As we are all suddenly plunged into a state of panic, scenes that have been coming to the press this last week have caused me to share this post. The majority of us will recover should we catch Covid-19, however the vulnerable in our community need our help. I watched a video upon waking up this morning on YouTube. Three women fighting over toilet rolls in a supermarket.
This photo of an old lady picking from the leftovers on a shelf deeply saddened me. pregnant and compromised members of society
A photo of an elderly woman surrounded by empty shelves has gone viral. Picture: Facebook
We're allowing ourselves to become hysterical. We're dividing ourselves over things we probably don't really need so much of, because we're not planning properly. Do not make someone in your community vulnerable because you want to overstock your house. Two weeks is very easy to prepare for if you do it properly. And I am going to share a few tips to help make what you already have go as far as possible. You will more than likely find by following my simple, step-by-step plan that you end up with food items left over at the end of a period of isolation. And most definitely, more money in your bank account as a result of it.
Many of you will potentially suffer from loss of earnings during this time. As a self-employed blogger and business owner, this is something that will definitely affect my house. We need to look at our resources and create from what we have and stop the over-purchasing. This process allows you to clean your house, re-shuffle your cupboard, take stock of what you have and if you are in need of further items, you can clearly plan and buy only what is necessary.
After you have completed this audit and plan, you will at least be entering what is to come feeling ready and in control and less worried about your financial state at the end of it. You may even find that this is a period of detox for you. And if you're wasting less food, this is a great step for the good of our planet too.
Here is my 10 step list to help you get prepped without the panic. I have included a whole list of meal planning following this list to help you to get the most from your current store cupboard and fridge with links to recipes below too.
Pick up your free planner checklist at the bottom of this post!
AUDIT: Grab a notepad and pen and go through your cupboards one by one and make a list of items.
NOTES: Make a note of items in your fridge that are in jars and are pickled, in brine or oil. These items can add depth and flavour to simple dishes and many can last from up to two weeks to years. A jar of capers, olives and roasted peppers are all great examples.
RECORD: Make a note your fresh produce to ensure they are used up and don't go bad in your fridge.
STORE: Cook and freeze ahead. Take a look through your fresh produce and see what is about to turn or go off. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic and other harder vegetables can last much longer that others, but if you see anything on the turn, make a casserole, soup or shepherd's pie and freeze it in portions in your fridge.
CONTROL: Learn portions. Pasta is commonly wasted because too much is used. 2 handfuls of dried pasta or rice (75g). A bunch of spaghetti the size of a £1 coin (75g), is enough per person. Don't throw in hand the pack and end up banging it in the bin. If you do use too much, have it the following day with some pesto
ADAPT: Cooking without oil. It is very possible to cook without oil. I have been doing so for weeks and not only am I seeing a benefit in my health, I am also spending less money on cooking oil. Use water and broil foods to add moisture to them at the beginning of cooking, roast or grill them instead
BE RESOURCEFUL: Go back to basics and cook from scratch again, be resourceful. One can of chickpeas can make two meals for two people. A chana masala and wraps for lunch the next day. A can of chopped tomatoes can also be used for two separate meals or to can be used as a sauce for tofu, jacket potatoes. Mushrooms can be minced up and added to pasta with onions and veggies.
PLAN: Plan meals carefully. If you have a lot of veggies and some protein, cook this at the beginning of the week and portion it into freezable tubs. Using up what is fresh and preserving it means nothing will be wasted.
BE REALISTIC: Once you a full audit of what you have got and planned out our meals for the two weeks, start a smaller list of any other essential you might need. Oats, pulses and grains are perfect store cupboard essentials as they will bulk out meals and keep you feeling full. Frozen vegetables are a great option as it means you don't have to worry about food spoiling and they can be easily portioned out.
BE WISE: When you make a shopping list, think carefully about how much of each item is needed. Where possible, try to buy only what is absolutely necessary. We need to think about our community at this time, someone else could need an item more than you do. Just get prepared, make you lists, sort out your store cupboard and plan your meals. For the time you may be in isolation, you will learn to be more resourceful, to work with what you have and to consume a little less. It is a time to reflect on how lucky we are but to address our over-consumption and take charge of our houses. If nothing else, we should be cutting down on food waste and reusing leftovers, a wonderful habit to create.
