31 May 2016

Stocking The Expat Larder

My non expat friends have beautifully varied and well stocked larders.  They have just about everything they could ever hope to need, collected piece by piece, bit by bit.  As an expat you just can’t maintain a kitchen store cupboard in the same way.  Things can generally not be shipped between postings although rare ingredients can often be brought in later through hand luggage.  A larder has to be built from scratch in every posting, sometimes with a very restricted range of what is on offer.  

Getting to grips with the food available in a new posting is always a bit of a challenge.  It takes time to find the best supermarket, grocer, butcher etc.  Filling up my new larder is a priority in the early days but it is expensive to buy all in one go.  Over a few weeks I start to build up what I feel is the basic minimum.  This will allow me to make a range of meals without having to purchase special ingredients.  My list of must have (as opposed to nice to have) ingredients, the ones I build up first and try never to run out of are as follows.

Staples, like Pasta tend to be easily available in most postings
Shelf Goods
  • Pasta (Shapes, Lasagne, Cannelloni)
  • Plain Flour (Baking and 00)
  • Yeast
  • Baking Powder
  • Baking Soda
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Rice (Basmati or Jasmine)
  • Couscous
  • Sugar (Caster, Brown, Muscovado, Icing)
  • Dried Fruit
  • Nuts (Walnuts, Almonds, Pistacios, Hazlenuts etc)
  • Cereals/Porridge
  • Baking Flavours (Vanilla and Almond Essence, Rose Water, Orange Blossom Water etc)
  • Coffee
  • Green Tea
  • Cocoa
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Biscuits
  • Chocolate Bars
  • Museli Bars
Some postings have a greater range of herbs and spices
than others.  KSA is particularly well served.

Herbs, Spices and Other Flavorings
  • Spices: Cinnamon (ground and whole), Allspice, Nutmeg, Cloves (Ground and Whole), Mace, Star Anise, Ginger, Paprika, Cayenne, Turmeric, Cumin, Cardamom, Coriander, Chinese 5 Spice, Poppy Seeds
  • Cooking Spice Mixes: Ras al Hanout, Zaatar, Tandoori
  • Pine Nuts
  • Pepper: Red, White, Black, Lemon
  • Dried Herbs: Oregano, Parsley, Thyme, Bay Leaves
  • Pots of Fresh Herbs for the Windowsill or Seeds to Grow them
  • Pureed Herbs (if available if not make from fresh and store): Garlic, Lemongrass, Galangal, Ginger
  • Olive Oil (Basic and Extra Virgin)
  • Cooking Oil
  • Ground Nut Oil (for roast potatoes)
  • Vinegar (Balsamic, Plain and Apple Cider)
  • Soy Sauce
  • Worcestershire Sauce or Maggi
  • Kecap Manis
  • Sweet Chili Sauce
  • Coconut Milk
  • Pesto in a range of flavours.
  • Tomato Puree
  • Hot Sauce
  • Beef, Chicken and Vegetable Stock Cubes
  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup
  • Mustard (English and Dijon)
I buy what I need in small quantities so they
are always fresh
Jars and Tinned Goods
  • Soups
  • Fish (Tuna, Salmon etc)
  • Chopped Tomatoes
  • Passata
  • Kidney Beans
  • Baked Beans
  • Sweetcorn
  • Jams and Marmalades
  • Nutella
  • Olives
  • Sundried Tomatoes
  • Mayonnaise
  • One or two jars of cooking sauces for Mr EE to use when I am out
Tins are a useful way to stock a larder
  • Loaf of Bread
  • Milk
  • Vegetables: Peas, Sweetcorn, Brussels Sprouts
  • Fruits: Strawberries, Raspberries etc for smoothies
  • One full size frozen evening meal
  • Minced Beef
  • Chicken and Salmon Fillets
  • Shrimps
  • Fish Fingers or Chicken Nuggets
  • Burgers
  • Ice Cream
The staples on the list tend to be available in most places.  If they are not I just do a work around, it is easy to make Passata, Sundried Tomatoes or Pesto for example and they will keep for a while.  Some ingredients I do without until I can bring some in, it is not the end of the world not to have Ras Al Hanout!

On top of this larder  I keep my fridge stocked with the week to week basics (milk, eggs, fruit and vegetables etc).  My cupboards in Saudi are now pretty much stocked.  As and when I need some more exotic ingredient for a recipe (Juniper Berries and Myrtle Leaves for example or food colouring to ice a child’s birthday cake) I will make sure that I add the leftovers to my store for next time.  Of course my basic list will look very different to some other people’s.  I like to bake so have a a large stock of baking ingredients to hand at all times.  Others might use lentils, chickpeas, split peas as they use them regularly.  I use them very rarely so just treat them as exotics, buying them when I need them and keeping the leftovers.

What do you keep in your larder?

For more posts on the Expat Kitchen please click the picture below.

Ersatz Expat

Posted to The Practical Mom's Practical Mondays linky


  1. It seems like food is the #1 expat issue! I think it might be the most important thing for instilling a sense of normalcy - and then fun to branch out from there. Thanks for sharing your list!

    1. I think it is true that a place feels much more like home when you eat your 'normal' food there. I never quite settled in our Ipoh house and not being able to cook properly was a big part of that.

  2. What an awesome list. My brother and his family have just moved to Dar Es Salaam and sniffed out where to get the best french cheese in about 10 minutes flat. It is ALL about the food. Even for an Aussie living in the UK. You can get Vegemite at Waitrose these days but I cannot get my $8 pho or $6 banh mi that I used to get near our place in Melbourne. I also think kecap manis is a staple!

    1. Cheese is such an emotive food and it can be really hard to get the good stuff.

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