Indian Essentials: A shopping list of food for a month | Indian Kitchens

Shopping for your Indian Groceries

In her 1972 book Cook and See Part 2, S. Meenakshi Ammal considerately provides a list of ingredients needed for a small Indian family of four for a month. It is interesting reading.

How does it translate to today’s kitchens, I wonder.

You might also like to read Equipment in a South Indian Kitchen, What is a Tadka, and What is Sambar?

Shopping in India

The Shopping List

Rice: 20 kilos
Par Boiled Rice: 5 kilos

Rice flour: 50 Grams
Wheat flour: 2 kilos

Red Gram Dal (Toor Dal): 3 kilos
Bengalgram dal (channa dal): 500 grams
Green Gram Dal (Mung Dal): 500 gms
Black gram dal (urad dal): 3 kilos

Coffee and Sugar
Coffee: 2 kilos
Sugar: 4 kilos
Jaggery: 500 grams

Coriander seeds (dhania): 200grams
Mustard seeds: 400 grams
Fenugreek Seeds: 100 grams
Pepper corns 50 grams
Cumin Seeds: 100 grams
Red Chillies, dried: 1 kilo
Tamarind: 3 kilos
salt: 2 kilos
asafoetida: 70 grams (see the comments below this post)
gingelly seeds (sesame seeds): 100 grams
Turmeric Powder: 100 grams
Baking soda: 50 grams
Cardamom: 10 grams

For cooking and washing
Matches: 12 boxes
Dishwashing agents: 1Kg (soapnut and sprouting powders)
coconut oil, gingelly oil (Indian sesame oil): 6 kilos in all

Ghee: 3 kilos
Milk: 30 litres
Curd: 5 litres

Vegetables, plantain leaves, betel leaves, betel nuts, flowers, scented betel nuts, saffron, kesari powder, pachaikarpooram, incense, camphor etc: As needed

Infrequent Use Items
Rava (semolina), sago, maida (whole wheat) flour, cashewnuts, rasam, cloves, anise, poppy seeds (Kasa-Kasa), cinnamon (Sannalavan-gappattai) and similar provision, which are not in frequent use may be bought as and when required.

If chapatti, poori etc form the main dish, increase the quantity of wheat flour.

If beverages other than coffee (e.g. tea etc) are used, reduce the quantity of coffee.

If kuzhambu powder, chilli powder etc are locally purchased, reduce the quantity of red chillies.

It is advisable to keep on hand at least 5 litres of kerosene to meet emergencies.

Note that during festivals and when visitors stay, additional provisions may be required.




  1. Vijaya says:

    Yes indeed it is an interesting list of provisions for one month!
    Very overly modest & frugal.
    However,I am a bit ‘shocked & surprised’ at the quantity of Asafoetida-2 Kilos?
    I don’t think this could be viable.
    Could you enlighten me on one point as to which edition of Meenakshi Ammal’s cookbook you have quoted from?
    If I am correct you are referring to the English translated version but which year?
    Thanks & all the best.


    1. Ganga108 says:

      Hi Vjaya. Yes, it seems so much! I checked and it does say 2Kg. Goodness!

      It is indeed the English version from 2001. Do you have a copy? I wonder if you could check the amount in your version?


  2. Vijaya says:

    Hello again Ganga!My curiosity got the better of me.
    I checked my Meenakshi Ammal 1982 English edition & there it says 70grams( 2 Palams )
    I recall the conversation I had with my dear Amma (MIL) many decades ago as to how many grams 1 ‘ ‘palam’ was.
    Amma had with her an antique brass metal measuring cup & told me it was a fraction of that measure.
    So this 2 kilo is definitely an ‘enormously weighty’ error!!!
    Anyway this book is a little gem & it opens a window & throws light on the very simple & frugal living ways of Brahmin households.



    1. Ganga108 says:

      Thank you so much, I will make the adjustment. These books by Ammal are treasures, and I love to pour over them.


  3. Arti says:

    I am also surprised to see that she only needed 3.5 kilos of all toor and mung together. That’s mightly little if you are doing sambar/rasam/kootu everyday which most do.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Have you heard of Nivedyam. It is made effortlessly.

    Smt. Uma Raman (Nivedya’s mother)


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