Example Prepping -
Most of us have a multitude of items already in our fridge and cupboards. Creating a successful plan will save you money and stop you for buying items others may need. Once you have done your audit, you can start to plan what to cook. Here are some ideas of what can be done with just a few ingredients, many of which you could possibly already have.
1 - Casseroles & Pies
Get this recipe here!
Cook up any root vegetables, 1/12 can beans or chickpeas, or a handful of lentils and make a casserole. Make as much as you can with what is available and portion it out for the freezer.
Depending on how much you can make will depend on how many meals you will be able to make. Keep the vegetable chunks large and add in some frozen peas.
This can be served with bread, rice or mash, it can even be used as a pie filling.
Get this recipe here!
If you have a large casserole dish you can create up to 8 portions or 4 with enough to make some small pies if you top the filling with pastry.
I have several recipes which show you basic, from scratch options for this kind of dish. They have different ingredients in each, but you can adapt as you need. If you have veggie sausages, this is a great option. You can also add in corn, pulses and beans too if you are short on veggies. Frozen and tinned veg is also a good option.
2 - Bases for: Chilli/Pasta/Soup/Fillings
Get this recipe here!
Chilli is a great way filling yourself up on very little. By changing up the ingredients you can also create spaghetti. If you have canned tomatoes, beans and maybe some mushrooms, you can create a filling base for so many meals. Add in some chilli and cumin, and you have a chilli, take out the beans and add in some mushrooms and basil and you have spaghetti.
Check out my instagram for details on this delicious, zero waste dish and other quick ideas with fridge leftovers!
You can also add in some chickpeas and some delicious spices and create a Chana Masala. The difference between what you create is simply down to what is in your cupboard. If you split the ingredients up, you can make it go even further. Here are a few recipes to help you with basic ideas from this range of ingredients.
Get this easy vegetable soup recipe here
These bases are also incredible on their own as soups too.
3 - Tofu, Tempeh & Mushrooms Dishes
Check out my tofu recipes here
If you have tofu, tempeh, mushrooms or other protein, firstly, if stored in the fridge this can last up to 2 weeks. Freezing tofu helps improve the texture (see my latest YouTube video to see why). If you have noodles, ginger, soy sauce and some vegetables (carrots, peppers, peas etc) then you can boil this up in a pan as you cook your tofu. I have several recipes on my YouTube channel.
Get more dinner inspiration on my instagram or check out my noodle curry soup recipe here
Alternatively, you can grill it and add it to lentils and kale, one of my most popular recipes! Tofu is a great source of protein and many other nutrients (use organic). If you don't have tofu, use mushrooms or potato.
4 - Fruit Compotes, Pie Fillings and Sides
Follow my instagram: @life_by_ms_lewis or facebook.com/lifebymslewis for more inspiration
Fruits can be created into so many wonderful things. From toppings for porridge oats to puddings and even additions to savoury meals such as tagines and casseroles.
Apples can be chopped and mixed with a little sugar and cinnamon. This can be used as a topping for porridge or for an easy apple pudding using a slice of bread. Simply bake it in the oven and remove after 10 minutes. Apples can also be roasted and added to the side of a roast dinner alongside some veggie sausages. When baked for long enough the filling is soft like apple sauce. Fruits are also essential during this time to ensure yourself and you family are getting plenty of nutrients. Or create an easy pudding by strewing fruit in alcohol or sugar syrup, fruit juice and cinnamon.
If you have a juicer, you can add in a mix of fruit and veggies for a morning refresher.
5 - Fritters, Tempura, Bajhis & Hashbrowns
Get my Hash Brown recipe here
If it's leftover and you're unsure what to do with it, wrap it in batter & fry it. Or shred it up, shape it into cakes and bake as a hash brown. Making this kind of dish can be incredibly easy if you keep it simple. All you need is flour and water for the batter and you have a delicious dinner or breakfast (if you do the hash browns). If you have carrot, potato, cabbage, onions or other hardy vegetables, you can dip them in batter spiced with chilli and cumin and make Bhajis with them. So many options with so little.
Get this recipe here
Avocado can be coated in breadcrumbs and friend too!
