Preparing for Self Isolation – a Zero Waste (and No Panic Buying) Shopping List!

Mr Pitt came home the other day and told me a colleague of his said he’d been to the supermarket and the shelves were empty.

Panic buying? It seems.

Coronavirus is constantly in the media. Conferences are being postponed or cancelled, people are postponing travel plans, some countries are banning large gatherings – France says 5000+, Switzerland says 1000+. We can’t know how things are going to pan out. However there are two really sensible things that we can do – and one of them is NOT panic buying!

  1. First off – it seems really clear that good hand hygiene is one thing we can all do really easily. It’s not new advice, of course, but it is good advice. Washing our hands thoroughly WITH SOAP or hand gel making sure we get in between the fingers and not forgetting the backs of your hands and thumbs and it all has to go on to two rounds of singing Happy birthday to you – not just the first line the whole caboodle! Yes, it works. I timed it! It takes 20 seconds and that’s what it is all about. But we may as well make ourselves happy too and it is a happy and uplifting song.
  2. Secondly – we can have a good, well stocked healthy store cupboard. Again this is something I’ve been recommending for years, just as plain good practice as a way to avoid food waste. It is great that we can use this simple idea to help us prepare for self isolation which is another important key piece of advice in the fight against conoravirus.

So, how do we do the store cupboard? Here’s a shopping list and some meal suggestions from my book Leftover Pie which has a section on store cupboard meals and from the ZWW blog. I’ve made the Kindle edition £1.99 (as cheap as I can make it) on Amazon, in case you want the full recipes.

Here are 10 meal suggestions so your 10 main meals are covered:

Day 1 – Bung-it-all-in Risotto (Leftover Pie page 119)

This is all about using up what you’ve got before you start to dip into your store cupboard. Most of what you need for this are basic from your store cupboard, and essentially some short grain rice (often called arborio or risotto rice). Follow my risotto recipe on page 119 or Dean’s recipe on p120 and then bung in all the bits and pieces in your fridge that need using up. If you’ve really got nothing left, you can use dried porcini mushrooms, which is my go-to luxury item or tinned button mushrooms for a cheaper option.

Day 2 – Pasta with pesto (It’s on page 215 of Leftover Pie, but you really don’t need a recipe!)

Day 3 – Wacked out Wednesday (Leftover Pie page 214)

This is a tinned tuna dish that is easy to prepare in advance with baked beans or tinned tomatoes and a mash topping. It is great comfort food. For a vegan version omit the eggs

Day 4 – Bean casserole (Leftover Pie page 216)

Day 5 – Spaghetti with chilli oil, sun-dried tomatoes, black olives and capers (Leftover Pie page 216)

You can make your own chilli oil, but any other oil like olive oil would also be fine – add a bit of extra black pepper and some herbs if you have no chilli oil.

Day 6 – Lentil bake –

This is nice served with broccoli and onion gravy. You don’t need to use spring onions if you don’t have any. One small onion or half a large one will do. If you don’t have broccoli use any green vegetable you do have, e.g. cabbage.

Day 7 – Serendipity soup –

You can use pasta rather than egg noodles, which I’ve done many times before. Egg noodles come in plastic packaging so I don’t buy them. I had some that were being abandoned at an event when I made up this recipe, so now I use pasta from a refill shop.

Day 8 – Corned Beef Hash (Leftover Pie page 215)

Great comfort food! If you make your mash by baking the potatoes, cutting them in half and crapping out the skins, you’ll have the skins for a nice lunch, filled with grated cheese and maybe a bit of ham or bacon.

Day 9 – Bean Broth Made Good (Leftover Pie page 192)

Day 10 – Nut Roast


Breakfast and Lunch

In normal life, most people eat pretty much the same thing every day for breakfast and don’t have much variation for lunch either. Breakfast is fairly easily cover with cereals, which have a long shelf life anyway and if you think about what you buy normally for a week, but double it, you are stocked. You only need to do that once, and then each week, buy what you normally buy and make sure you put it behind whatever you already have in stock.

Here are  some suggestions for lunches, which can all me made from the shopping list below.

