During this crazy time of our lives when the world seems upside down, we all need to practise more of the ‘eat, pray, love’ philosophy. We need to eat food that satisfies our bodies and minds, we need to pray that things turn back to “normal” as soon as possible and we need to give ourselves and our wider community as much love as possible to get through these trying times.
With adults and kids working and schooling from home, the kitchen fridge is probably being put through its paces, and pantry shelves may start to look as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard. On top of that we have the added challenge of supermarket shelves being void of essentials like flour and rice, and the need to minimise trips to the grocery store as we all practise social distancing and stay at home as much as possible.
The good news is that you can feed a hungry family nutritious meals even when you don’t have your regular fridge and pantry items on hand. If you are running low on basic everyday items, with a bit of creativity (and help from Google when required) you can still whip up a dinner combo without having to don a mask and make daily supermarket trips. Teri Lichtenstein, an Accredited Practising Dietitian from FoodBytes, gives us her top tips and practical advice for getting the most out of your meals during isolation.
Now is the perfect time for a pantry tidy. Is there a can of legumes lurking at the back somewhere? Or perhaps a jar of gourmet curry paste that your inner Donna Hay had big plans to use for a fancy meal? Do a stocktake of pantry items that you have on hand and google recipes to make using these ingredients. You will be amazed at the hundreds of options that will be available to suit every level of home cook. This will not only help you to use up ingredients you already have and avoid buying more, but it may unleash a bit of cooking creativity that can help you get through this trying time. Here are 26 recipes using everyday pantry staples to help get you started.
When planning out weekly work and school schedules, if possible set aside a few hours to do some batch cooking that you can freeze and re-heat. This is especially useful for times when you may be busy at home helping kids with home school, or if someone in your family becomes unwell. It will also reduce the need for frequent grocery trips as you can simply defrost a freezer meal. With winter on the way, slow-cooker recipes are the perfect meals to batch cook as they can be made in large quantities for freezing.
All types of canned beans, lentils and chickpeas are a great pantry standby and can be the basis of many a delicious meal. These legumes are a budget-friendly nutrition powerhouse that provide a source of protein, carbohydrate, fibre and a range of essential vitamins and minerals to help keep you healthy. From soups to salads, tacos to frittatas, simply open a can, rinse and add to almost every meal for a quick and easy option. Try some of these legume recipes for dinner inspiration. And don’t forget to add a few cans of tinned tomatoes into your trolley. This humble vegetable can be used as a base ingredient for so many dishes. It makes the perfect family meal when the kids are starving and you don’t feel like cooking, simply add to some pasta with grated parmesan and voila, dinner is done!
If you don't have an ingredient listed in a recipe, use your intuition (or get help from Google) rather than running out to the shops. Most ingredients can just be simply left out of a recipe without any problems, but if that ingredient is sweet, salty or sour look for a substitution that re- places that taste. If you don't have sugar, use honey. If you run out of soy sauce, use a bit of salt. No lemon juice? Try vinegar instead. Even when it comes to the science of baking, you can still find substitutes for flour, eggs and butter.
Food waste is a huge problem in Australia and now more than ever, we don’t want to be letting our food land up in the bin. A bit of smart planning can help you minimise food waste, which will mean more money in the wallet and less time at the supermarket, so a win on all fronts. If vegetables are going limp, you can pickle them by slicing and putting in a Ziploc bag with a sprinkle of salt, sugar and a dash of vinegar. Squeeze the air out of the bag and refrigerate for a few hours. Don’t throw out the juice when you finish the last pickled veg from the store-bought bottle. Hold on to that liquid gold and put just about anything – sticks of fresh cucumber, carrot, cauliflower florets, or slices of radish back into the jar, ensure it is completely covered by the liquid and after a couple of days in the fridge you will have a batch of home-made picked veg. If your fridge crisper has some odds and ends of vegetables, chop them up and throw them into that quarantine bolognese. Turn bones and offcuts into stock. Before anything goes in the bin, think to yourself "how can I use this?"
The good news in these challenging times is that food can provide some happiness. Even when the supermarket shelves are bare and everyone is staying at home as much as possible, you can still eat delicious, healthy meals and save money at the same time.