As much of the world’s population goes into lockdown over coronavirus, more people are practicing social distancing and cooking meals at home. Many are being met with the challenge of how to create nutritious, interesting meals for themselves and family while minimizing grocery visits. We asked an experienced IYC yacht chef for advice on how to get through this difficult time.
Here are her top 8 tips.
I’ve been on voyages where we would go weeks or even longer without restocking. The key is to be prepared ahead of time and shop effectively. Apply this method to today’s Covid-19 pandemic by deciding how frequently you’re going to visit or order from the grocery store and try your best to stick with that schedule. I suggest a weekly order – any longer would see you running out of leafy vegetables and soft fruits. By limiting your visits to the market you’re lessening your potential exposure to the coronavirus. If you’re able to order your goods, great – and keeping your delivery down to once a week will put less of a strain on delivery workers, who are being seriously overworked during this pandemic.
Next, take a thorough inventory of all the stock you currently have and what your ideal amounts are – be militant about adding new items to your list as soon as you run low so you don’t forget. Put the list in a place where all the members of the family can add to it and spend time reviewing your order before you put it in.
Plan your weekly menu around your freshest ingredients
You don’t need to sit down and decide what you’re going to eat for every meal a week ahead of time but it’s a good idea to prioritize the ingredients that will go bad so you’re consuming them soon after your weekly shop. With that in mind, do not buy too many ingredients that easily perish as you will not have time to consume them before they go bad. Try and incorporate your fresh ingredients into several dishes throughout the week.
I’ve put together a weekly sample menu with this method in mind: Click here to view the weekly sample menu.
Your freezer is your new best friend
You can put a lot more in your freezer than you think you can. Try and maximize your freezer space by repackaging products when possible (ie remove the meat from the enormous plastic box) and thinking about room when purchasing - no more tomahawks, sorry. Get rid of anything that’s gone bad or you’re not going to eat beforehand.
Remember that almost all of your proteins can be frozen - aim to buy an extra piece of meat/fish a week so you have some extras in there without bulk buying. You can freeze almost all cheeses, and butter will last for months frozen. When you’re ready to use them just move them to the fridge. Many herbs will also freeze well in the freezer and make cooking with them easier and tastier.
Slice and freeze your bread
This sounds really obvious, but it makes a big difference. Fresh bread really lifts a meal but if you’re not buying processed breads you’ll find your loaf will be stale or mouldy a few days later. Bread keeps very well in the freezer. Simply slice and place in a plastic bag and reheat in the toaster or oven as needed. If you’re making your own bread, you can do the same. Which brings me to…
Bread takes up a lot of space in the freezer and goes bad quickly on the counter, but is something that’s consumed nearly every day. Though it may seem daunting, I highly suggest you give a go at making your own bread – if you have time. There has been an increased interest in sourdough baking over the past few weeks with good reason. It only requires salt, flour and water and minimal kneading. It can also keep up to 10 days on the kitchen counter when wrapped properly. Here is one of my favourite recipes for anyone who’s looking to get started – it doesn’t even require measurements.
As long as we’re on the subject of baking, this quarantine period can be a good opportunity to try technically challenging recipes that require few ingredients – like pastry crusts, tarts, laminated doughs etc. You can then adapt the recipes and flavor or fill them with whatever you have at hand. That said, a simple fruit or nut loaf that takes 20 minutes to whip up will add a special touch to your morning coffee.
Don’t be boring
It’s tempting when you have days ahead of you without re-stocking and a general sense of insecurity to focus on foods that will “get the job done” and forget about flavor. However, the two don’t need to be mutually exclusive. You can still eat pulses and canned foods in inventive ways. Furthermore, there has never been a better time to experiment with new foods, albeit with limited access to ingredients (and again, if you have the time). During this difficult period, meals should be something to look forward to, a break in the day of your new strange routine. Try and make one of your daily meals something special if you have the time – set the table, light some candles and try a new recipe.
Grow your own herbs
As reports come in of seeds being sold out across the United States and skyrocketing searches for individuals looking to grow their own gardens, it’s clear that many are trying to take some control of their food supply. This may be easier to do if you have a garden but in an apartment it’s near impossible. Nonetheless, I have always grown fresh herbs on my voyages as they really add to dishes and are easy to maintain. If you can get your hands on plants from the grocery store (or even seeds) I would say that parsley, mint, coriander and basil offer the most bang for their buck in terms of having something on hand at all times.
Read cooking books/recipes, for pleasure
Lastly, by reading cooking books or online recipes for pleasure you’ll be able to train your mind to identify ingredients in the pantry you wouldn’t normally think could make a great meal. It will slowly become easier for you to come up with something when you have more ideas percolating in the back of your mind, like Alison Roman’s Caramelized Shallot Pasta from The New York Times.