Cooking for a Pandemic

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Covid-19 lockdowns have seen a trend in back-to-basics living, with an increased interest in home cooking and other skills of self-sufficiency.

 

But that’s for those with time on their hands! Many others have struggled to balance working from home, home schooling and managing a full-time, hungry, housebound household. For those of us, there just isn’t time to perfect our bread-making skills or prepare complicated meals.

 

Whatever your situation, here are some tips from our kitchen to make cooking during lockdown easier, by helping save time and money, avoiding less healthy convenience foods, and reducing trips to the supermarket.

  • Cook once, eat twice (or more) by cooking double or triple quantities. This can save you time and stress. A large pot of meat or vegetarian Bolognese can provide several meals, as portions can be frozen. Serve it on pasta with a sprinkle of cheese; use as a filling for enchiladas; a topping for nachos, pizza or even toast!

  • Plan your meals for the week to be resourceful with leftovers. Roast two whole chickens for dinner, and leftover meat can be used in sandwiches or wraps for lunch, chopped into a casserole, or provide the protein for a stir-fry or fried rice (this a is a great time saver as well). After that – the chicken carcass can be boiled into a stock for a hearty soup with vegetables, or a cheap and tasty risotto. Leftover roast vegetables can be made into a filling roast vegetable salad.

  • Make the most of your freezer. This is a great time to sort or clear out your freezer, you will be surprised of what you have in there (I’ve recently cooked-up some sausage for the dogs!). As for freezing meals for when you need a break from cooking, make the most of your freezer space by freezing what you can, label and date your food so you know what is in there. Cheese nearing its best before date can be grated and frozen for later. Excess vegetables can be chopped and frozen for a future soup. Browning bananas can be chopped and frozen for smoothies or baking.

  • You may not have time to experiment with bread-making, but freeze some fresh bread and you can avoid the supermarket for a few more days. Just loosen the tag, lay the loaf on its side in the freezer and spread the slices out a bit. Once frozen, the slices will pop apart easily if you drop the loaf on the counter-top. Then take what you need without thawing the whole loaf.

  • Likewise, a couple of cartons of long-life milk stashed in the pantry can prevent a panic buy when the milk runs out.

  • We don’t need to over-stock on basic dry ingredients such as flour and milk as New Zealand is very self- sufficient, we have great farmers here and some beautiful produce. If you’re looking to stock up, think about rolled oats, pasta, rice, plus some tasty staples to zhoosh up a simple meal. Olives, sundried tomatoes, pesto, parmesan, bacon/salami/ham, anchovies, or nuts and seeds last ages in the pantry or freezer, and add taste and nutrients to vegetable dishes, pastas, or salads, when you’re running low on fresh ingredients.

With a few lockdown survival hacks you can be more resourceful in the kitchen, and these skills are useful at any time, not just during a pandemic. And remember – be kind to the workers in the supermarkets who are working hard for all of us right now!