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How to cater for your family in confinement – top tips from Alive with Flavour

It’s been over a month since Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK was in lockdown. That came as a bit of a shock to us all, no doubt, but from what I’m seeing, hearing and reading, many of us are getting on with it as best we can. After the flurry of headlines about people stockpiling in supermarkets, we are now encouraged to shop as infrequently as possible. Add to that the fact that, for many of us, there are extra people at home for a greater portion of the day and we really do have to become more resourceful.

Waste not, want not

Since we can’t just pop to the supermarket as often as we’d like, it’s important that we adapt the way we shop, cook and use our food stocks. Remember home economics at school? Well now we need to manage our household budgets wisely and think about what we’re buying and how it will be used to avoid leaving the house too often. Here are three ideas for you to ponder before you step out of the front door to go shopping:

1. Meal plan – Meal planning is great in a number of ways. You invest a little bit of time before you go shopping, for sure, but then the daily stress of wondering what to cook is taken away. When people ask, “What’s for dinner?”, you actually have an answer or better still, stick the plan somewhere obvious and you won’t be asked again!

Meal planning prevents aimless aisle wandering and therefore aimless additions to your trolley – it helps you save money as you know what you’re going to be preparing ahead of time rather than deciding (and then changing your mind!) whilst shopping.

And thanks to the thought that you’ve put in, you are less likely to waste food. The food you need is the food you’ve bought so that will leave you feeling as though you’re doing your bit for the planet too.

I meal plan in a notebook but there are pre-printed sheets that you can buy if that helps to motivate you. My top tip would be to think around the meals to include snacks (watch my video with the Lunchbox Doctor on snacks here).

2. Audit – sounds as though you need a clipboard but it’s as simple as checking what you have before you start meal planning or embark on a shopping trip. What’s at the back of the fridge? Do you actually need more flour before you start stockpiling?! And don’t forget about those portions of dishes that you have in the freezer – bulk cooking is coming into its own right now.

3. Leftovers – I love a meal of leftovers and I relish the challenge of creating a meal from odd bits of veg in the fridge. There are websites and apps that can help by allowing you to enter the leftovers you have and they will provide a recipe (sometimes you will have to buy extra ingredients) – BBC Good Food lets you enter your ingredients for example.

I would also encourage you to just have a go at creating something! If you do, I’d love to see what you’ve created so send me a photo.

Slow down

Some people will be finding themselves with more time (I appreciate that doesn’t apply to everyone reading this!) and that’s a great opportunity to start ditching processed food and cooking from scratch.

How to cater for your family in confinement – top tips!

It may be that you have a shelf of recipe books that rarely see the light of day! Well, now’s your chance to dig them out and flick through for inspiration. You don’t always need every last thing on the list of ingredients to create a meal alive with flavour so don’t be put off if you don’t have mustard seeds or black sesame seeds or if you have passata rather than chopped tomatoes. Just have a go and give a dish your own twist – it could become a family staple or your signature dish. Whichever it is, it will be home cooked and all the better for you.

The supermarket shelves are still bereft of some products and so home cooks are being creative with what they can find. We’ve all seen posts on social media of friends having a go at making sourdough bread or their own pasta – foods that need time and patience to make. Another trend is soaking beans and pulses overnight for use in dishes. This is a cheaper option than buying them canned and much more satisfying as you see them transform. Beans and pulses are a fantastic, cheap way of bulking out dishes and are used in many household regulars such as hummus and baked beans. Why not have a go at making these yourself?

If you are down to the bear minimum in your cupboards, fear not! I have some store cupboard recipes which are great for satisfying hungry mouths whilst being healthy at the same time. Take a look here.

Adapting to change

It’s not only we who have had to change our habits, but many foodie businesses have done so as well. Whilst some eateries and independent food shops have, sadly, had to shut their doors for the time being, a great number of restaurants, pubs and cafes as well as food producers have changed their business strategies quite dramatically. They have adapted to provide fantastic delivery and takeaway services: my family enjoyed a lovely fish supper from Sankey’s for my birthday last week!

It’s been great to see the resurgence of fruit and veg boxes from independent suppliers alongside meat boxes from butchers and dairy essentials from farm shops. You can buy almost anything you’d like online locally, and it will be delivered to your door! (You pay over the phone to avoid a cash transaction and companies maintain social distancing throughout.) If you don’t think you’ll get through a whole box, you could share with a neighbour. Deliver their bits to their doorstep and remember to maintain two metre spacing at all times!

I am curating a list of places around Edenbridge (within seven miles) that are taking orders for collection, delivering and providing takeaways which you can find here. Do let me know of other places and share with your friends and family.

I know I always encourage you to support local food businesses but please do so now more than ever! The industry has taken a real knock and it’s going to take a long time to recover. Think about what you’re buying but be adventurous and try something new too: make homemade meals, buy a veg box from a local supplier and revel in the variety of veg you receive or try a different takeaway every week!

Let me know what you do and stay well.

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