Quarantine Cooking

The title “Cooking During A Pandemic” sounds like a Sci-Fi novel I would’ve picked up to joke about in college. Funny how the joke would now be on me! Never would I have imagined toilet paper selling out in droves and flour becoming unicorn-level rare.

How are you all managing with the new state of grocery stores? Have you all managed to keep your pantries stocked? Any new recipes you’ve tried or started keeping on hand as a staple? For those using delivery services, are you budgeting more for them?

I try to avoid grocery stores now, so I thought this blog post on Grocery Shopping Once A Month had some great tips! There’s a Quarantine Cooking blog post, too, in case you’re looking for more insight!

If you find yourself spending more on groceries in the current months, try not to be hard on yourself. I think we’ve all earned a few extra snacks for the time being. And, in case anyone didn’t know, Disney released their Churro Recipe - they’re worth every sugar-coated calorie. ;)

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  • Oh boy how this has been a roller coaster...

    We have been limiting ourselves to one shop a week wherever we can. We stick to very specific stores right now. In particular Aldi is still our main stop since they (for some reason) still never seem to be very busy, and Costco for the bigger items since they feel like one of the safest stores to be in right now.

    We tried to use Instacart but the experience was...bad. The delivery was scheduled a week out and then it was cancelled on us the day we were supposed to be getting our stuff.

    We have been using Home Chef lately for our dinners. We were getting really bad about the takeout. This way we don't have to worry about shopping for meals and only have to keep the essentials stocked. Plus we're cooking regularly which is a nice couple activity. We've never been much for sit-down dinners at home but we have been making time for screen-free meals now.

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    • Tobias I tried Shipt instead of Instacart but also didn't like the experience. Their availability seems to go by delivery drivers logged in at the moment, so I'd go to check out and be allowed to schedule, but then be unable to pay because the schedule was no longer available. I ended up clicking as fast as I could to grab a spot, which bypassed tipping the driver - which, in hindsight, probably upset me more than it should have since I had cash. But I didn't try again after that.

      I may have to take another look at meal prep options. That sounds like a great opportunity for quality time.

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    • casner
    • Now retired, and figuring out transitions
    • casner
    • 6 mths ago
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    We have gone from weekly Costco runs to 3-4 week intervals. I was noticing that food prices are up quite a bit though, and some others have noticed it also. Budgets are great for pointing this out, but it looks like it will be a while at the higher category amount. The budget may never get back down to where it was.

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    • casner We've been doing a lot of pantry clean-out cooking, using the canned goods everyone forgot about 😅. Those price increases haven't hit the budget as hard yet, but I'm expecting it in the next month or so (the pantry is getting a little thin).

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  • I mostly send my teens to the stores with a list. Yesterday I went and did a Mom PowerShop, and it went fine. The big long-term changes that I've made include keeping a more stocked pantry (I have always been a use-it-all-up-and-then-shop-again type of gal); and using sourdough starter instead of commercial yeast. I bake all of our bread, and while I have no interest in making actual fancy sourdough bread, the starter can be used in place of yeast in any recipe. It's been a game-changer, and I love it!

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      • casner
      • Now retired, and figuring out transitions
      • casner
      • 6 mths ago
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      Amy H I had a sourdough starter going for a year or so before the pandemic, and have been using it a lot. Trying out some of the new sourdough recipes that have flooded FB since the stay at home started.

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    • Amy H I think if you're using sourdough starter, it automatically counts as fancy. :)

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      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
      • 3 mths ago
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      Matthew I think if you're baking your own bread it already counts as fancy.  I am a bit jealous because I've been hearing all about people taking their own bread, but my body doesn't like gluten much and my fiance has celiac, so I can't try them :(  I just love fresh baked bread though... :(

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      • Yes I can
      • yesican2020
      • 3 mths ago
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      PhysicsGal  I also find I can't eat too much gluten without a tummy ache.  I gave all almost all flour and sugar for about a year and then discovered my body had stopped liking me eating it.  I still eat it but only small amount

      Here's a bread recipe I make which my body does like - but I suspect still won't work for coeliac partner. I make it with 1 C bread flour, 1 C rolled oats and 1C wholemeal spelt and have no systems at all

      https://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/easy-little-bread-recipe.html

      I've also been baking full bread flour foccaccia during lockdown (as we're calling it in Australia) and I absolutely adore it. But can't eat too much of it.

