30 Items that Should Be On Everyone’s Basic Grocery List

Grocery shopping is a personal and unique experience. No two shopping lists are the same. People develop and evolve their groceries to suit their needs and situation. But if you’ve never created a grocery list before, where do you start? Well, we have a basic grocery list ideas to lay the foundations of your very own food list masterpiece.

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Laying the Foundations

If you’re going to live in university dorms or moving into a new home, chances are the cupboards are going to be bare when you get there. So, it’s down to you to stock ‘em up and stop yourself from going hungry.

You’ll no doubt be eager to shop for those crazy new recipes you’ve seen online or your favorite comfort food. But doing that might leave some gaps in your ability to make fulfilling and filling meals when needed. Alternatively, you might find yourself pressed for time and wanting to make something quick and simple, rather than spending hours creating a gastronomic wonder.

Before we delve into the list itself, here are some Dos and Don’ts that might help you shop even better for these grocery essentials. Alternatively, you can just download a free printable version of the list right away.

Go to your basic grocery list

Basic Grocery List Dos & Don’ts

basic grocery list- dos and don'ts


Expect to do another trip to the grocery store – Remember that this is only a basic food shopping list. It should have you set up with key ingredients for basic meals to keep you ticking over.

Once you’ve got the basics in, you can then start expanding to include more complex meals and comprehensive meal plans.

This is when you start expanding upon your essential food list to build one that’s uniquely yours. But even then, you still might get this 100% right on the next trip. So be prepared to do a handful of shops in the first week or two at your new digs.

Consider frozen produce – Although fresh fruit and veg are considered the kings of healthy eating, don’t be too quick to overlook frozen versions. Whilst they are a little more pricey, they keep for a lot longer.

They can be quite convenient and save you time when cooking if you’ve bought some prepared (chopped etc) varieties. An important thing to remember when buying frozen produce is that it loses little to no nutrients compared to fresh produce.

So, the convenience of having frozen food on your essential grocery list will not be at the detriment of your health.


Buy too much – There’s a temptation to buy in bulk and save money. However, this might cause more problems than it solves. You might find you don’t quite have the storage space to store it all.

Furthermore, if the items you are purchasing are perishable, you could end up with food waste, which means you actually end up realistically spending more than you’ve saved.

After you’ve done a couple of shops using your basic shopping list, or when you start to expand it, you’ll be able to make better decisions about how much storage space you have, and how quickly you consume perishables.

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grocery list explainedYour Basic Grocery List Explained

Now that we’ve laid down some ground rules, let’s go over some grocer list ideas and let’s get to work on what the foundations of your grocery list should look like. We’ve put in some healthy options.

But if you really want to kick-start your health, we recommend you also take a look at our healthy grocery list article.

Meat & Fish

Meat – what type is entirely up to you. We would recommend skinless white meat such as turkey or chicken breasts as these are considered the healthiest because of the low amount of saturated fat. If you fancy something redder, then try to choose lean cuts.

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Oily fish – it is recommended that each person eats two portions of fish per week, one of which should be an oily fish, such as tuna, haddock, or mackerel.

Luncheon Meat – these are good for popping into sandwiches

Grains & Bread

Pasta – this is a great basic that’s easy and quick to cook

Rice – another great meal essential that will fill you up and bulk out your meal

Bread – great for sandwiches. To get more healthy fiber into your system, you recommend wholemeal or wholegrain varieties.

All-purpose flour – it’s always good to have some of this around. Not only is it the core ingredient for a cake, but you can also use it as a sauce thickener, or coat meat and other ingredients to give them a crispy finish when frying.

Breakfast cereal – this will help give you a decent start to the day. Try to avoid the more sugary varieties, and opt for ones high in fiber, as this will keep you full for longer. Consider things like unsweetened granola or porridge oats/oatmeal.

Oil & Fat

Cooking oil – you’re going to need this to cook most things. For healthier options, opt for olive oil,l rapeseed oil, or other oils choc full of omega 3.

Butter – if you’re making sandwiches, you’re going to need something to spread on your slices. You’ll also need this if you fancy making a cake. And for those who can’t imagine breakfast without a jelly & peanut butter sandwich, you can add them to the list as well.

Dairy & Eggs

Milk – a breakfast essential if you have cereal for breakfast, if prefer your hot drinks a lighter shade of brown, or want to make a sauce. Vegans and the health conscious should check out milk alternatives like soy or almond.

Eggs – these versatile little things are essential ingredients for a cake or can be made many different ways for a quick breakfast or lunch.

Cheese – a great standard sandwich filler or for an ingredient in cheesy side-dishes or main courses

Don’t buy what you don’t need. Stick to the essentials with a shopping list.

Yogurt – use it to mix with fruit or honey for a quick tasty dessert


Onions – it’s difficult to imagine a homemade dish that doesn’t utilize these. These keep well in cool dark places and are always good to have a few extra just in case you find yourself doing some extra cooking or having to make bigger portions

Garlic – another essential ingredient in many meals to add flavor

Fruit – these contain a host of vitamins and fiber that will help you be healthy and maintain an effective immune system. They also serve as great healthy snacks.

Fruits and vegetables – a great source of vitamins. It’s best to mix as many different colors as possible, as each color of vegetable usually contains different essential vitamins. So, make sure your greens are not all green!

Tinned & Dried Produce

Pulses – if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or even flexitarian, you’ll be wanting to fill up on these to get that essential protein into your system in lieu of meat and fish

Chopped tomatoes – these are incredibly handy as it saves skinning and chopping fresh tomatoes yourself. Furthermore, these form the basis of many sauces and meals. Need a quick basic meal? Fry up some onion, garlic, and add a tin of chopped tomatoes for a simple tomato sauce to go with some pasta.

Soup – a great quick emergency lunch. Tinned soup tends to contain more nutrients than their instant counterparts. However, they do take up a lot more storage and are a little pricier.

Fruit, seeds, and nuts – these are great for filling and healthy snacks

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Salt – this will enhance the flavor in your meals. However, if you’re on a low-sodium diet such as the DASH diet, you might want to replace this with some herbs and spices.

Pepper – another staple for adding flavor to your food

Fresh herbs & spices – more ingredients that make your food that extra bit delicious. Choose herbs that suit your cooking taste and preferences. If you lean towards Italian and Mediterranean cooking, make sure you have plenty of basil and oregano. If your tastes veer towards the further reaches of the eastern hemisphere, then stock up on coriander and cumin.

Stock cubes – another key ingredient in some sauces. Also great if you’re looking to make your own soup from scratch.

Honey – use this as a natural sweetener for things like yogurt and cereal

Vinegar – add some zing to your food. You can also mix this with oil to create a simple and healthy salad dressing.

Sugar – add some sweetness to your tea, your coffee, your cakes, and your life! Buy artificial sweeteners if you concerned about becoming healthier and cutting back on the calories.

basic grocery list - listYour Basic Grocery List

Without further ado, we present to you your food list. You can even download a free printable version in PDF. Remember, you’re more than welcome to substitute, remove, and expand on this to make it unique to you. But we hope this gives you a great start to numerous grocery list ideas.

Basic Grocery List
Meat & Fish

  • Chicken breasts
  • Lean cuts of red meat
  • Oily fish
    • Tuna
    • Salmon
    • Mackerel
  • Luncheon meat
Tinned & Dried Produce

  • Pulses
    • Red kidney beans
    • White beans
    • Green lentils
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Soup
  • Dried fruit, nuts, and seeds
Grains and Bread

  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Bread
  • All-purpose flour
  • Breakfast cereal
    • Porridge oats
    • Unsweetened granola

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh herbs & spices
    • Basil
    • Oregano
    • Coriander
    • Cumin
  • Stock cubes
  • Honey
  • Vinegar
  • Sugar
Dairy & Eggs

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
Oil & Fat

  • Cooking oil
  • Butter

Is there any other basic food that is a must for an essential grocery list? What’s the most exciting thing you’ve made with some of these ingredients? How many of the items on this list are on your regular list? Let us know in the comments.

basic grocery list - template

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