Corona quarantine has you eating indoors? You’ve got this.
We are all hopefully stocked up on toilet paper and disinfectant. Now the question remains of how to eat well in a coronavirus quarantine of self-distancing — or at least, want to avoid the grocery store, where supplies may be depleted anyway.
Worst-case scenario, you will cook well if your area needs to go to an Italian-level isolation plan. Best-case scenario, you have avoided the inconvenience and anxiety of grocery shopping for a long while. Plus, maybe this is a chance to eat some of the semi-abandoned food in the back of the pantry.
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No matter what the coming days and weeks bring, let us all take good care of ourselves. To me, this means keeping away from crowds (like busy supermarkets). It also means keeping what I eat nourishing, satisfying, and also bright and fresh. With smart planning, being indoors for a while is no barrier to great — and normal — eating. Here is one strategy to eat well in a coronavirus quarantine.
A Grocery List
As I strolled the increasingly-dire looking aisles of the supermarket this morning and saw everyone buying mass quantities of pasta and canned beans, I wondered if they all have enough salt, oil, and basics to actually cook those things with. I also observed a big lack of fresh produce being bought. In fact, the produce section seemed to be the one area still overflowing with food. Which is too bad; lots of produce has a long shelf life.
Form your grocery list like this:
1. Do you have the fundamentals?
- Olive oil, vegetable oil, salt, pepper, favorite spices and herbs, lemons, onions
- Coffee, tea, other beverages you enjoy that are not bottled water? There is no need to buy bottled water.
- Non-perishables like peanut butter or nut butters, pasta, rice, oatmeal, dried or canned beans, nuts, tomato sauce, and the like. Baking ingredients if you like to bake.
2. Pace your produce, dairy, and protein right.
- Dairy: Look for ultra-pasteurized dairy, and check expiration dates. Expiration dates for ultra-pasteurized dairy generally extends many weeks in the future. Eggs and yogurt have a good shelf life as well. Hard cheeses like aged gouda and Parmigiano-Reggiano last many weeks, in addition to tasting nutty and delicious. Fresh cheese like goat, brie, and mozzarella can be eaten first.
- Produce: Get a good range of produce of varying degrees of ripeness. Some fruits and vegetables expire quickly (berries, cucumbers, bananas, soft, leafy greens). Others will last longer, such as brassicas and root vegetables, apples, and citrus. I would also buy hard, green, and otherwise underripe avocados, kiwi, pineapple, mangos, and tomatoes. By the time week two rolls around, they will be perfect. Space permitting, I prefer frozen fruit and vegetables to canned. It is more value for the money, and is not packed in potentially salty or sugary liquid.
- Meat and Seafood: Air-chilled and vacuum-sealed meat will generally have longer expiration dates than meat sealed with air, and will take up less space in the freezer. Hit the frozen section; many supermarkets have excellent raw frozen seafood, from shrimp to salmon.
3. Mental health items
- Chocolate, beer, wine, maybe a favorite cereal or cookie
- Impulse buy a magazine or candy bar at the register
How to Shop:
Read this article from the Washington Post on how to safely food shop in the corona virus pandemic. Wash your hands.
What to Cook: Quarantine Eating for Corona Virus
Keep healthy with extra focus on nutritious food to help keep your immune system strong: fresh fruit, lots of vegetables, whole grains, beans, and lean protein. Foods like meat, nuts, seeds, and shellfish contains high quantities of zinc, which may improve the immune system.
Eat your most perishable foods in Week One. Enjoy fresh berries, eggs, fresh meat and seafood, ripened fruit, and salads and other soft greens and fresh vegetables like peppers, zucchini, and the like. Pair it with any pasta, grain, or bread you like. Make a pot of soup or a vegetable lasagna and freeze some. If you get sick, you will be glad to have a fresh pot of soup. Eat your fresh cheeses.
In Week Two, focus on your now-ripened produce like pineapple, mango, avocado, and tomatoes, as well as heartier, long-lasting vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Protein-wise, this is the week to dig into those beans and meat and seafood that has been in the freezer. Even soft cheese like ricotta, mozzarella, and brie should still be good.
The Week Three menu will be more pantry and freezer heavy. Pull out some of the food you froze in week one. Cook using frozen vegetables and meat or seafood. Frozen fruit is excellent mixed into yogurt or blended into smoothies. Treat yourself to a “pantry pasta” like cacio e pepe or spaghetti marinara.
Corona Quarantine Suggested Recipes
Here is a roundup of recipes to keep you and your family nourished and happy, without lots of fuss.
Baking Projects (Kid Friendly!)
Pantry Snacks and Meals:
Satisfying, No-Fuss Mains:
- Roast Chicken With Lots of Herbs
- Broccoli Rabe Pasta With Italian Chicken Sausage
- Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin
- Italian Sausage and Peppers
Happy cooking, happy baking, and hang in there. You’ve got this.