Well, Omicron has thrown us quite the curveball, hasn’t it? With surging COVID-19 cases across the country, many of us are bunkering down and avoiding unnecessary outings. I’ve recently taken to online shopping for my groceries, and I tend to end up with a massive list that can last me up to two months. The key is pantry staples, and making the most of them.
Fortunately, 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 here are my top tips, 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. I tend to build mine as I run out of things, just by using the Notes app on my phone. Check what’s already in your pantry, what’s out of date (or if you’re like my dad, “best before dates are just a guide”), and think about what you would like to eat (because enjoying food is the end goal here,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?). If you are heading into the store, I strongly recommend writing your list in order of the aisles to save time.
You want to focus 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. This is not about hoarding – we’re not here for that — but rather about cutting down on the number of times you need to go out. There are some items you can easily buy in bulk without being a hoarder — I always get a 5kg bag of bread flour and a 4L jug of olive oil because I love to make pizza and bread and they easily provide a few meals at a time.
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. I also like to keep pumpkin in the fridge, and cover it tightly once it’s cut, to make it last longer.
Master a few basic recipes
Not only does cooking classic recipes make your pantry go further, it also gives you something to do at home. 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. Just remember to wrap it tightly or it will dry out. 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 to 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 and large cuts like corned beef that are perfect for slow cooking. Batch cooking is a great way to utilise your freezer and offer a bit of variety — you don’t want to be eating the same meal for a week if you’re on your own. Get some sturdy reusable containers and just portion everything up.
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. If you don’t have a compost bin, try freezing your vegetable scraps in a reusable bag, adding to it as you go, and when you’ve got enough, pop it all in a pot with water and boil it into a veggie stock.
Now, should the zombie apocalypse happen, at least you’ll have a well-stocked pantry and won’t go hungry.
This article has been updated since it was first published.