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Tips on Cooking During Self-Quarantine

Tips on Cooking During Self-Quarantine

Tips on Cooking During Self-Quarantine

If you’ve found yourself spending more time at home in an effort to help stop the spread of COVID-19, cooking from scratch will likely become a part of your new at-home routine. Don’t let it intimidate you. With a well-stocked pantry and a bit of knowledge under your belt, you can whip up super easy, healthy meals for yourself and your family without the fear of a major Pinterest fail.


Check out these easy tips and tricks for stretching your dollar and making the most out of your pantry.


Make a Plan

plan meals for self-quarantine Image provided by @micheile

Cooking in times where every dollar needs to be accounted for means making the absolute most out of the ingredients you have on-hand. And the best way to avoid waste is to make a plan of what you’re going to eat for the week. A message board or magnetic calendar for your fridge can help you keep inventory and schedule meals. If you’re cooking for a household, plan for prepping 3-4 weeknight meals.


Leftovers are a real thing, and if you’re not used to cooking from scratch, quantities can get out of hand real quick. Keep in mind whether or not your family likes to eat leftovers. If they do, plan on 2 servings per person for each meal, so you can reheat leftovers for lunches the following day.


Meal Prep

meal prep during self-quarantine Image provided by @creativegangsters

Meal prepping is having a moment. With this Instagram-worthy health trend, you can save some real money if you meal prep with intention. Plan the meals you’re going to make ahead of time, then prep ingredients accordingly to minimize waste and maximize your time.


Cooking grains or meats in batches can make weeknight meals fast and painless. Steam rice or quinoa in larger batches at the start of the week to pair with different veggies, proteins, and seasonings for a quick healthy base to a variety of meals. You can also batch-cook proteins, so long as they’re eaten within 3-4 days.


If you stocked up on meat in preparation for staying homebound, consider cooking meat in larger batches and freezing for super quick weeknight meals. Cooked meat is safe in the freezer for up to 3 months and reheats easily.


Stock Up, Don’t Hoard

Shopping During Coronavirus Image provided by @belart84

COVID-19 has us all preparing for some extended time spent at home. But stocking up on food and supplies can quickly turn to hoarding if you let fear dictate your actions. Instead of buying 10 flats of tuna and 6-months worth of dry beans, stock up on items that will give you variety in your diet and flexibility in your budget.


Canned goods are great when freezer and refrigerator space is limited. However, don’t forget the importance of fresh ingredients like produce, veggies, and dairy. With coronavirus on the rise, it’s important to keep your immune system strong with nutrient-dense foods that will give you a vitamin boost. Fresh leafy greens are packed with more nutrient density than their high-sodium canned alternatives. Fresh or frozen meats offer more cooking options than tinned. So before you pack your pantry with cans of processed foods, first stock your fridge and freezer.


Dry grains, beans, legumes, and seeds are easy forms of fiber and protein that offer shelf stability for years. But focus on variety so that you don’t get sick of eating the same thing every day and you can give your body a more diverse intake of nutrients.


When stocking up, stick to what you can eat in a couple of weeks, rather than hoarding a six-month supply. This allows you to maintain diversity of nutrients in your diet, and it also leaves enough for your community to get the food and supplies they need as well.


During a public health crisis like the corona pandemic, a little thoughtfulness goes a long way.


Know Your Expiration Dates

fresh produce for self-quarantine Image provided by @sshootz

Stocking up on food means increasing your potential for spoilage. Keeping an eye on expiration dates will help you know what items should be prepared sooner rather than later. When it comes to the freezer and pantry, use the rule of “first in, first out” to rotate your stock so that you’re reducing the likelihood of spoilage and waste. It’s also important to know which foods don’t necessarily go bad after they expire.


Did you know that expiration dates actually refer to a food’s quality, not it’s safety? It’s important to know what each of the following terms mean so that you aren’t wasting perfectly good food once the date expires:


  1. Best if used by refers to the date by which a food or beverage will be at it’s best quality or flavor.
  2. Use by refers to the last date recommended by the USDA for use of food at its peak quality. This date does not refer to safety, only quality — with the exception of infant formula.
  3. Sell by is a date that informs the store how long a product should be available on store shelves, but again, it’s not an indicator of safety, only quality.


Aside from baby formula, most foods will last much longer than their use-by dates when stored properly. Food in the stages of spoilage will develop and off odor, flavor, or texture. If the foods develop signs of spoilage like mold, an off-putting smell, or staleness, it’s time to toss.

Staying home for extended periods has its ups and downs, but it can be a great opportunity to develop a new skill or habit, improve your nutrition, and check in with yourself and your family. Eating a home-cooked meal together can create bonds, improve relationships, and bring a little joy to your life. Share your favorite quarantine recipes on our Facebook page!