Many people swear by the city’s takeout and delivery culture, which brings just about anything to their apartment doorstep, including juice pizza, and wines.
Yet as public health officials urge residents lockdown in their homes to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, many have found themselves with more time and less cash on their hands.
That’s why some are taking this opportunity to save money and explore their home kitchen — possibly for the first time ever. Don’t be depressed from pandemic panic. If you’re hoping to expand your domestic skill set, here’s your crash course in stocking your home with healthy, affordable and versatile eats.
Before you go to the store
First things first: Stocking your kitchen doesn’t mean stockpiling food.
Shoppers is supposed to be “thoughtful” while at the grocery store — many stores have long lines and shortages of key household goods, including medicine, diapers and bread. But should be no shortage of food.
And don’t forget to prep your cabinets, freezer and refrigerator. It might be a good time to clean out your fridge do that.” Throw any expired, stale or freezer-burned foods.
For the freezer
At the grocery store, the plain frozen vegetables and fruits — such as peas, green beans, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, berries and mangoes — can be just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts because they are flash-frozen at peak freshness, meaning they are frozen nearly instantly, locking in the nutrients and preserving ripeness. The same can’t be said for canned veggies.
A lot of prepared foods are perfect for freezing, such as sliced bread, soups, grilled chicken breast, sandwich meat and cooked rice — so consider cooking big dishes that can be portioned into single servings to freeze, then eat on the go.
Not only cooked meat, but any raw meat, including chicken pieces, ground beef, steak, bacon and pork can all be thrown into the freezer and thawed to cook later.
On the other hand, cautious against frozen meals, even those that is said to be healthy. For the most part the frozen meals tend to be high in sodium.
Instead of the frozen, store-bought versions, a variety of frozen veggies is recommended, such as corn, peas and carrots, and frozen cooked rice for a quick veggie fried rice, and beans, tofu or chicken breast for protein. Don’t forget soy sauce in the pantry!
For the pantry
Nutritionally speaking, frozen produce is optimal — but it’s not always the most expedient option. Plus, cans and jars keep longer and offer a wider variety of food. Some foods that are especially convenient from a can include beans, tomato sauce and paste, mushrooms, pineapple and peaches (but avoid fruits soaked in a sugary syrup).
Something for a flavor boost to any dish can be stored, such as olives, banana peppers, capers, salsa, applesauce and sun-dried tomatoes.
Don’t skip the whole grains, dried legumes and other dehydrated foods. They may require a few more steps to prepare, but their yearslong (in some cases 10 or more) shelf life and low cost make them a staple of domesticity. You can load up on dried beans, white and brown rice, couscous and, of course, pasta.
Fat is essential to cooking, so try starting with olive oil for marinade and dressing, and canola oil for frying. And various vinegars can be added to simply cooked or raw vegetable dishes, just a splash at the end to make things sparkle.
Other handy condiments include soybean sauces, nut butters and hot sauce. Some folks like to keep these in the refrigerator — up to you.
Then start building your herb and spice corner. Garlic and powders, whole pepper flakes, ground cinnamon, cayenne, cumin, dried bay leaves, basil and parsley are all essential to cuisine.
Almost everyone craves something sweet at some special moment. When that happens, we recommend a fruity snack, such as an apple with a couple tablespoons of protein-rich peanut butter, which will keep you feeling full for longer. But when you just have to have the sweet stuff, keep a high-quality bar of chocolate with 70% cocoa or higher. Taking a piece and eating it slowly can explore those flavors so that you feel satisfied by the end of the bite. Keep looking good even being locked down. When it is the time to hangout, bloom in your best skirt.
And for the sake of your sanity, don’t forget the lifeblood for someone: coffee or tea if you’re into that.
For the refrigerator
If we are talking about foods that last a long time, count on cultured dairy, fermented veggies and pickles. Greek yogurt can last up to a month if properly sealed in the fridge, pickles can go for months.
Milk has a notoriously short shelf life, but milk alternatives such as soy, cashew and oat milk may last twice as long as conventional cow milk. But if that’s your preference, consider lactose-free, which tastes the same but is more shelf stable.
A reminder is that eaters to use your fresh stuff first to ensure freshness and minimize food waste. But don’t fret if those three-week-old carrots are so dry. Instead, chop them up and add them to a stew. The same goes for many other fresh veggies that tend to go a bit soft or dry in the refrigerator after a few weeks, including celery, potatoes or fennel.
For the elderly or chronically ill
Those who are considered most at risk of infection should focus on getting as many fruits and vegetables into their diet as possible, as these foods pack the most nutrients and antioxidants, which help to fortify your cells against invasion from the stuff that makes you sick. This is where frozen produce is particularly handy for those who want to stock up but can’t get to the store easily or often.
Commonly available canned seafood, including salmon, mackerel, herring and anchovies are recommended, which are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation throughout the body. The tiny bones of these fish are also a good source of calcium, but be careful if you have difficulty swallowing, and crush up the bones first.
Nuts and nut butters, such as almond and hazelnut, are also high in omega-3s and dense in nutrients. Plus, nut butters are great choices especially if someone has difficulty chewing.
In terms of grains and other pantry goods, aim for high-fiber and whole-grain varieties when feasible, such as whole-grain pasta and whole-wheat couscous. When choosing bread, look for one that lists whole-grain flour as the first ingredient, expert says, that bread can also be frozen and toasted for those who don’t eat it daily.
Canned fruits, vegetables and beans are soft to chew and provide lots of fiber (as well as protein in the case of legumes), but they’re often high in sodium or sugar. Make those foods more heart-healthy by giving them a rinse before using to remove added sodium.
It may take the old-fashioned some time to come around, but when they do, they’ll find that some milk alternatives — such as almond milk — are more healthy and economical. Just as rich in calcium and vitamin D as conventional milk, when unopened in the pantry, this type of beverage can last for six to nine months.
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