Lunch 1 – Spanish omelette (leftover Pie page 180)

Lunch 2 – Store Cupboard Tomato Soup (

Lunch 3 – Nail  soup (Leftover Pie page 188)

Lunch 4 – Potato skins with fillings (Leftover Pie page 174)

Lunch 5 – End of term soup (


I’ve worked out everything you need to have in stock for all of the above, so it will keep you going for two weeks. As my meal planning always advocates store cupboard meals at twice a week, you will be dipping into this stock using good stock rotation and just replacing what you use each time you dip in. I then looked in my cupboard to make a shopping list and all that went on the list was a tin of tomatoes, a tin of white beans (because I knew I was going to use one each of these that evening) and a tin of tuna. Just shows, this is a normal stock cupboard. I dip in regularly and replace each time I use something. I use good stock rotation and restock at the back not the front!

Your store cupboard shopping list

Remember to actually check your cupboards first and cross off anything you have already!

Basic ingredients to always have in stock


Black pepper

Cooking oil – I stock rapeseed oil and olive oil and I like to have chilli oil (homemade or bought)

Spices – I like to have chilli powder, mustard seeds, paprika (as a minimum)

Herbs – Dried mixed herbs (such as Herbs de Provence)

Stock or stock cubes – I always make stock from any vegetable peelings or meat bones and trimmings and will generally have two portions of stock in my tiny freezer compartment above my fridge. (When I had a bigger freezer, I had more portions in stock, but I keep two take-away tub sized portions and rotate regularly now).

Dry goods

I buy all these in my own refillable plastic tubs in a Zero waste shop. I go there when I know I’m passing by and I keep around a three month stock

Arborio (or risotto) rice – 1 packet

Pasta – I like the three coloured bows (farfalle),  spaghetti and good old penne

Dried lentils – if you have 200g that’s enough for the lentil bake. I generally keep a couple of types of lentils and around 500g of each means you won’t go hungry!

Couscous – 500g

Porridge  – generally 500g to a kilo in stock

Mixed nuts – generally I buy the broken bits from refill shops e.g. broken cashews, broken brazils, walnut pieces as they are cheaper than the whole nuts and saves some of the chopping you’d probably do anyway. I probably have around 500g in stock.

Dried fruit e.g. cranberries, sultanas, currents, raisins or a mixture. I probably have 500g to a kilo in stock as I use them daily in my porridge.

Tinned goods and jars

1 jar pesto – once opened a jar needs using up fairly quickly or keep it topped up with oil over the top of the pesto to make it last a bit longer..

2 tins of tuna – buy a large tin for the Wacked out Wednesday if you are a household of three or four. Just a small tin is fine for 1 or 2.

2 tins of baked beans

1 tin of corned beef – again, buy a large tin if you are a household of three or four. Just a small tin is fine for 1 or 2.

4 tins chopped tomatoes

2 tins mixed beans in chilli sauce

2 tins white beans, such as butter beans or cannellini

1 jar sun-dried tomatoes

1 jar or tin of black olives

1 jar of capers

1 tin button mushrooms


All these vegetables will keep for several weeks as long as you store them correctly.

In the fridge







In a cool, dark cupboard

Potatoes – I stock up to a couple of kg

Sweet potato – I keep in stock just 1 or 2 as a treat and they are a superfood, keep for ages but are generally sourced from the USA and I try to stick to local veg.

Onions – I will generally have 2 large onions or 5 small ones in stock.

Dairy or dairy substitute

Butter, margarine or vegan spread

Cheddar cheese or nutritional yeast

Eggs – eggs keep for around three weeks. I  stock back up to 10 eggs for 2 of us when I shop.

Nice to have

Dried porcini mushrooms – these are quite pricey, especially as I’m fussy and won’t buy the ones in non recyclable packaging so I look for a plastic jar that is easily recycled but also useful for buying dried goods in Zero Waste shops.

How to use your store cupboard

The main point is… you DO USE your store cupboard regularly and replace what you’ve used next time you go shopping. However, with the help of the meal plan you have enough here to avoid going shopping for at least 10 days! When you can shop next you can build it back up again.

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Anna Pitt


  1. Nyasha on March 30, 2020 at 11:23 am

    A great list, it feels like the way people are going it’s the apocalypse. Hopefully things calm down a bit!

    If you have the time, please check out my post on 5 quick meals to make during Self-Isolation:

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