Corona Cooking: How to eat and shop when shelves are empty
No toilet paper. No Pasta. No worries.
Ok of course no worries is an understatement and I am by no means undervaluing the seriousness of this situation. That said, I do find it weird that even though you can’t get toilet paper, pasta or beans, fresh fruit and veg are A PLENTY. I’m yet to have an issue getting fresh food (although it’s looking like that may change) but for now it’s ok. I normally stick to shopping at farmer’s markets and smaller grocers as I find they have fresher food with a more traceable origin. And during this crisis, that hasn’t changed. I’m still shopping at the Bondi Farmer’s Market, Harris Farm, Umu and The Health Emporium.
I’ve always been very thrifty with food, using every last stem, leaf and peel – because I like to approach food and diet with a minimalist attitude, not meaning eating minimal food but rather buying and eating foods that spark joy, whatever that may be. The funny thing is when you do this, you never end up chucking out food. Legit. I never chuck out food. EVERYTHING gets used.
So in this cray cray corona time, I’m giving you a first instalment (there is plenty more I have in me) of how to eat, shop and approach food in this time of weirdness, when for the first time ever there may not be all your first food choices available, or perhaps you are just trying to save money or maybe you’ve just suddenly realised how you need to de-clutter your attitude to food and groceries.
MAKE SAUCES FROM SCRAPS
Yes you can go out and bulk buy pestos, sauces and dressings but there’s really no need. I bet if I looked at your pantry right now I could make at least three different kinds of sauces. And the good thing about this in a corona frenzy is that you can make something boring taste amazing with just a homemade sauce… Elevate toast (from pre-frozen bread) with a paleo beetroot cauliflower hummus. Transform steamed greens and canned tuna with a homemade hempseed pesto. Take roasted vegetables and quinoa to a new level with a creamy tahini dressing with just two basic ingredients (tahini and lemon juice).
And the scraps… This is the one skill I wish I could teach everyone – you don’t need to follow recipes exactly – there is always room to flare and in fact I barely ever follow recipes exactly, even my own recipes! For a pesto for example, I actually love making a radish leave pesto – you know those greens attached to a bunch of radishes… Do not chuck them out! And in terms of swapping… In my radish leaf pesto recipe, I had run out of garlic and hemp seeds, so instead I used spring onions and pinenuts – it changes the flavour a little of course but just as delicious and more variation and less waste – win.
Some other of my go to sauces are classic satay and a vegan tartare.
GET GREENS THAT LAST AND GET MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK
Honestly in this situation, fuck bags of spinach! The bags are useless and non recyclable, the spinach often wilts in them because it’s starved of oxygen, and I don’t know about you but one bag of spinach lasts about one meal for me – one salad, or one side of cooked spinach with my eggs. This is not a great output to input ratio and would require you to fill your entire fridge with bags of spinach to be able to feed yourself.
Other greens and vegetables on the other hand, different story. One bunch of kale lasts me at least four salads (and I like ALOT of kale, for most people it would probably be closer to 6 or 7 meals) – but it needs to be massaged properly to eat in salad – don’t commit #kalecrime number 1 by eating it raw – you’ll be chewing for so long the whole corona crisis will be over before you’ve even finished your salad.
But by all means, kale is delish when cooked too, I love sautéing mine in a little butter, ghee or olive oil – and again, it doesn’t shrink quite as much as spinach so a little goes a long way. And it’s so much more sturdy and substantial than slimy spinach.
Cabbage aka the most underrated vegetable on the planet – it got a little cooler when sauerkraut became so popular but honestly I don’t know why more people don’t use cabbage. To start with it is so cheap and I’m not kidding, one small cabbage can make enough slaw to feed a party of 10, probably even 20.
But just like kale, it needs to be prepared properly. It is honestly such a great option for a raw salad when you don’t want greens or spinach or rocket or lettuce (if anyone still eats iceberg lettuce than you have no hope in life just saying, at least eat cos lettuce – it’s far more flavourful, and has more to bring to the table than just crunchy water.)
The method I use involves two elements that soften these veggies and allow them to soak up flavour, taste better and digest more smoothly. It involves using vinegar and salt to break down the cells by drawing out the water, and a little elbow grease to really get that kale and cabbage broken down and ready to eat. I don’t have a recipe on my site to link to a step by step, but I do go through it in this episode of Lush Eats.
AND it gets even better, you can prep both cabbage and kale in this way… And keep in the fridge for a few days and they actually taste better and are just as green and crisp – unlike spinach or lettuce which once dressed, goes wilted and brown within a matter of hours.
CANNED FISH DOESN’T HAVE TO BE GROSS
There’s no doubt more and more people are going to be forced to turn to canned food a bit more. But it doesn’t have to be that bad. If you are buying tuna there are a few small tips that will take you from fish foe to fish friend.
Don’t by the tuna in oil unless it is extra virgin olive oil – they use low quality inflammatory vegetable oils to pack those tunas and I highly doubt anyone’s health needs to be in a worse state right now! So either buy the tuna in olive oil (my fave although I have to admit most often it is the more pricey option) or get the tuna in spring water but be careful with this one, it literally tastes like cardboard. If you are buying the spring water tuna make sure that before you serve it you mix in a bowl with your own good olive oil (or hemp seed oil), or even sometimes I like to mix it with some good quality mayo (I only use either homemade or undivided food co), or I mix it with a big spoonful of Greek or coconut yoghurt and 1/2 tsp dijon mustard to make it creamy – thank me later.
Unspoken fish hack: I like Fish 4 Eva tuna in olive oil because it tastes totally out of this world, but I also know that it’s a bit steep in price for many. Here’s the thing, unless you use my tuna tips above, try a different fish! For some reason the other kinds of canned fish are always cheaper and are actually MORE nutrient dense, more sustainable and cost less – seriously I don’t know why people always have to run to tuna and the other better fish get no attention.
Since these fish are smaller (a lot smaller than tuna) there is less time for bioaccumulation of ocean waste and pollutants. So if I were you, do exactly what I do – I load up on wild sardines and mackerel. I do like the Fish 4 Eva versions but you can get great cheap options at woolies – John West do wild sardines in extra virgin olive oil and mackerel in brine (which is just salty water) – these fish are wild, and come without the vegetable oil and you get the brain boosting benefits of omega 3s in far greater quantities than boring old tuna.
While I’m at it, this is a good time to overhaul your attitudes to food – I recommend this blog post as in this time it will likely become very obvious how much food you buy or eat that you actually don’t need, doesn’t spark joy or you just eat or buy for no reason. When I changed my mindset towards this… Everything changed!
Please DM me with any questions you may have! I know for a lot of people this is the first time you’ve had to cook so much and it can be very confusing and overwhelming. But I firmly believe anyone can learn how to prepare amazing tasty food that makes you feel on top of the world.
I see so many people making basic food mistakes which leave them with tasteless food, which would leave anyone running to the junk food! Nobody wants to tasteless food, especially not me. Mark my words, anyone can learn to cook a few really tasty things.
I always say to people – I don’t love cooking… I love eating! And to enjoy eating, it requires good food!