How to Buy & Store Food During COVID-19

Here are some ideas based on my experience over the last few days. I’m well aware that many people are under severe financial stress currently and that some of the shops and groceries that I’m suggesting are premium. So feel free to disregard what doesn’t fit your circumstances. Many of the tips are free or cheap to implement. Neither is this an exhortation to stockpile. It’s a list of ideas to make what food you have serve you best during an indefinite period of time.

Finding food during the sell-out

  • Go as premium as you can afford. I’m finding that the more expensive the supermarket, the more stock. Yesterday in Hammersmith, Sainsbury’s was totally cleaned out while M&S had a huge amount of fresh produce
  • Even more premium – stores like Daylesford had lots of fresh and dried produce when I was in Westbourne Grove on Mon. (Daylesford also had incredible large jars of pickled or fermented veg which last until June and beyond)
  • Go local. I’ve found that corner shops etc have stock of things like hand sanitiser that the supermarkets are out of
  • Go niche. Local delis etc seem well stocked. Holland & Barrett yesterday had lots of great, healthy, non-perishable food like nuts, tea, honey etc. The most niche idea I’ve seen online is penis-pasta in Ann Summers – no judgement here! Just get ready for questions from your kids if you go down that route
  • Go online. You can buy big tins of olive oil from regular Amazon (no Fresh delivery needed) or track down delis etc that have e-commerce and may be able to sell you non-perishables
  • Supplement. If you’re worried about not eating an optimum diet over the coming weeks, supplement with pills. My favourite supplement (and my doctor’s) is Curcumn, the active ingredient in turmeric. 

What to buy

  • Think outside the box. Many of the most obvious candidates (white, dried pasta, pasta) are hard to get. But there are lots of interesting vegetables like sun-dried tomatoes, red peppers, artichokes etc that are great for store-cupboard and may be easier to get hold of
  • Go big on flavour – Ottolenghi-type store cupboard favourites like preserved lemons, za’atar, harissa etc will make life more interesting in a few weeks and spices such as turmeric, ginger, cumin, coriander etc are brilliant and health-boosting
  • Consider powders. Protein and green powders are brilliant for adding bulk and nutrition. I love Innermost protein powders, available on Amazon, and use Hion green powder. Good for bulking out smoothies and even my kids love Innermost’s vanilla Fit powder
  • Pulses are great. Buying them dried rather than canned gives you more bang for your buck. Lentils can be added to soups, butter beans can be blended with the red peppers or SD tomatoes above for dips
  • Stock, in the form of cubes or fresh bone broth (which can be frozen) is endlessly useful for soups and stews
  • Good fats, like tinned wild salmon, anchovies and sardines, and nuts will serve you well.

If you have freezer space then you can store a lot. 

  • Citrus fruits can be frozen sliced or whole
  • Most veg can be frozen, as long as they don’t have a high water content like celery. Some are better if blanched first, to avoid enzymes that damage colour / flavour / nutrients. There’s a good article on how to freeze various fruit and veg here
  • Garlic, ginger and onion can just be chopped and put straight into a sealed bag and used from frozen
  • Eggs can be frozen. Beat them first and then pour into ice cube trays. Transfer to a bag when they’re fully frozen. See here
  • Just wrap everything up as tightly as possible with as little air inside as possible, to avoid freezer burn

Pickling & fermenting

  • Fermenting has been around for 7,000 years and is very useful if you don’t have huge amounts of fridge or freezer space. Pickling means using vinegar or another form of acid, fermenting means allowing the food to break down in simple brine. 
  • You can pickle or ferment most veg and it’s very easy. Pickling jars are available online or from the likes of Wilko, or you can use large leftover jars. Wash the jar in soapy water and microwave wet for about 45 seconds to sterilise. There’s a huge amount online on how to do this. I have pickled some cauliflower and some fennel and you can add in aromatics – garlic, caraway, peppercorns, juniper berries, onion etc. 
  • The benefit of fermenting is not just the preservative effect on your precious veggies but the positive affect on your gut microbiome from the fermentation process. 

I hope this helps a little. Keep safe! 

Photo by ja ma on Unsplash

Leave a Reply