with a nice crisp green salad or veg. We had cauliflower, carrots and peas with ours.
I had lots of leftover mash so I will pop it in the fridge and either make fish cakes or potato cakes with it tomorrow for lunch.

For the Pear and Chocolate cake I found this easy and quick recipe online:
I don't have a food processor so just used an electric whisk instead and it was absolutely fine.

Pear Crumble:
I peeled a few pears, chopped them up and added them to a saucepan with a few tbsp of water and simmered until soft.
Then I put the pears into the bottom of two individual ramekin dishes and topped with crumble topping (Flour, butter, cinammon and sugar all rubbed together to resemble breadcrumbs). I have now added these to the freezer to take out and cook again another time. It will keep in the freezer for around a month.

2 x pear crumbles, sausage pie and pear cake:

 Pear cake with a big dollop of Ice Cream, Perfect comfort food!

My first post - the place to start with food budgeting!

The most important thing when it comes to meal planning and food budgeting is your store cupboard and freezer. How often do we pack our cupboards and forget what's there and end up buying duplicate items at a later date? A boring task but one that needs to be done is an inventory, write down everything you have in your cupboards, pasta/rice/tinned items/herbs & spices etc. Then start on the freezer. You should then have a clearer idea of what you need and don't need.
Its surprising how many meals can be whipped up from random bits and bobs you have floating around. I will be posting lots of recipes in the future which I call my Store Cupboard Meals!
Herbs and spices are indispensable when it comes to meal planning. They can turn any meal from mediocre to scrummy in seconds!
Here is a list of what I think/believe every store cupboard should have:
Mixed Herbs
Curry Powder
Chilli Powder
Ground Coriander
Ground Cumin
Bay Leaves
Chinese five spice
Stock cubes - chicken, beef, veg
Ground Ginger
Oils and Vinegars
Cinammon sticks and Ground
Self Raising Flour
Plain Flour
Strong bread flour
Caster sugar/Granulated sugar/brown sugar
Baking powder

There are lots more but these are the items I use the most. Obviously if you don't have any of these it would be very expensive to buy them all in one go, so just buy them at your own rate, whatever will fit into your budget. Sometimes in supermarkets they have value or own brand versions of the spices. These are a lot cheaper and in my opinion there is no difference in taste. I have value mixed herbs/curry powder etc and they are fab.

Now you have your inventory you can start meal planning!! :)