Over the last week, a lot of you have sent me messages asking me how I was stocking my pantry and for tips to ensure that we continue to eat reasonably healthy during the coronavirus crisis. So, I thought of sharing my food action plan in a series of informative posts this week advising you on the most sensible set of steps to take. I'll show you how to stock food sensibly for self-isolation and quarantine - without hoarding and panic buying. This is just a practical guide and a detailed process of what I am doing. You may choose to do things differently and that is okay as everyone's needs and thought process is different. But I hope, this can help you in some way to feel more prepared. You can DOWNLOAD the Free Guide at the bottom of the post.
Covid-19 - a new challenge for mankind
When faced with a tough situation, we either fight or take flight. With the constantly unfolding situation of Covid-19, we are all in unchartered territory. And it has divided us into the fight and flight category – some of us are preparing for doomsday while the rest are going about life as usual. And then there are a lot of us in between. The ones who are concerned but not panicked, the ones who channel their time and energy into something useful, those who gather accurate knowledge and make informed decisions for their families and communities.
As things get more serious and the need to flatten the curve (lengthen the initial containment phase and ride out the wave of the virus slowly till we reach the end) increases, we are faced with the choice of self-isolation or mandatory quarantine. As human beings, we all have an ingrained self-preservation mechanism. To survive, we need to stay healthy and strong. We need to feed our bodies and our minds, both of which can be challenging in times of scarcity and inaccessibility. I am a prepper. Not the mindless stockpiling and hoarding kind. But slow, calculative and mindful of the need of others. And today, I want to share my simple tips and tricks to ensuring you have enough nourishing foods during times of isolation and quarantine to feed yourselves and your families.
First things first. Simple Things To Remember.
1. Don’t panic! Keep calm and assess your situation.
2. You don’t need a whole lot of food stashed away (it isn’t a zombie apocalypse!).
3. You just need enough for a couple of weeks worth and that too only in case of emergencies and restrictions. Even at the height of lockdowns in Italy, people are still able to go out and buy food at grocery stores and supermarkets.
4. So keeping that in mind, build up a stock of food items enough to give you peace of mind. And then while you can still go to the shops regularly, do weekly shops of fresh food – veggies, fruits, dairy, meat, seafood etc. Have as much fresh food as you can while you can as the shops are all still being stocked with fresh produce daily.
5. And remember, this is just a phase, a challenge. It is not permanent, no matter how long. So treat it as a phase. Tell yourself, that it is a problem that has to be solved.
Make Lists Of Ingredients, Get Organized & Ready To Order Online
There are many posts and articles out there that will tell you exactly what to buy and eat, but each family is different. And they all have their regulars, non-negotiables and must-haves in the kitchen. So make a list of yours. Start there.
List 1 – Non Perishables (Stockpile items)
Make a list of 10-20 non-perishable ingredients that you cook with regularly. That if you have to go without for 2-6 weeks, you will feel the lack of nourishment and comfort. Only put items you would normally shop for and use.
- Beans & Legumes - red lentils, green split peas, chickpeas, black beans, cannellini beans, red kidney beans etc..
- Rice & Seeds - basmati rice, brown rice, quinoa, chia seeds
- Pasta & Noodles - spaghetti, penne, lasagna sheets, soba noodles, egg noodles, couscous
- Flour & Meals - spelt flour, gluten-free flour, buckwheat flour, besan, almond meal
- Nuts Dried Spices & Herbs - almonds, cashew, walnuts, turmeric, chilli, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, garlic powder, ground ginger, thyme, rosemary, oregano, parsley
- Butters Pastes & Sweeteners - Peanut butter, almond butter, tahini, honey, maple syrup
- Others - coconut milk, coffee, tea, cereal, snacks, chocolate, sugar, salt, oil, sauces, pet food
List 2 – Non Perishable Alternatives For Perishables (Stockpile items)
Make a list of 10 perishable ingredients that you use everyday/several times a week. And then write down a non-perishable/long-life perishable equivalent or a freezable option for each perishable on that list. So in case of isolation/quarantine when you can't go out, you won't have to be without your daily perishables. For eg
- Milk – Long life Milk (Dairy, Soy, Nut)
- Fresh fish – canned fish/frozen fish
- Fresh meat – canned meat/frozen meat
- Fresh vegetables – frozen vegetables/vegetable powders/canned vegetables
- Fruit – frozen fruit/ long life fruit juice/canned fruit
List 3 – Long Life Perishables (Daily Use Items)
Now make a list of 10 items from the chiller section that will keep well in the fridge for a long time and that are a must for your meals. For eg
- Miso Paste
- Pickled Veggies (gherkins, onion, beetroot)
- Ferments (kimchi, sauerkraut)
List 4 – Short Term Perishables (Daily Use Items)
Make a list of perishable items that you use every day and every week that don’t last for very long in the fridge and would need to be replenished regularly. For eg
- Fresh Milk
- Fresh Meat/Seafood
- Fresh Vegetables
- Fresh Fruit
What Are Rolling Orders?
