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Quarantine Cooking Hacks

Food Waste Cooking Hacks

I'm a foodie, and prior to lockdown I prided myself on making everything from scratch and cooking fresh meals 6 times a week. This I learned quickly was not sustainable in the age of coronavirus. Between breakfast prep and being the de facto lunch lady for my kindergartner, by week four, cooking three meals a day lost it's joy. I knew I had to make some changes in my food style, as it was becoming clear there was no near end date in sight. Here is what helped preserve my food sanity and minimized dinner conundrums.

Buy your vegetables and prep them before putting them in the fridge.

Something about scarcity and the lack of access to food shopping during the early part of quarantine makes you appreciate what you have in the fridge, and makes you want it to last longer. After a few weeks of seeing just how many vegetables were making it into the compost and not to a meal, I knew I needed to change my approach. Now I subscribe to these four things:

  1. Use the Jar Method to store fresh pre-prepped portions of fruits and veggies

  2. Freeze if it you won't eat it within the week

  3. Pickle it before it's lost its bite

  4. Turn it into a soup

Do large batch cooking that can be frozen or refashioned in a few days.

I now cook very large pots of rice, something I never thought to do in the past. Some days, the idea of watching a pot of rice boil can feel all too much. On those nights I'm thankful for leftover rice that can be turned into a quick Thai fried rice, Congee another day, soup thickener, or even sticky rice puddings for a yummy treat.

Cakes much like bread as it turns out, fare quite well in the freezer. It seems overnight we turned into artisan bakers, and I don't know about you, but by month 3 of quarantine--it showed. Now, I don't feel compelled to eat everything while it's fresh. Cakes defrost quickly on the counter, and for some the flavors are magically intensified. And bread can be quickly popped from the freezer into the toaster or back in the over for your morning toast.

Make a recipe calendar.

I am the queen of trying new recipes, making it once, and never making it again. I introduce new things so often that I realized I haven't developed any house favorites or go to recipe. To change that, I made a list of every meal I've ever made and grouped them into categories by cuisine type and cook type (i.e. slow cook, in a hurry). I also made a calendar. I don't know about you, but there are some days of the week where I know I'll be worn out, and the idea of putting energy into thinking of "what to make for dinner" feels more taxing than it should. For those nights I turn to quick cook family favorites that use a few recipe cheats. And for the other days when my last meeting ends early, and I'm in the mood for a longer prep meal that matches my inner Michelin star ambitions, there's a space for that as well. If you'd like a sample menu and recipe calendar, drop a comment below.

I've learned a lot about my cooking style these last few month that I will take forward with me long after this time in history has passed.

What are your new cooking hacks?


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