Making Food Staples Last

By Jenna Shelton

As much of the United States remains under an order of sheltering-in-place, limitations on store occupancy and reduced hours of operations, people are seeking ways to be shelf-stable.

Foods which are canned or jarred, dried or dehydrated have come to the foundation and forefront of the ability to fix a large variety of hardy, comforting meals. Normally, the spring season is the time of many farmer’s markets, but not with today’s current situation; social distancing will not allow for these to be available for fresh veggies and produce. So those old canned goods in the backs of our cupboards are coming back in view for our meal planning. The grocery stores are experiencing much higher consumption of canned goods, leaving empty shelves.

In today’s uncertain times, it is important to bring the mix of canned goods, rice, lentils, and shelf-stable milks, along with the important condiments such as oil, lemons, garlic, mayonnaise, spices, sauces, olives and pickles. By not depending on the food that may spoil quickly, those normally bought and stored from in the refrigerated sections, and applying more use of the pantry, the need to shop and be possibly exposed to the coronavirus can be lessened. The best way to extend the shelf-stable goods is to identify a base of products, which can be made a few different ways and which one can add variations to make several days worth of meals from.

With the restricted shopping rules not making the regular shopping schedule, people need to be more mindful in identifying secondary uses for ingredients and find new ways to cook or even clean or make homemade cleaning products with them. A way to stretch the ingredients and find new uses is to utilize websites like SuperCook and applications that allow one to enter what products are on hand and then will inform what recipes could be made with those items.

Another way the current uncertainty of available ingredients on the next shopping venture is driving the consumers to look more strongly at food waste. Where in the past with an overabundance of fresh veggies and product, many offcuts were disposed of versus being used for the next meal. Examples are cuts of meats or vegetables and fruit that are normally thrown away. These previously thrown away parts of the product can still offer a lot of good flavor and many needed fresh nutrients by adding to a soup or other recipe.

Social distancing cooks are taking on meal prepping, baking and other foods they previously considered too much of an effort to take on since they have the free time. Many are sharing these ambitious projects via social media and some are even doing cooking demonstrations. Netflix has launched “Chef & My Fridge” with many celebrity chefs taking to Twitter, offering cooking advice.

The basis of the chef’s input is directly based on the ingredients you identify from your fridge or pantry. The chef will provide a variety of suggestions and even simplified recipes to be successful with only these ingredients. Another idea is to mix the various spices in the cabinet to offer a variety of flavors to avoid food that always tastes the same.

If you are able to stock up on enough food to last several weeks, it should be done with a meal plan in mind. Do not buy a huge amount of one item if there is a possibility that it will not be used. It is important not to hoard or overstock your home and allow the available goods to go further to sustain the whole community, especially the elderly who have even greater limitations on their shopping capabilities. If by chance you do end up with an overabundance of any food items, remember the food banks are in dire need of donations.

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