Quarantine season has come for us all. That means no frequent grocery runs. That means less fresh vegetables and greens.
It can easily lead to deficiencies in the diet for the common person. However, there are ways to mitigate all this without resorting to multivitamins. There is a whole world of food out there that can keep for long without losing its nutrient value. You just have to be a little deliberate about your purchases.
Get parboiled rice instead of polished rice. Polished rice looks good to eat but is less nutritious than parboiled rice. Parboiling infuses the vitamins and minerals of the rice bran into the grain itself. Polishing rice grain on the other hand removes the rice bran so the nutrients are lost.
Also don’t throw way the starchy water after cooking the rice. It would make a nice drink with the addition of some salt and spices.
Rice products like puffed rice and flattened rice are also good things to keep for snacking on.
Stock up on multigrain flour if you can as it is better than regular flour. There are a lot of recipes which use wheat flour so you are not stuck with the same boring recipes day in and day out.
Semolina flour (sooji/rawa) is also a good option to have on hand. A good halva made from semolina can be considered a complete meal by itself.
Besan (gram flour) is also good to keep in the pantry for days when you want to eat fritters.
You should have a variety of dals (lentils) on hand. They keep for long if kept dry and a very good source of protein for vegetarians. They are also rich in minerals that are good for us.
Try to incorporate them into your daily diet by pairing them with your carbohydrate of choice.
Dried beans keep quite well in the pantry and just need to be hydrated before cooking. They are quite nutritious and filling and are quite cheap too. There are many different kinds of beans that you can keep to allow for a decent variety in diet.
Kidney beans (rajma) are a classic, as are dried peas. There are also chickpeas (kabuli chana), white beans, black gram (bengal gram), soybean chunks and many more. The most you need to do is to soak them overnight and boil them in the next day. Or you could cook them in a pressure cooker.
Seeds and Nuts
Seeds can a very valuable source of oil and vitamins to you. There are many kinds of edible seeds available in the market that you can use as snacks or as ingredients in a meal. Poppy seeds, flax, chia, sunflower seeds, all are available easily and can be kept for very long.
Alongwith seeds, you can also keep a stock of various kinds on nuts like walnuts, chestnuts, peanuts etc as they are very nutritious and can help with boredom when isolated away from everyone.
Keep a stock of edible oil for cooking purposes. Many people focus on foodstuff and forget that you would need oil for cooking. Cooking oil can be anything from refined sunflower oil, groundnut oil, rapeseed oil, coconut oil, mustard oil (prohibited in the US), olive oil or even sesame oil which is basically used as a flavouring agent.
You can do a lot of things with your gathered foodsstock when you have a variety of oils at your disposal. This will make meal times interesting and contribute to less mental stress.
Dried pasta can last very long if stored correctly. The various shapes available and the blandness of the pasta itself makes it an ideal vessel to carry any kind of sauce you may want.
Now, we are including noodles with pasta since that is what they are. You can incorporate a lot of ingredients into pasta to make an interesting meal that is filling as well as nutritious. Pasta in a gravy is delicious as is pasta with fried vegetables. You just need a little imagination.
You can live quite comfortably if you have plenty of potatoes on hand. It can help bulk up any vegetable dish, thicken a gravy or act as a dish by itself. Potatoes can be stored for a long time and are very cheap.
Buy a big packet of it. Tomato puree can act as a substitute for fresh tomatoes in a lot of dishes and is far more easier to store. While fresh tomatoes or even canned tomatoes are better, they will be the first to vanish from shelves.
Now, while in isolation, you cannot buy more fresh tomatoes and canned ones take up quite a lot of space, pureed tomato packets are quite compact and you do not need a lot of it to get that flavour.
COVID-19 does not infect eggs. So do not be afraid to stock up on eggs for a week or two when you are going into isolation. Eggs are a very rich source of vitamins, minerals and protein and a little goes a long way. Just make sure that you keep your egg consumption moderate as eating too many eggs in too little time will make your stomach unhappy.
The problem is you need to get these fresh, which just cannot happen if you are in quarantine. If your butcher can delivery your meat home then take that option but otherwise it is better to go vegetarian right now.
As for red meat, avoid it for the time being prices will increase with farmers suspending supply deliveries to concentrate on quarantines themselves.
As preserved meat is not a thing in India, we don’t think it is relevant to discuss it here. But if you have access to it then stock up on it. You never know when you get a craving.
Here are some of the pantry essentials that would keep you healthy and prevent you from getting cabin fever by eating the same dishes over and over again. Do note that we have tried to cover all food groups.
Aside from them, other pantry essentials like spices, ginger, garlic, dried herbs etc re also needed if you are going to lock yourself in for a week or two.
Remember that quarantine is a very stressful time for people and any way that can reduce this stress is a good thing. Already there have been reports of domestic violence in the Wuhan quarantine area as stressed people in close proximity erupt in violence.
If good food keeps the tempers in check, be sure to arm yourself with a variety of recipes and let your inner cook thrive. At least it is better than sitting in a chair while grumbling about the living conditions.