The coronavirus pandemic has hit us hard and quickly and thought is needed on what food to stock up on. Watching the news unfold it seems like we may be advised to remain home for longer than most of us think.
At the moment some stores are running out of some food items that are perceived to be essentials as people panic buy.
Panic buying is not usually a good way to spend your money.
With food there is the problem that a lack of planning will have you stocking up for food without as much thought as you should be giving to the lifespan of the food or what you will even cook with it.
There is little point in filling the house with perishables, especially if we are to be isolating ourselves for longer than several days.
Here are some tips to think about and help you quickly plan an idea of what to buy.
Of course you may need to adapt depending on what people are buying up and what is left in your local area.
Think About Saving Space
Think about the space the food items you will buy might occupy.
Most of us have limited cupboard and larder storage so it will pay to buy alternatives to the norm for items that can be substituted for space saving alternatives. At the same time we want to be able to keep ourselves and our children fed with a good balance of protein, vitamins and carbs and keep the food we cook tasting great.
The biggest issue will be stuff that needs refrigeration and bulky ingredients we use frequently that are readily perishable. You can save a bit of space by removing things from packaging but be sure to label them with what they are as well as a date for last use.
It might be a great time to defrost your fridge and freezer while you are out shopping. You can check what needs using up, give your fridge a clean and make space by getting rid of any excess ice as well as throwing out anything that you’ve kept in there too long!
Space Saving Substitutes
Bread & Rolls – these will go stale quickly so consider packaged long life tortillas and wraps that have several months left until their expiry date.
Chicken & Vegetable Stock – essential for taste but fresh stock is a luxury that will go off or take up too much space in the fridge or freezer. Buy stock powder or cubes instead. Be aware of sell buy dates on some brands of stock cubes!
Fresh Milk – takes up a lot of space in the fridge and anyway will only last a few days. Buy long life cartons or powdered milk and be prepared to swap out milky drinks for something else like fruit teas or squash that can be made from dried ingredients or bottled concentrates.
Pasta – Pasta is a great alternative to bulky potatoes but everyone already knows this and in many places stocks are exhausted. Rice is a fantastic alternative that will last for several months so we suggest buying plenty. You do not need special equipment to cook it either.
Rice is an incredibly versatile crop. We suggest Jasmine Rice as the best regular rice, glutinous rice for desserts as well as savory dishes, Basmati Long Grain Rice to accompnay Indian Style curries and a risotto rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli. That will give you a selection of recipes to keep your menu varied. Remember black / brown rice is even better for you but can be a bit more indigestible to eat in quantity.
If the pasta is all out check to see if there are some form of dried egg or regualr noodles still for sale – many people will not think of them as an excellent substitute.
Tinned Food – Buy some tinned food as an emergency source in case stocks of food run low or in a worse case scenario rationing is needed. Tinned fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines & mackerel will provide good nutrition and can be stored for several months if need be.
Tinned vegetables such as corn and tomato paste are space saving compared to their fresh form – use tomato paste instead of tinned tomatoes which take up too mcuh space. But load up the freezer with selected space saving frozen vegetables for most of the rest.
What to do about Perishables
Frozen Vegetables – this will depend on how much space is available in your freezer but start with compact vegetables such as peas and spinach that you can really pack in, in preference to lumpy vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. If push comes to shove you can buy tinned peas if space is tight as an alternative.
If you have the space and want to freeze other vegetables then it is a good idea to prep them first and chop them into smaller sizes to reduce the space they take up. Vacuum seal them if you have a household vacuum machine.
Fresh Vegetables – avoid over stocking on soft or watery vegetables that don’t last such as cucumbers and tomatoes, beets or leafy vegetables that will wilt such as lettuce. Buy just for the relatively immediate use. None of these will freeze.
Hard and root vegetables last longer such as carrots, onion, garlic, potatoes etc., These can all be stored at room temperature for a few weeks and are common ingredients in many recipes.
Fruit – similar to vegetables, soft fruits do not last long. Strawberries, fleshy fruits such as peaches, nectarines, melons and so on do not last well but some of these can be replaced with canned fruit instead. Apples, oranges, lemons and limes will last longer.
Frozen fruit is a possible but you might need freezer space for meat cuts. Berries are packed full of vitamins and are worth making a little space for. Dried fruit is also an excellent proposition for storage without taking up your freezer prime real estate.
Herbs – typcially are not going to last more than a couple of days. Buy some for immediate use and consider rooting them to grow for the longer term. It’s a fun project and will give results in a few weeks. Alternatively buy dried herbs for cooking with.
Other herbs such as ginger can be minced and frozen and anyway will last a little while. Most can even be grown but this will likely only be considered by a few as they take a long time to give any produce in contrast to the leafy herbs such as basil, coriander or cilantro etc.
Spices – such as chili and spice mixes can be bought in dried or powdered form and are easy to store. It is worth stocking up on extra because of the taste they can add for variety with a limited set of available ingredients. Consider chili powder, red pepper, cumin, paprika, curry powder and herbs such oregano, rosemary, thyme for Italian dishes.
Check Stocks of Cooking Essentials
Oil – both olive oil and vegetable oil are both essential for cooking so buy a few extra bottles. You can usually skimp a little on the amount of oil used for a recipe and forget niceties, concentrating on using oil to provide a conduit for heat for cooking rather than the taste they add. Sesame oil is a nice luxury though.
Condiments & Sauces – it’s worth checking your stocks of these. If you want to cook Asian food (and you should have a variety) then get a few bottles of fish sauce, oyster sauce, mushroom soy sauce (versatile), a little dark soy sauce, worcester sauce, rice wine and/or vinegar, white vinegar, cider vinegar. Possibly sriracha type sauce and chili sauce as well as chili oil in limited quantities.
Don’t forget salt, peppercorns (white and black), sugar (white & brown & palm sugar for Thai cooking), honey, tomato ketchup, mayonnaise & mustard.
Butter – needed for so many recipes and for your toast in the morning. Get plenty if you have space in the fridge.
Frozen cream (freezer) and plain yoghurts (fridge) are useful cooking ingredients and last well. You can add in some fruits too to make the plain yoghurts into fruity ones.
Cheese – buy harder cheeses such as parmesan and cheddar which can be grated and frozen or kept in the fridge. You can also buy the flavored version of parmesan which does not even need to be in the fridge – might not be the real thing but it’s tasty enough at a push. Cottage cheese and craime fraiche are also long lasting in the fridge.
Eggs – these will last for about two weeks so the plan would be to buy two weeks worth and top up with fresh every week as you use them – ensure that you keep the old ones separate when buying new so you know which to use first. Mark the tops with chalk or a marker pen or keep in separate places. Eggs are super versatile so be sure not to foget them.
Baking Ingredients – A Good Time to Start if You Are Bored!
Even if you are not much into baking, you should still consider getting some baking ingredients. If you’re bored stuck at home it’s a great time to experiment a bit assuming you have a microwave (sponges work well), oven or air fryer – yes you can bake in an air fryer!
Get hold of flour plain and cake flour, cornflour/cornstarch/tapioca flour/rice flour (all of which cna be used for thickening), and consider you can use flour to make egg noodles and pasta so get plenty.
Other bakery ingredients such as dried yeast (for bread), bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and baking soda (used to tenderize meat too)
Consider biscuits and crackers to eat instead of breads.
Meat, Fish & Delicatessen
Most of your freezer space should probably be devoted to meat cuts and fish which you can buy fresh and cut into portions for freezing or buy ready frozen. Avoid buying meat or fish already processed such as pies and breaded ítems the like because of the space they take up.
For meat remove bones before freezing and make up stock for imemdiate use to save pennies and make some delicious dishes right now to cheer you up!
Consider buying cured meats such as salami and ham which can be frozen relatively successfully and dont take up much space.
Other Food To Stock Up On
Cereals for kids are a good idea as well as chocolate powder for mixing with UHT milk (for taste) and cocoa powder for cakes or a drink.
If your kids baulk at eating cereal with UHT or reconstituted milk then you can add chocolate powder to the milk to make it taste better and use that for cereals.
Nuts and snacks are a good treat to keep on hand – the less processed the better.
Other Stuff for the Kitchen
Washing up liquid, bacterial hand wash, plastic zip lock bags, plastic freezer containers are all everday essentials you should check stock of. Obviously there are machines and appliances that you might want but you’ll know what you need and whether you have the budget for them.
Some appliances are more cost effective than others – a slow cooker allows you to buy cheaper cuts of meat and still get the taste and tenderness and so paying for itself – a pasta making machine on the other hand would be a luxury.
Authoritive Links on Coronavirus
World Health Organization Advisory & Q & A
US – Information from New York Times
UK – Information from National Health Service
Canada – Information from Government of Canada
Australia – Information from Australian Department of Health