The COVID Diaries, Day 4: Food

Food is likely the third biggest pandemic-related concern around right now, right after financial catastrophe and dying a horrible death. We’ve found a few ways to address the growing problem.

In our city, along with many others, the grocery stores are getting hit hard by panic-buying and food hoarding, which is resulting in a lot of empty shelves and lack of basic goods. In addition to that, there’s also the added health risk from exposure when shopping, and the possibility of social unrest. Plenty of problems to deal with!

We always keep large quantities of our basic food products around, so the only thing we’ve gone out of our way to stock up on so far is pasta and tomato sauce. We always have large sacks of things like flour, rice, and lentils on hand. Because we have limited storage space in our 400-square-foot apartment, I try to limit the number of different supplies I keep on hand, choosing to make things with similar ingredients wherever possible. For example, I used to have many different muffin recipes, but I only have one now, which I make minor changes to for variety.

Cutting back on meal variety seems to be very helpful in keeping us out of the grocery stores. Normally we have a huge amount of variety and shop at several different grocery stores every week, but we’ve curtailed this substantially, shooting for one visit to one store per week, and I’m now making larger quantities of fewer different dishes during my weekend meal prep. This weekend I’m making lentil stew, spaghetti and meatballs, chili, and pot pie, whereas normally I would make another couple of dishes.

Creative cooking and substitutions will also play a role in maintaining great food throughout this situation, particularly if panic-buyers continue to clean out supplies as they have been doing. I can generally cook something good out of whatever I can get my hands on at the grocery store, and this is a really good skill to have in this situation.

Finally, I really recommend having a great hearty soup recipe to fall back on. It’s not only a really cheap meal with lots of flexible ingredient variations, but really easy to eat if you do get coronavirus and are coughing a lot. Here’s my go-to lentil stew recipe:

Steph’s Red Lentil Stew

  • 1/4 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 potato, chopped (peel on or off per your preference)
  • 2 cups chopped vegetables (good examples: bok choy, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, really almost anything)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Hungarian paprika
  • A little bit of chili powder
  • 1 cup dried red lentils
  • 6-8 cups vegetable broth (I don’t measure it, I just fill the pot straight from the tap)

In a large pot, fry the onion, garlic, potatoes, and vegetables in oil until browned. Add the spices, lentils, and broth, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 25-30 minutes on medium-low heat. I find this usually makes about six meal-sized bowls of stew.


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