The Good Food guide to staying in: Chef's fridge, freezer and pantry tips

Follow Phil Wood's tips and you can easily throw together some ratatouille and soft-boiled eggs on toast.
Follow Phil Wood's tips and you can easily throw together some ratatouille and soft-boiled eggs on toast. Photo: William Meppem

This is part of Good Food's guide to eating at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Wood says vegie braises will help make meal times easy.
Wood says vegie braises will help make meal times easy. Photo: Anson Smart

Fridge, freezer and pantry tips from Phil Wood, Culinary director, Pt Leo Estate.

I have written this list not for chefs, maybe not even for foodies but for someone like my wife, who loves eating out but is a terrible cook.

With a good base of different flavours, I'm confident one big shop can see you eat comfortably at home for a couple of weeks without the fear of boredom or too much repetition.

If you take a bit of time at first to prepare vegetable braises and freeze them down, everything else is essentially used as is or with minimal cooking time, making for quick meal prep and easy cleaning.

The freezer

While I wouldn't suggest anyone compete with my mum's chest freezer, it's always helpful to have a well-organised mix of frozen goods. Break your meats down into single-meal freezer bags and lay as flat as possible in your freezer to help maximise space.

A few loaves of frozen bread will make breakfast easy. Freeze your favourite herbs – this may seem a bit weird, but they will liven up any meal. Do not forget to date all your freezer packs.

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Dolloped on top of pulses and pastas, vegie braises will help make meal time easy. Here are a few ideas that can be made and then frozen:

  • Classic ratatouille (fry eggplants, steam capsicums, add chopped fresh tomato without seeds and season all with salt, sugar and vinegar).
  • Broccoli stems (keep the florets), fennel and celery cooked down with olive oil.
  • Long-cooked Swiss chard with leftover white wine if you have it, some chilli and the tomato seeds and juice from the tomatoes you used for your ratatouille.
  • Carrot blanched and cooked with some fried chilli, coriander root (leftover from those herbs you picked earlier) and capsicum, seasoned with sugar and fish sauce.

Freezer supplies

  • Braised vegetables
  • Mince
  • Sausages
  • Bacon pieces
  • Frozen chickens (whole)
  • Fresh portioned steak
  • Dumplings
  • Fresh herbs
  • Bread
  • Bananas, berries, mango

The fridge

A couple of cheeses can go a long way. Feta or preserved goat curd will last months, while parmesan adds a quick kick of natural MSG or with butter, pepper and pasta makes a meal on its own.

Good fresh eggs should last up to six weeks. A couple of dozen will cover off a few high protein breakfasts or mixed with cheese to make an omelette will give you one of the world's greatest simple dinners.

A nice little supply of salami and fish can be for the day you don't feel like cooking anything more than some toast to go with your anchovies (and lashings of butter).

Long-life fridge supplies

  • Hard and salted cheeses
  • Salami and other preserved/smoked meats
  • Preserved fish: anchovies, kippers, sardines
  • Tofu
  • Fresh eggs
  • Butter

The pantry

Things on the list below are going to form the backbone of your meals. Then add some interesting things like pickles and artichokes which add a bit of flavour to anything. If you have flour and yeast, you can spend your time perfecting that perfect loaf.

Tinned tomatoes drained and mixed with olive oil, pepper, lemon and some (sustainable) tinned tuna will make a hearty open toasted sandwich with some melted cheese on top.

A good cheat for tasty meals is to find a few packs of From Basque With Love. These are great premixed dried grains, herbs and spices, they even come with some simple recipes and will help make you look like you know what you are doing.

You need nuts to nibble on between meals to help you from getting hungry.

Pantry supplies

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Tinned and dried pulses and legumes
  • Tinned tomatoes
  • Jars of artichokes
  • Pickles
  • Flour
  • Yeast
  • Cereal grains
  • Rice noodles
  • From Basque with Love pre-mixed dried meal bases
  • Nuts

The condiments shelf

A good supply of your favourite condiments will be your saving grace if mealtime is becoming boring or you are trying to cook for people with vastly different tastes. Leave them on the table and let everyone season their own food to their liking.

A couple of pre-made (or even bought) curry pastes can be fried and put through rice or added to a chicken broth and mixed with dried rice noodles for easy meals.

Mustard, chilli and vinegar can give anything a lift. I always have a couple of bottles of Kewpie mayonnaise in the pantry as they last for ages unopened and disappear quickly once opened as they make everything taste delicious.

Condiment supplies

  • Chilli oil
  • Chilli and blackbean paste
  • Gochujang
  • Mustards
  • Soy sauce
  • Mirin
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Black vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Fish sauce
  • Kimchi
  • Curry paste
  • Kewpie mayonnaise

Pre-prepared meals

Unfortunately but inevitably there will be times where you can't be bothered thinking about what to make and tasty pre-made meals will save the day. IndoMie Mi Goreng Noodles are 2 Minute Noodles' sexier cousin and a staple in every chef's house.

These days there are more good-quality shelf-stable soups than ever and some pretty banging Indian and Thai meals that all come weighed and ready to heat (I like The Spice Tailor, things like Punjabi Chana Masala and Delhi Black Makhani Daal.)