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      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
      • 3 mths ago
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      Yes I can THANKS!!!!!!  I'll give it a try.  

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  • I'm in the "breakfast for dinner" crowd.  

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      • casner
      • Now retired, and figuring out transitions
      • casner
      • 6 mths ago
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      MXMOM Pancakes for dinner!

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    • MXMOM I admit, this has become my default for any day where I don't specifically have plans in advance to make anything else. 😅

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  • Toilet paper is actually the one thing that we *haven't* had to hunt for! My partner bought a MASSIVE case of TP (probably from Amazon) 2 years ago, before we even met. We are *just now* starting to come to the end of that. 😂

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  • My partner has handled most of the grocery shopping and cooking the last few months since I was too sick to have the energy for that (getting much better now, though!). He tried doing Instacart as much as possible (sadly, our local grocery store location doesn't have curbside yet) but we'd inevitably forget something and then have to go across the street to the store anyway. Haven't been doing a lot of baking, and we already had a decent amount of flour, so no shortages there. The main thing we've run out of is pasta, but that's getting better now. Before I got sick, I'd learned some pretty quick and easy ways to elevate regular cheap Ramen noodles, so we keep the stuff on hand (vegetable broth, Thai chili sauce, minced garlic and ginger, fish sauce, green onions, etc) and make that pretty often. It's super easy to make and really tasty and filling! 🍜

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    • Violet Rain Glad you're feeling better! Ramen is a very hot commodity in my house - we keep a variety (from pre-packaged to raw noodles, to refrigerated noodles and more) along with the fixings you mentioned. Also, lots of rice!  

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  • I just started using  the meal planning app I used to use a couple of years ago, called Mealime, because I was getting kind of sick of my own cooking, which is good but I get kinda repetitive if I don't have outside influence.  You can chose from recipes and it puts together your shopping list for you,  so it's a great way to try new recipes and mix up your cooking if you are also stuck in a run.

    My garden is doing great and having my chickens, garden and a couple of bags of beans and rice are a really nice feeling, although I'd rather not have to live on beans and rice for long.  But you never know these days what the next day brings.  Right now there are crazy wildfires in CO and in CA near my family, and my sis is packing because they may need to evacuate soon.  2020 is literally hell.

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    • PhysicsGal I said earlier that 2020 is setting the bar pretty low for 2021. Hoping your family stays safe and things turn around for you soon!

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      • PhysicsGal
      • Nerdy female homo sapien
      • physicsgal
      • 3 mths ago
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      Faness Thanks!  I'm all like, I gotta invent that time machine I always wanted to invent so we can just go to 2021 already...it can't be worse...famous last words...

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  • Faness  I'm coming late to the party as I've just seen this thread.  Meal planning has definitely been part of my lockdown (which is what we're calling it in Australia) experience.   I live alone, but have done well this year and last planning meals to help me eat better and spend less on groceries. 

    It has also been part of my YNAB budgeting experience  as I'm eating from my freezer and not ordering as much takeaway, as well as saving a bit more money on groceries as I'm not tracking my spending.  Dining out has also gone to $0, as we've only had a few weeks of open restaurants in June from late March to now.    I started YNAB in May after many years without it and am using this time to work on my budget and finances. 

    I have less work and income, but some government subsidies and lots of savings opportunities - almost $0 on car share usage fees and public transport and dining out.  I've also had a few windfalls with cancellations and refunds on theatre tickets and a planned trip. 

    Its winter here in Melbourne so I'm making home made pizzas and breads, big pots of stew and soups.  

    There's been two periods of shortage - at the beginning and when Melbourne announced the resumption of Stage 4 lockdown.  The original one quickly got back on track other than TP and flour, and the most recent shortages have impacted on some fresh meat and veges.   I bought a 12kg bag of bakers flour and had it freighted to me, $20 for the flour and $20 for the freight!! But this may last few for years if it stays fresh in my freezer!  I'm also using a few more frozen veges.

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  • Ok this question just popped into my head based on Yes I can storing flour in the freezer. How do you keep bags of potatoes for going bad/growing roots? I keep them in a dark spot but we don’t eat that many potatoes but sometimes I do buy a bag rather than individual. 

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    • MXMOM We do eat a lot of potatoes and still have them go off before the bag is finished, even with keeping them in a dark place in the basement.

