If I’m honest, I didn’t think a pandemic food plan would be a necessity over the next few months. Hoards of panic buyers proved me wrong, contributing to a food shortage that has made food shopping difficult. You might have noticed the same thing – empty supermarket shelves, a lack of basic foods, and uncertainty about how accessible food will become.
Whilst I think that everything will go back to normal soon and there shouldn’t be too much of an increase in difficulty for those who need to self-isolate, it’s still a good idea to have a plan whilst supermarkets work on the food shortages and more information becomes clear on the virus. Here’s what I recommend, based on my own methods and the research I’ve done already.
First of all… Don’t stockpile!
Stockpiling absolutely should not be part of your pandemic food plan. It’s stockpiling that has got us into the situation where we are now, and it’s not a good one.
Although the natural urge is to buy as many non-perishable items as possible, doing so harms others. Suddenly there’s a shortage of items like pasta and bread, and now the people that need it can’t access it. People have been witnessed literally fighting over the last loaf, which frankly is ridiculous. Reports have even surfaced of people buying baby formula instead of milk because it “goes off less quickly”, which of course leads to newborns without food. Not great.
Instead of stockpiling, shop as normal but add a couple of extra non-perishable items each week just in case. No need to go mad though – a few cans is fine, but you don’t need the supermarket’s entire stock.
Don’t shop online unless you need to
There are two reasons for this, the first being pretty obvious – if more people start shopping online then supermarkets will struggle to cater for this increase. This will lead to a real strain on the service, and people who really need those online food shops (the elderly, the disabled, and those who are self-isolating) will have a harder time accessing food.
The other reason is that you’re way less likely to get a selection of food items that will work together. With stock disappearing so quickly, many people are finding that their online orders turn up missing quite a few products. If you’re shopping in the supermarket then you can have a browse for the alternative that works best, however with an online shop you either get an alternative that they’ve chosen for you or simply nothing at all. This will make it harder for meal planning so I advise doing the shop in person if you can. Try and go very early or late at night for fewer people and more selection.
Utilise your freezer
One thing I’ve noticed during the outbreak so far is that everyone has been reaching for the non-perishable items. Locating pasta, rice, sauces, and tinned soup has become harder now but it makes sense – these are all food items that will last pretty much indefinitely (or unless until we’re back to normal). Whilst stock for these items are dwindling, fresh items are mostly ever-present.
I think people are missing a trick here – yes, you could buy a load of pasta jars but you’re risking a) a negative impact on your diet, and b) nothing left in that section by the time you get to the supermarket. There are also people out there that probably need pre-made food more than you do.
Instead, take advantage of the plentiful fresh vegetables and make your own. You can easily do this with sauces, soups, and even full meals – just buy the fresh ingredients, batch cook it all at home, then store it in the freezer. It’s a lot cheaper and healthier, plus there’s more likelihood that the ingredients will be in stock. Take my vegetable couscous – simple to make and you can batch cook portions to freeze for later use.
Keep your meal plan flexible
If you know me then you’ll know that I love a good meal plan. Which is why I’ve felt quite anxious about this whole situation. The thought of finding my meal plan obsolete fills me with dread, to be quite honest.
For your pandemic food plan I’d recommend including meals with leeway in case you can’t get all the ingredients. Don’t try and make ingredient–heavy meals as these will just let you down (now’s not the time to experiment with duck l’orange or a meal that only works with a very specific type of pasta). Recipes where you can easily swap different things in, like a stir fry for example – you can use pretty much any meat, any vegetables, and any type of noodles or rice.
Keep your store cupboard stocked up with essentials
I’ve actually written a post about this for A Crazy Family, but for our current situation it’s become really important. Having versatile store cupboard ingredients to hand really helps when you’re at a loss for what to cook, and can turn a mediocre meal into something wonderful.
As well as herbs and spices you should also replenish your stock of flour, sugar, egg alternatives, and yeast – all useful items should you find yourself needing to bake your own bread or snacks. This is a great method to add to your pandemic food plan.
Grow your own ingredients
If you’ve been wanting to get into gardening then there couldn’t be a better time than now. I’m hoping that the outbreak won’t last over a long period, however it’s good to be prepared just in case. Gardening is good for this as you’ve got your own supply of food should the shortages continue long-term. A kit like this Vegetable Seed Box Bumper Pack would be a great investment right now!
I’d definitely recommend growing your own herbs on a dedicated windowsill, and growing salad leaves is a great idea as well (these last much longer in a pot than in a plastic bag). We’re hoping to grow vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, and carrots – all vegetables that we use frequently. This won’t make a huge amount of difference, but it can reduce both costs and the amount you need to buy.