6 - Potatoes and Root Veg Dishes
Full recipe here
As mentioned above, potatoes can be created into delicious hash browns, and so many other options. I created this delicious potato dauphinois/potato bake using just 1 potato, 1/2 almost dried up onion, some wholegrain mustard, a little flower, vegan butter and some olive oil. I added some spring onions to the top as they were lingering in my fridge looking sorry for themselves. Potatoes are a cheap and easy way to create more from your casserole mix.
Simply wedge them up, top them with some dried spices, salt and pepper and you have a completely filling and delicious meal for the fam. Or simply wedge them up and dip them in ketchup.
Root veg can also be used to top a Shepherd's Pie, mashed or sliced as a hot pot topping.
6 - Flour-Based Dishes
With a few drops of water, flour can become so much. Add in some vegan yoghurt and you have flatbread. Knead it and roll it into pasta or add butter instead of water to create a thick, creamy sauce. Sprinkle it on your veg during cooking to create a base for gravy.
You can even create a simple cake batter with plant milk, sugar, vegan butter and flour and throw in some dried fruit for a delicious cake. This simple ingredient could lift your meals from average to incredible and pair up with those random pieces of fruit or spices to create a meal all of their own. There are spelt and gluten-free flours available if you are concerned about that. Flour is a base for many white sauces such as béchamel sauce and dauphinois
7 - Pasta Dishes
As mentioned above in my list of tips, you need to ensure that you portion out pasta properly to avoid wasting it. Pasta is one of the most versatile store cupboard items as it can be used with any flavour. If you have any odd pieces or random shapes, it can be added to soups and casseroles to bulk them out. Blend up some roasted or grilled veggies for easy sauces, or use up herbs and nuts with a little olive oil for easy pesto!
Pasta is another way of creating filling dishes for the family and can be ready in minutes. If you create a pasta bake, this can feed up to 6-8 people depending on portion sizes. Lasagne, is the perfect way to create filling meals and if you are a couple, this can stretch to meals for a few days. Check out my lasagne recipe here. or an easy spaghetti dish here (you can use any pasta though!).
8 - Rice, Pulses, Beans and Grains
So many dishes can be created from these items. From paella to biriyani, rice is versatile and filling. Curries are a cheap meal and can go a long way if you cook enough. If you over cook rice, it can be repurposed as rice cakes. Just mix it with corn, spices and any other veg you have, coat it in batter and deep fry it. Or use it in a soup or casserole.
If you have grains you can use this as a filling ingredient to make stews and casseroles. You can even create a delicious stuffing if you add stock, flour and a little stale bread. Leave it to cool down and then bake it when you are Ready or freeze for later.
Beans are an essential. They will bulk out your meals and you can create a healthy breakfast by adding chopped tomatoes and spices. Or you can add Mexican spices and pop them in a wrap.
9 - Jars of vegetables: Brined, Pickles and Oiled
Do you have jars of random veggies?
I always make sure to have olives, caper and roasted peppers in my fridge. They last for years and can be used I many dishes. If you have roasted peppers in olive oil, remove a few of them and pat the oil off. Blend this and add some spices for an instant pasta sauce. Capers add flavour to pasta sauce along with some olives. The brine is also great to season pasta dishes if you are short on salt.
Pickled vegetables are a natural probiotic, they are a good topping for baked beans and nice for adding flavour to salads. Pickled veggies such as beetroot and onions can be rinsed and used in casseroles too, or simply as a healthy snack.
10 - Spices, Herbs and Stock Powder
The final 'ingredient' of my essential store cupboard items is, of course, seasonings. Having a range of good seasoning and stock is very important to ensue your meals have plenty of good flavour. As a general rule, I always have the following items in my fridge or spice drawer:
- Salt & Pepper
- Vegetable Stock powder (this is far more economical than stock cubes)
- Smoked or regular paprika
- Chilli or Cayenne Powder and Chilli Flakes
- Dried Italian herbs
- Soy sauce
- Teriyaki sauce
- Ginger Puree (lazy ginger)
- Garlic Puree (lazy garlic)
- Curry Powder (homemade, but shop bought is fine)
- Nutritional Yeast
Feel free to screenshot my shopping list and share away (please tag me if you post this to Instagram. It took a lot of effort to create this post and the curated list).
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The trick to creating a good plan is to work with what you have got. It may be a challenge for so many of you, however you may find that you end up picking up some new habits and learn to become more resourceful and less wasteful. With the potential of many of us not making money during this down-time, saving pennies on food is vital.