If you’re in lockdown like me, you’re probably avoiding going to the shops even for the essentials. So you end up with a long shopping list and either make a mad dash to the store, all masked up and dodging people like the plague, or you end up doing a massive online order. But how do you get the most out of those precious pantry staples so you can just stay at home and eat?
Well, luckily for you (and me), I grew up with a grandmother who kept her pantry so well stocked that my grandfather joked we could survive an earthquake — or an apocalypse, if you ask me. So take note, because surviving the apocalypse is all in the preparation.
Don’t go shopping without a list
Regardless of whether you’re shopping in-store or online, always start with a solid list. Check what’s already in your pantry, what’s out of date (or if you’re like my dad, “best before dates are just a guide”), and think about what you would like to eat (because enjoying food is the end goal here, right?). I write my shopping list in order of the aisles/departments but that’s because I’m obsessed with efficiency.
You want to buy up big on items with a really long shelf life like pasta, rice, lentils, tinned tomatoes and rolled oats, plus pantry staples like flour, sugar, olive oil and long-life milk. I’ve taken to buying 5kg bags of bread flour and 4L jugs of olive oil and I swear the delivery guy must think I’m running an underground pizza shop. Sadly, I am not. It’s just me.
Store your pantry staples properly
Items like garlic, onions and potatoes will keep for a while in your pantry, but you’ll get more out of them if you store them correctly. Don’t keep onions and potatoes in the same space — that will just make them sprout sooner. Put them in seperate containers and keep them away from each other in cool, dark spots.
Master a few basic recipes
Not only does cooking classic recipes make your pantry go further, it also gives you something to do in lockdown. Focaccia is easy to make, even in your sleep, and there are a million ways you can dress it up with herbs and spices. Pizza dough is also a classic to have in your repertoire, and you can freeze it in portions (I’m doing nothing to kill off that underground pizza shop conspiracy here). Pasta sauce is another one you can make in batches and freeze. I do a mean spicy red sauce, and a great parsley and walnut pesto with my homegrown herbs.
Cook up the perishables first
You want start with the perishable items, like meat, before they go off. I am obsessed with my monster cooker. I use it for everything from soups and curries to sticky date pudding. But it really comes into its own with meatballs. I make a big batch, portion it up and freeze the rest for later. Then you just need to cook some fresh pasta and zap the frozen meatballs in the microwave. They also make for great sandwiches, especially with the homemade focaccia which also freezes well.
The freezer is your best friend
Here’s where your Tetris skills come in handy — a well-packed freezer will mean you can enjoy all those home cooked meals for weeks. And it’s not just a saviour for full meals, bread and sauces — you can also freeze chopped up carrots and celery to use in soups later on.
Now, should the zombie apocalypse happen, at least you’ll have a well-stocked pantry and won’t go hungry.