Pandemic Food Plan: Six Ways To Buy & Cook Sustainably During The Coronavirus Outbreak
If I’m honest, I didn’t think a pandemic food plan would be a necessity over the next few months. Hoards of panic buyers proved me wrong, contributing to a food shortage that has made food shopping difficult. You might have noticed the same thing – empty supermarket shelves, a lack of basic foods, and uncertainty about how accessible food will become.
Whilst I think that everything will go back to normal soon and there shouldn’t be too much of an increase in difficulty for those who need to self-isolate, it’s still a good idea to have a plan whilst supermarkets work on the food shortages and more information becomes clear on the virus. Here’s what I recommend, based on my own methods and the research I’ve done already.
First of all… Don’t stockpile!
Stockpiling absolutely should not be part of your pandemic food plan. It’s stockpiling that has got us into the situation where we are now, and it’s not a good one.
Although the natural urge is to buy as many non-perishable items as possible, doing so harms others. Suddenly there’s a shortage of items like pasta and bread, and now the people that need it can’t access it. People have been witnessed literally fighting over the last loaf, which frankly is ridiculous. Reports have even surfaced of people buying baby formula instead of milk because it “goes off less quickly”, which of course leads to newborns without food. Not great.
Instead of stockpiling, shop as normal but add a couple of extra non-perishable items each week just in case. No need to go mad though – a few cans is fine, but you don’t need the supermarket’s entire stock.
Don’t shop online unless you need to
There are two reasons for this, the first being pretty obvious – if more people start shopping online then supermarkets will struggle to cater for this increase. This will lead to a real strain on the service, and people who really need those online food shops (the elderly, the disabled, and those who are self-isolating) will have a harder time accessing food.
The other reason is that you’re way less likely to get a selection of food items that will work together. With stock disappearing so quickly, many people are finding that their online orders turn up missing quite a few products. If you’re shopping in the supermarket then you can have a browse for the alternative that works best, however with an online shop you either get an alternative that they’ve chosen for you or simply nothing at all. This will make it harder for meal planning so I advise doing the shop in person if you can. Try and go very early or late at night for fewer people and more selection.
Utilise your freezer
One thing I’ve noticed during the outbreak so far is that everyone has been reaching for the non-perishable items. Locating pasta, rice, sauces, and tinned soup has become harder now but it makes sense – these are all food items that will last pretty much indefinitely (or unless until we’re back to normal). Whilst stock for these items are dwindling, fresh items are mostly ever-present.
I think people are missing a trick here – yes, you could buy a load of pasta jars but you’re risking a) a negative impact on your diet, and b) nothing left in that section by the time you get to the supermarket. There are also people out there that probably need pre-made food more than you do.
Instead, take advantage of the plentiful fresh vegetables and make your own. You can easily do this with sauces, soups, and even full meals – just buy the fresh ingredients, batch cook it all at home, then store it in the freezer. It’s a lot cheaper and healthier, plus there’s more likelihood that the ingredients will be in stock. Take my vegetable couscous – simple to make and you can batch cook portions to freeze for later use.
Keep your meal plan flexible
If you know me then you’ll know that I love a good meal plan. Which is why I’ve felt quite anxious about this whole situation. The thought of finding my meal plan obsolete fills me with dread, to be quite honest.
For your pandemic food plan I’d recommend including meals with leeway in case you can’t get all the ingredients. Don’t try and make ingredient–heavy meals as these will just let you down (now’s not the time to experiment with duck l’orange or a meal that only works with a very specific type of pasta). Recipes where you can easily swap different things in, like a stir fry for example – you can use pretty much any meat, any vegetables, and any type of noodles or rice.
Keep your store cupboard stocked up with essentials
I’ve actually written a post about this for A Crazy Family, but for our current situation it’s become really important. Having versatile store cupboard ingredients to hand really helps when you’re at a loss for what to cook, and can turn a mediocre meal into something wonderful.
As well as herbs and spices you should also replenish your stock of flour, sugar, egg alternatives, and yeast – all useful items should you find yourself needing to bake your own bread or snacks. This is a great method to add to your pandemic food plan.
Grow your own ingredients
If you’ve been wanting to get into gardening then there couldn’t be a better time than now. I’m hoping that the outbreak won’t last over a long period, however it’s good to be prepared just in case. Gardening is good for this as you’ve got your own supply of food should the shortages continue long-term. A kit like this Vegetable Seed Box Bumper Pack would be a great investment right now!
I’d definitely recommend growing your own herbs on a dedicated windowsill, and growing salad leaves is a great idea as well (these last much longer in a pot than in a plastic bag). We’re hoping to grow vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, and carrots – all vegetables that we use frequently. This won’t make a huge amount of difference, but it can reduce both costs and the amount you need to buy.
What measures are you taking as part of your pandemic food plan? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin!