While the coronavirus crisis persists we should all minimise trips out of the house. Government advice is that we should try to go food shopping just once a week, and only one adult at a time.
This might make it difficult to get our fresh fruit, vegetables and fish, so how can you and your family continue to eat healthily?
In fact you should be ably to maintain a healthy, nutritious diet with items you normally keep in your cupboard and freezer. In fat you might be surprised to find what you have stashed away in the form of soups, beans and pulses, enough to supply a broad and nutritious diet if you apply a bit of creativity.
Priya Tew is an award-winning dietician known for her no-nonsense approach to nutrition on BBC 1’s Eat Well For Less. She tells us:
“While we’re self-isolating and cooking with what we have in, it’s still important to think about getting that balance in your diet. So eat fruit, vegetables, protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats – but you might have to be a bit more creative in how you do that.”
Ransack the cupboard
Search the back of your cupboards for long-forgotten tins of beans, pulses and soups. You can make a tinned soup go further by using it as the basis of a stew, using the beans, pulses and whatever vegetables you have available.
“Nuts and dried fruit are good supplies to have in, they’re great for snacking and provide an energy boost,” says Priya Tew. “Lentils are an easy protein source and so is nut butter. Both keep well in the cupboard.”
If you’re out of stock cubes, or herbs and spices, kitchen staples such as Marmite, ketchup and chilli sauce can add heat and flavour to your cooking.
The Big Freeze
A freezer allows you to spend a long session cooking bulk meals which you can then store for later use. Priya Tew’s advice is: “Always have a loaf of sliced bread in your freezer, and some milk. Frozen veg is easy to use, as it’s already chopped, and Quorn mince keeps well frozen. Just add a tin of tomatoes and a stock cube and you’ve got a nutritious meal with pasta.”
HINT: Soups, sauces and stews are easy to freeze. You can also freeze most fruits and vegetables so long as you remember to wash, dry and divide into handy portions first.
Meat, fish, raw dough, breads and cakes can also be frozen, but did you know you can also freeze butter, shelled nuts, flour, grated cheese and raw eggs? (Crack the eggs into containers before freezing them – cooked eggs should not be frozen).
Fruit and veg will usually keep for up to a year in the freezer, but it’s best to use foods containing fish, fresh diary or raw or lightly cooked eggs within a month.
There are of course certain foodstuffs that won’t freeze successfully, such as blocks of cheese, yoghurt, low-fat dairy products and cooked pasta (though you may be able to freeze pasta if you undercook it, then cook through when reheating).
It’s important to defrost food fully in the bottom of the fridge overnight or in a microwave on the defrost setting.
HINT: Blanching most vegetables will keep them at their best. To do this, drop them into boiling hot water, then immediately into iced water before drying and freezing. Herbs and leafy greens can also be chopped, blanched and frozen this way.
“Get some basics in,” says Priya Tew, “But plan ahead. A really good idea is to write out a list of maybe fourteen meals that you could cook from scratch that use store cupboard ingredients so you don’t have to keep going to the shop every few days to buy fresh produce. Look at what you will actually need for a couple of weeks based on your plan and just buy that. Include freezer meals for added convenience.”
Change it up
“Tinned fish is a great staple to have in the cupboard,” says Priya Tew. “But if you find the supermarket shelves are empty of favourites, try tinned sardines and tuna, and less common frozen vegetables like sprouts and edamame beans.”
The final tip – if you’re faced with limited choices and don’t know what to do with the food you have, try Googling the ingredients to find suitable recipes, and you’ll soon come up with nutritious options to keep you going until things are back to normal!
See also: Exercise to Stay Healthy During Lockdown