Admits the COVID-19 crisis, many restaurants are only doing take out and the grocery aisles are emptier than usual. It can be difficult to eat healthy, especially on a budget.
Thankfully there are plenty of recipes available online and YouTube tutorials for you to try out if you want to experiment.
In this blog post, we want to help you through this difficult time so you can cook great meals without breaking the bank.
For most people, money is an important factor. Many people are of work in this pandemic and it is a major factor as to what they will be eating.
One of the most important aspects of eating healthy is to plan ahead and budget your meals. Without proper planning, it’s easy to slip up and order takeout or jump for a more expensive option.
If you ae not used to cooking for yourself or for others, don’t worry too much about ingredient measurements. You can always look up recipes online or in cookbooks, but these recipes are best accomplished by eye and taste. This can be hard to begin with if you’re inexperienced, but as you cook more, you’ll learn how to gauge ingredients better.
Baking requires more exact measurements and we don’t recommend being so cavalier with your ingredients. If you’re making cookies, even a little extra or too little of something can drastically change the taste.
Getting that out of the way, here are the essentials to ensure that your COVID cooking is seamless.
Everybody needs some basics in their household. Things like dried pasta, rice, soups, beans, canned tuna and canned meat can generally be kept in your home for an extended period of time. Your staple foods can be added to bulk another recipe or can be wiped up in a pinch on there own after a long day or if you don’t feel like putting much effort into dinner.
Meat can be considered a staple because most prepared meals have some sort of meat in them. Some of the usual meats you find include bacon, hamburger, and smoked sausage or ham. You can freeze hamburger paddies and take them out of the freezer to thaw in the fridge the night before you cook. Bacon can be frozen, but it usually keeps for a long time in the fridge. Check the best-before dates and ask your deli attendant about the longevity of smoked meats and sausages in the fridge.
Sauces are often what make or break a meal. They prevent the other ingredients from drying out during cooking, and add lots of flavour. They are essential for many dishes that require mixing and heating in cast-iron skillets. Sauces usually come in cans that you can store in your cupboard.
The most common is, of course, tomato sauces which comes in pureed, crushed, diced, strained, or whole for. A lot of tomato sauces comes with seasoning added so ensure that you pick up one that you like. There are also cream-based sauces like alfredo and others, which can be used for all types of pasta.
Chicken, beef, and vegetable broths can be used in many dishes as well. These sauces can also be made from cubes or powders. Always have a bottle or two of your favourite olive oil, hot sauce or salad dressings handy to add a little bit of flavour.
Herbs and Spices
Salt and pepper are the obvious starters in terms of spices but there are plenty of other options that can help liven up a meal. Dried herbs like thyme, basil, and oregano can add a lot of taste to a dish. Powdered garlic is also essential, and rosemary is useful. Some people like to add parsley and smoked paprika for additional flavour. Cayenne and chilli powder comes in handy for lots of dishes if you want to give things a little bit of a kick.
Cheese may be hard to get in the grocery stores but if you can add some dried or grated cheese like parmesan or feta, it can make any dish tastier.
If you use garlic or celery salts, keep in mind that they will be adding to the salt content, so use table salt sparingly so as not to over season. Some grinder-type containers of pepper-lemon-dill mixtures are good to have for seafood casseroles.
Putting It All Together
While you cook your pasta or rice, you can also fry or cooking your meat. If you’re a cooking novice, take it slow and don’t try to do too many things at once. Focus on the task at hand. Your food will turn out better and you’ll be less stressed.
Simply mix the meat and pasta or rice with the desired sauce in a pan or oven-suitable container. For some extra flavour, add any cheese on breadcrumbs on top for melting or crisping, and pop in the oven. Follow the cooking instructions but as a guide, most dishes require to be cooked between 250 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 or 30 minutes.
Some Additional Ideas
With COVID-19 you can’t always make fancy meals with all the ingredients you require. Sometimes you just need to use what you have and make do. While some might just throw up their hands, you just need to be a little more creative with your recipes.
If you stick to the staple food groups and find some great ideas online, there is no limit to what you can do. You might just have to substitute something that is hard to find with something you already have.