I don’t know about you, but I’m waking up every morning at the moment and really can’t believe what has happened in the world! I forget for a little while, and then it all comes flooding back. The UK is now on lockdown and I’ finding that it can all be quite overwhelming.
Some of you might be worried about types of foods to make to keep yourselves healthy, so I wanted to use this weeks’ blog post to give you some simple ideas to hopefully take a bit of the stress off. I hope it goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: please don’t go to your local supermarket and panic buy 3 months’ worth of the products listed below – that is selfish and irresponsible. Some people will be worried about their finances at the moment, so the majority of the items I suggest below are cheap and last a long time.
1. Lentils (canned or dried)
Lentils are brilliant! They are SO versatile, cheap and really good for you! Oh, and they taste delicious! What more could you ask for in a food? You can get a variety of different types of lentil, and some will work better in certain recipes than others. The type we most commonly use is red split lentils, and we use them in everything from bolognaise to daal and even in cakes (check out our podcast episode with Tyra Eberwein for more on this!).
2. Beans (frozen, canned or dried)
There are so many different types of beans, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a variety you like! Some of our favourites include chickpeas, black beans, edamame (soy) beans and garden peas. Again, beans are very good for you, inexpensive and can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Some of our favourite bean dishes are chickpeas in curry, black beans in burritos, edamame beans in stir fries and garden peas with pasta. If you do decide to buy dried beans (they are really cheap), make sure you plan ahead and soak them properly before using them.
Ideally, from a nutrition perspective, you want to avoid white pasta as it’s had a lot of its nutrients stripped from it. However, any kind of pasta is an easy meal, and dried pasta can be very cheap, so just go with whatever you are able to get. Recently we have been eating a lot of green pea and lentil pasta, as they are higher in protein and still taste great. There are loads of varieties of pasta, and loads of things you can add to it to give variety and keep things interesting. One of our favourites is to make a cashew “cheese” sauce with nutritional yeast, and add vegetables and peas (recipe here). Really quick, simple and nutritious. You could also make pesto pasta, hummus pasta, tomato sauce with pasta… really the only limit is your imagination.
Plain or wholegrain rice can be bought cheap and there are lots of ways to use it. Wholegrain is better for you than plain white rice, and there are also varieties such as wild rice, red rice and black rice which are packed full of nutrients but these are often very expensive. We usually get boxes of wholegrain rice and tend to eat it a couple of times per week. We usually eat rice with either curry or stir fry, but rice can be used with loads of other types of food such as stews or in a salad.
Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew – we could all use a bit of Samwise Gamgee right now! Potatoes are a great food to have around the house in times of isolation! They are the ultimate comfort food and they taste SO good! There are quite a few different types of potato – we tend to go with large baking potatoes, new potatoes or sweet potatoes – and so many things you can do with them! From mash, to fries (baked to make them healthier), to potato cakes, to hash browns, to brownies (recipe here) – we are big fans of potatoes! They are cheap to buy and tend to last quite a long time in the cupboard.
6. Frozen veg/fruit
Given all of the uncertainty at the moment, you might not feel like you can rely on getting fresh fruit and veg. Don’t worry too much about that, because the frozen variety is still really good for you! I won’t harp on about it, but fruit and veg is SO good for you and are essential parts of a healthy diet. You can get loads of different types of frozen fruit and veg, so really don’t worry if you are struggling to get fresh stuff! Even when we aren’t on lockdown, we always have frozen peas, edamame beans, spinach and berries on hand in the freezer. The frozen spinach and berries tend to go in our smoothies (recipe ideas here and here), and the rest of it we just use as we would fresh stuff in our meals.
7. Canned veg
We don’t typically use canned vegetables, but they are another cheap, long lasting option that could make great lockdown food! It is thought that some nutrients might be lost in the canning process, so I’d recommend trying to get some frozen (or indeed fresh) if you can, but canned veg is still a great option for getting veg into your lockdown meals!
We haven’t been able to get flour for the past couple of weeks, which is irritating but, hey, there are worse things! If you are able to get flour, then try going for wholegrain or at least a mixture when making your food. Flour can be used to make loaves of bread (no shit, Sherlock), but also things like pizza bases and flatbreads. You don’t just need to use standard bread flour either, you could use oat flour to make muffins (recipe here), chickpea flour to make “omelettes” or buckwheat flour to make pancakes – there are LOADS of options!
9. Vital wheat gluten
This can be expensive to buy, but it lasts for a long time and is a great source of protein. Hopefully it goes without saying, but this isn’t suitable for people with a gluten allergy/intolerance. We use vital wheat gluten to make seitan (recipe here), which is a great option if you are looking for home made meat alternatives. An example recipe using seitan is here.
10. Dried herbs and spices
Finally, let’s talk about herbs and spices! These might not seem like essential lockdown foods (and, to be fair, essential might be a bit strong) but they will certainly make your lockdown meals more flavourful and enjoyable! You can buy big bags of spices relatively cheaply, and you only need to use a small amount so they should last you a long time! Some of our favourites include black pepper, paprika, chili powder, turmeric, nutritional yeast (not sure if this is actually spice… but it’s going in here anyway!) and cumin.
I hope this has given you some ideas of foods you can make during this time. If you are able to, it could be a good time to practice your skills in the kitchen!