Now comes the most important part. Do not panic (I can't stress this enough!). Usually, there is enough supply for everything trickling through to ensure that people don’t go without. Even if things are not there today, they will be stocked up eventually or you can try alternate sources or you can revert to List 3 for non-perishable alternatives. And don’t give in to herd mentality. Don’t go rushing off to the supermarkets (the same 2-3 supermarkets that everyone will rush to!) and create chaos.
Instead, do what I do. I call it Rolling Orders. Rolling order is a style of grocery shopping that allows you to ensure that you won’t run out of supplies without the need to rush out amidst a few hundred people all panic buying. At the moment with increased demands, an online shop will reach you in about 4-6 days after you place your order. So try and do two rolling orders in a week – one big and one small.
Week 1/Order No 1 – Big Order
A. Pick 10-15 items from List 1 AND List 2. Order multiples of these as per your needs. For eg,
From List 1 - a large bag of rice, a large bottle of olive oil, a couple of small packs of beans/lentils, a couple of bags of pasta and noodles, some extra sugar and salt, a few sauces.
From List 2 – a few cartons of long life milk (dairy, soy, nut), a couple of bags of frozen veggies and fruit, a bottle or two of long life fruit juice, a few cans of fish, beans, diced tomatoes etc.
B. Pick 2-4 items from List 3 AND List 4. Only order one jar/can of each or enough to last you a week. For eg,
From List 3 – A block of cheese, a bag of grated cheese, a block of tofu, a jar of pickled beetroot, a jar of sauerkraut, a carton of milk.
From List 4 - A carton of milk, a tub of yoghurt or butter, 3-4 varieties of fresh veggies, 2-3 varieties of fresh fruit
Week 2/ Order No 2 – Small Order
Then when you are 2 days away from this order being delivered, place your 2nd order which will hopefully be delivered another 4-5 days after your first order is delivered. In this 2nd order, reduce the number of items from List 1 and List 2 (because these are your stockpile or isolation backup) and order more from List 3 and List 4. But keep the order small.
Following Week - Repeat Order 1 & Order 2 BASED on what you need.
Again when you are 2 days away from receiving your 2nd order, place your 3rd order. This time depending on the situation, order more from List 1 and List 2 to build up your stockpile a bit (chances are you haven’t used this much as you are using the fresh stuff more from List 3 and List 4). And order more from List 3 and List 4 as well.
And just like that in a span of less than 2 weeks, you have built up a back-up food supply and a constant fresh food supply to feed yourself and your family utilizing the rolling order technique.
Some EXTRA things to remember
- Continue to assess the situation and continue your online rolling order for as long as you need.
- Try different online grocery stores/online health stores/independent online bulk stores/online fresh fruit veggie dairy bakery services/online butchers etc... to ensure steady supply and quicker delivery dates. You don't have to order from just one store. Give a search on Google for your favourite brand/product and see what online stores come up, then try ordering from there.
- Talk to your neighbours and friends and see if they need something ordered online and include it with your order.
- When you feel you have enough back up for a couple of weeks, stop with the orders and just order fresh stuff weekly or pop into your nearest store for weekly fresh supplies.
- Again remember to stay calm, be kind and compassionate and do what you feel is right for you and your family and your peace of mind.
Get my Self-Isolation Grocery List For Vegetarians/Vegans With Recipe Ideas AND Tips On How To Get Your Daily Dose Of Vegetables And Fruit During Lockdown (veg powders, freezing, water regrowing etc...) even if you don’t have access to fresh fruit and vegetables in times of isolation and quarantine.
Stay tuned while I work on putting together a series of easy, delicious and nourishing recipes using pantry ingredients.