Cupboard essentials: MasterChef star shares easy dishes to make with cheap ingredients

Simon Wood shows how to make a leftover cottage pie toastie

Cupboard staples are something which a lot of people have relied on this year with the ongoing pandemic. MasterChef champion, Simon Wood, has shared his tips when it comes to staple ingredients that can be used to make cheap, easy and nutritious meals.

Simon exclusively told “Store cupboard items can be a little or as many as you can afford.

“Some staples I like to have are the things that help you get maximum flavour out of even the blandest ingredients.”

He explained that everyone should keep the following ingredients in their store cupboards. 

The chef added that they will be enough to make a different meal every lunch and dinner for around two weeks. 

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Store cupboard essentials:

  • Spices – salt and pepper, medium curry powder, paprika, stock cubes, dried chilli flakes and easy garlic
  • Tinned goods – garden peas, sweetcorn, coconut milk, corned beef, tinned ham, gravy granules, chopped tomatoes and tinned fruit
  • Dry goods – pasta, oats, flour, rice, lentils and noodles

What’s the cheapest meal a family can make?

Simon said: “If we are talking beans on toast you can probably make this meal for around 12p, but if we want something a little more interesting then my quick cook carbonara works out at 66p per person.”

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Simon’s carbonara recipe:


  • 1/2 pack of spaghetti
  • One tub soft cheese
  • Five slices of wafer thin ham


  1. Place a pan of salted water on to boil and once boiled, add the spaghetti and cook for 11 minutes
  2. Cut the ham into one cm squares
  3. In another saucepan, gently warm the soft cheese on a low heat and add four tablespoons of the pasta water and some black pepper
  4. Carefully drain the pasta and add it into the soft cheese with the ham before serving

Another meal the chef explained is a filling and cheap meal is his sausage and mozzarella bake.

He said: “It yields enough food to feed a family of four at dinner and the next day for a tasty sub sandwich lunch, using just eight Sausages!”

As well as this, the expert shared how a cottage pie is also a great simple meal to make. 

He added: “A cottage pie is always good for this as well, it’s a perfect dinner and then with a little inspiration (just by giving everyone two tablespoons less at dinner) you can create an epic cottage pie toastie for lunch.”

When it comes to cooking, the chef shared the advantages of using tinned fruit and vegetables.

The MasterChef champion recently joined forces with specialist communications agency, Down At The Social, to launch an initiative called #FeedingFamiliesFor30.

He added: “I have to say that in the currently climate and after working closely with food poverty and FeedingFamiliesFor30 we have to work with what we have got, there are many advantages to tinned fruit and vegetables, they’re non-perishable, ready cooked (which helps with fuel poverty) and there is vast array of them, which in the winter season can help with getting the kids to eat their favourites of both. 

“Fresh is of course lovely, and I absolutely must support the supply chain and farmers by buying British and as local as we can. 

“But with all that said and done it has to come down to nutrition, well balanced healthy eating, something that both options can offer with the right recipe and kitchen know-how.”

Another simple easy meal that Simon likes to make is his corned beef hash.

He said it was a “firm family favourite in his house” growing up.

Simon added: “Thereare lots of curries and pasta dishes that can be made but I worked on this using all tinned produce with food banks and the ingredients they have donated.” 

According to the chef the recipe can feed a family of eight in and take only five minutes to make.

Simon’s corned beef taster-hash


  • One tin corned beef
  • Two tins peeled and cooked potatoes
  • One tin garden peas
  • One tin baby carrots
  • One pint gravy granules


  1. Cut the corned beef into one cm cubes and add into a saucepan with a little oil
  2. Make one pint of gravy using granules
  3. Open and drain all of the tinned produce
  4. Add everything into the saucepan and cover with the gravy
  5. Bring to the boil stirring continuously before serving

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