What measures are you taking as part of your pandemic food plan? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to like and pin! You can read some of my other foodie articles here:
Best Healthy Baking Swaps For Nutritious Homemade Treats
Great Vegan Recipes For Beginners
Why I Cancelled My Trip To Italy During The Coronavirus Outbreak
25 thoughts on “Pandemic Food Plan: Six Ways To Buy & Cook Sustainably During The Coronavirus Outbreak”
I’m definitely going to try utilizing what I have in my freezer during this time and experimenting a bit more!
Great post! There shouldn’t be a need for a post like this but alas, here we are. Fresh fruit and veggies are not plentiful where I live, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, toilet paper, are few and far between. They had to put a quantity limit on toilet paper. 2 packs, that’s it. It’s ridiculous! Ugh….. sorry, obviously I’m a little “passionate”. Keep up the great work <3
Thank you! It’s a real nightmare – I’ve found going really early helps with shopping but to be honest it’s a real gamble. I people calm down soon!
We are a family of five and I’m a nurse. By luck, we always have a stocked pantry during flu season because I never know when I’ll bring it or a cold home. We just bought our normal groceries knowing we could fall back on our pantry and freezer. The stores are so scary right now I’m glad I don’t need to deal with it. We make a lot of stuff fresh too. I think freezing extras is a great option.
Definitely – my freezer is a massive part of my cooking plan. Such a useful too in times like this!
This is so true! I love it! I’m actually researching some stuff I can throw together and freeze. I’m getting induced in 3 weeks and I’m so crazy worried they still won’t have food, and it’s already going to be hard with a newborn. Even tho I’m that percentile that hasn’t stock piled, (still won’t), it’s scary because I have dietary restrictions because of diabetes and gallstones and a newborn coming. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you! I hope everything goes well for you, and congrats on the impending baby!
Awesome. Stuff. I don’t have the resources to grow things though. Maybe I’ll get a vegetable box
That’s a good idea! I still need to buy some seeds and grow bags but you can even grow things inside on your windowsill with little resources which is great 😊
Such good tips! I’m definitely cooking a lot more than before and utilizing what we have in the fridge and freezer. There is NO NEED to go crazy at the supermarket.
Thank you! I totally agree – honestly can’t get my head around why people are acting the way they are.
This is so important! Where we are, we don’t feel any shortage in the supermarkets, but we also don’t by “premade foods”. I think in the week we have all been home we ate better than ever because just like you wrote we cook food and make many salads and soups from vegetables. Getting through this is also about making sure our nutrition keeps our body healthy. Thank you for sharing these tips.
We’ve found that pasta is like gold where we live now, and canned foods are quite hard to get hold of. I don’t eat too much premade food either but lots of our staples are non-existent 😭
I wholeheartedly agree with you. There is NO need for stock piling. I can’t believe how crazy people have gone about this. There is no sign of food shortages, yet people are buying 30 tins of beans at a time. Why? What are they doing with them?
We’re making our own bread at the moment. I always have a couple of packets of dried yeast in my larder, (usually because I forget if I’ve got it and buy more) which is lucky, because there’s none in the shops near me now. There are some great easy recipes for making sourdough using a homemade sourdough starter.
We can’t get hold of pasta either, so have been using courgettes to make spaghetti.
I’ll be using aubergine in place of lasagna sheets when I get my delivery from the butchers next week.
Those are some really great things you’re doing – we haven’t actually started making our own bread yet but now we’re on lockdown I think we will soon. I’d like to know what on earth people are using the products for too!
One of my favorite meals to make is stir fry and I’ve also been trying to freeze a lot more things lately. Like putting strawberries and blackberries in the fridge when they are starting to go bad. Thanks for sharing these great tips!
Yes love stir fries – we’ve actually got one tonight (plus easy to make as no one is buying fresh food for some reason)
These are some great tips. I’ve always preferred making meals from scratch and now is no different. I didn’t stockpile so I’m starting to run out of food but I’ve been having fun getting creative with whatever we have in the house 🙂
I like that you’ve mentioned creativity, as it definitely encourages it which I think is a good thing.
I also have done meal planning and it seriously helps – this post should help so many in these dark times!
Thank you – meal planning is the best!
We’ve been quite lucky in that we tend to make weekly meal plans and so far haven’t really missed out on much except some pasta. We tend to buy a lot of fresh fruit and veg though which has been a lifesaver throughout! Our spice and herb drawer and our baking cupboard which are always fully stocked have also been great. I hope to live somewhere with a proper garden soon, as I’d love to grow my own veg!
We’re trying to grow our own veg currently, after a disastrous year last year! We planted a bit late but so far have lettuce appearing. It’s so nice growing it yourself!