COVID19 is upon usWe're stuck indoors so let's get cooking
It’s safe to say we’re all a little unhinged as our eyes and ears are inundated with news of the coronavirus pandemic. Death counts climbing, forced restaurant and bar closures, social distance rules implemented, and the natural fear of contracting the virus looming over us like a frightening unknown.
So we’re stuck at home to cook, work remotely, and adapt to remote learning for our kids. It’s easy to assume that a little cabin fever will be taking hold of all of us, especially since spending money eating out seems like a scary thing in the event this lasts longer than expected, and money is scarcer than normal. That said, if you’re comfortable, try ordering out at least once or twice a week to help our local restaurants stay afloat.
It’s all too much, so when you aren’t spending on takeout and curbside delivery, there are some incredible ideas to make your perishables last as long as humanly possible.
At the first onset of news about the virus and the possibility of quarantine, something inside of me awoke. Restaurants and bars hadn’t closed (or even threatened to yet), people hadn’t raided every stash of toilet paper and canned and frozen goods aisle, and with the exception of a few unknowns, there was still plenty of food and necessities for everyone.
But admittedly, I decided to plan a little further ahead because I was already battling a walking pneumonia resulting from bronchitis, an upper respiratory infection, and allergy induced asthma. And while on the mend and through a second round of antibiotics, my kid was healthy (after battling walking pneumonia from bronchitis), meal planning for the next couple of weeks became essential.
Keeping health in mind and the ease of food prep, I bought fresh fruits like bananas, cuties, cucumber (yes, it’s a fruit), blueberries, and fresh cut kale (two kinds), Swiss chard, avocados, and a few other things. After four days I noticed the bananas and cuties hadn’t been eaten yet. And then Governor Newsom and POTUS announced plans to ask Americans to work from home, informed us parents that kids were not to go to school and at-home learning in conjunction with respective school districts and branches of education would ensue, restaurants and bars closed to the public, and all of a sudden—it got very real very quick.
I made trips to the grocery stores (Trader Joes, Vons, Whole Foods) and got what I could, but by this past Sunday, options were limited. Shelves were empty—like zombie apocalypse empty—and visions of The Walking Dead penetrated my mind. Thanks to Rick and Michonne (TWD), I thought about how to maximize what was available and the tips below are my suggestions to ease your concerns and give you some ideas on what to do with food you have, food that’s still available in some stores, and how to think outside the box (especially if you have teenagers)!
- Obviously canned goods like beans, soups, and sauces are great to keep on hand. They have protein, fiber, can go with multiple things, are super easy, and have many uses.
- Beans (Black, pinto, kidney, garbanzo, white): homemade hummus (garbanzo/white beans), dip (black/pinto/kidney), burrito/taco fillers (pinto/white/black), options to make veggie burgers (black/kidney made great protein and binding agents when puréed).
- Soups: filling, nutritious (just watch the sodium unless you’re doing at-home workouts, and don’t have a BP issue.
- Fresh Fruits + Veggies: So this is one that can seem tricky because at the present time, wasting isn’t a viable option (nor should it ever be), but fresh produce can go bad really fast. The remedy? Smoothies, sauces, compotes, etc. Make sure to wash everything PRIOR to freezing.
- Freeze for snacks and smoothies
- Cuties – Peel and put in freezer safe bag. Eat as snacks and include in smoothies.
- Bananas – Cut into fourths for smoothies and small rounds for frozen snacks. These you can also dip in melted chocolate and freeze (good time to raid any leftover Halloween candy).
- Grapes – These are amazing as frozen snacks.
- Cucumber – When making a smoothie, adding cucumber adds water and a refreshing taste. Add fresh mint too (freeze as well).
- Kale + Spinach – Cut into small pieces and put it in a freezer safe bag or container. (You can add mint to this mixture as well.)
- Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries – Wash and freeze. These work seamlessly for smoothies, but also are magical as compotes for pancakes/waffles/toast. To make a compote all you need is the frozen fruit, sugar (raw is best) and a little butter (I like the Smart Balance vegan butter). Check out a simple compote recipe here.
- Freeze for snacks and smoothies
- Fresh meats + seafood: It may seem silly, but when my kid and I headed to Whole Foods, the one thing they still had available was fresh meats and seafood. The most beautiful part of buying fresh is, freezing keeps it fresh longer. So that’s what I did. Prices were way down and yet I could still feel good knowing everything I was purchasing was sustainably and humanely sourced.
- Seafood: Lobster tail, seasoned salmon and cod, and whole fish that the butchers will prepare, clean, and package for you. I bought two lobster tails ($20 for two 4-ounce tails), bourbon rubbed cajun salmon, and lemon dill cod.
- Meats: Bacon, steaks, ground grass fed/free pasture beef… all was available and indulge I did. I’ve been vegan for a while but I also know when push comes to shove, eating smart is more important than a claim to vegan eating. I bought pasture raised ground beef, jalapeño bacon, and coffee rubbed bacon. Hey, I didn’t say I was a perfect vegan.
The point is, during these times of uncertainty, cooking can be therapeutic. Think simply, nutritiously and economically. Above all be safe and follow the precautions of social distance, staying at home unless otherwise absolutely necessary, washing your hands often and thoroughly, and remain calm.
I know it’s easy to get caught up in the swell of anxiety—believe you me, I feel it in my bones—but in the future posts over the next couple of weeks, I hope to offer a few insights, fun activities, and reminders that people are far kinder than we know, resources are still available, and buying smartly matters.
Pool supplies with neighbors, and if you’re going to the store see if you can pick up something for someone nearby. We will be rationing like they did during the Great Depression and the world wars. This virus is not fully clear to us but panicking isn’t going to solve a thing. So instead? Cook. Sit down together and eat. Talk. Laugh. Call instead of text.
And remember: We will get through this… together.