      I just found that you can freeze them if you parboil them, which I’m going to try probably next weekend.

      https://saramoulton.com/2017/11/kitchen-shrink-can-i-freeze-potatoes/

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      • Yes I can
      • yesican2020
      • 3 wk ago
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      MXMOM no idea from me, but I’m reading the link from Tomato Tamale  thanks!.  That would work great with roast potatoes which tend to be crispier if you parboil first!

      I usually walk to the supermarket and tram/train to the markets so don’t get tempted by the big bags. However I do have a granny trolley in the garage which I’ve been meaning to pull out.  

      Incidentally, I was reading about freezing caramelised onions just the other day so could justify a big bag of onions. 

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    • Yes I can Since we brought it up, how is the flour storage going? Did you package it in smaller bags in your freezer? If so, are they staying fresh? Notice any issues?

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      • Yes I can
      • yesican2020
      • 3 wk ago
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      Faness I think I’ve used about half of it and it looks / smells fine...but what does off flour look or smell like? It’s still in the double paper bag and now in actually in one of the crispers in the fridge.

      I don’t think I’ll be devastated if I don’t use all 12 kts (26.4 pounds) as I paid so little for it and it was such a star performer during our four month lockdown (July to Nov) - a tougher one than the earlier apr/ may one as we had an aggressive second wave. 

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      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 3 wk ago
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      Yes I can I use these things to freeze soup and spaghetti sauce. I put them on a baking sheet and then once they’re frozen I pop them in a freezer bag. You really need 2 for a meal size bowl of soup but they’re easy to use and reusable. 

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      • Yes I can
      • yesican2020
      • 3 wk ago
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      MXMOM they look good. I’ll keep an eye out for them. I’ve got one of those silicone muffin tins so use that to freeze things and then take out and put into other containers. I’m thinking to use that when I try the caramelised onions, as the article warns that they leave some ‘savoury’ flavour. 

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    • Yes I can look up Souper Cubes. They're pretty cool. You can get them on Amazon, but don't know about shipping to Australia...

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      • Yes I can
      • yesican2020
      • 3 wk ago
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      Move Light Sound Life oh excellent, thanks.  Looks like they also sell through Amazon Australia, so no extra shipping.  However, my budget hasn't stretched to creating a wish list yet....even though I did buy a phone power bank on Saturday. 

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    • Yes I can I know the feeling. We had a wish list for over a year before putting money in it. There were so many other priorities! 

      When it did come time to get things, I would say those Souper Cubes have already paid for themselves in storing homemade soups and broth while allowing us to use the rest of our freezer still. The cans are much more expensive, and really we've just made a bunch of chicken broth/stock and tomato soup. We also stuff various leftovers into them to provide variety later and ensure food doesn't spoil. The containers we were using took up nearly double the space in the freezer, so we could never have much in there at a time. Good luck!

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      • Yes I can
      • yesican2020
      • 3 wk ago
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      Move Light Sound Life Snap. I have just made a big batch of chicken stock / broth this evening.  I freeze it in  old takeaway food containers, which stack okay but apparently aren’t meant to be reheated, so yes agree that the souper cubes might be better. 

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    • Yes I can I like that they're basically big ice cubes. We often make 8 cups of broth or 6 cups of soup, freeze them, then pop them into bags so the molds can receive whatever comes next. It's like having a bunch of bricks of food - no wasted space.

      So, to your point about reheating, they certainly can go in the oven, but I've never reheated in them because the food doesn't stay in them long. I thought about baking little lasagnas in them and then freezing, but haven't tried that yet. 

      Your way sounds just as good, and it seems to work for you, so don't be tempted by the fancy kitchen tools (my weakness, which is luckily balanced by my natural anxiousness when shopping/spending money)!

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      • MXMOM
      • MXMOM
      • 3 wk ago
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      Yes I can I got those in Walmart (Canada) in the baking section. 

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  • Move Light Sound Life said:
    freeze them, then pop them into bags so the molds can receive whatever comes next. It's like having a bunch of bricks of food - no wasted space.

     Exactly. I have ziploc bags of soup, spaghetti sauce, gravy. All those things that are not enough for a family meal but too much to throw out. Especially the spaghetti sauce. Sometimes I also freeze that bit of leftover spaghetti. 
    now I just have to figure out what to do with hamburger buns. They get freezer burn easily but the standard 8 pack of buns usually ends up with 2 orphans. 

    Like 1
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