In my ant-sized NYC apartment, there live two ravenously-hungry adults always in search of second helpings and snacks, alongside two beastly-appetited cats, each of whom weighs no more than four pounds yet somehow continue to crave wildebeest-sized meals (both frightening and impressive). So, how do I plan to continue to feed everyone a somewhat uncompromising diet during such apocalyptic events as the Corona outbreak? By remembering to use my brain to plan and buy balanced meals and not my emotions.
It is true that emergency events tend to reveal a person’s character. Are you fight? Are you flight? And, while no one is here to judge, because believe me, I’ve been both, it has been interesting, at times even comical, to watch peoples’ survival instincts in action as they comb through grocery stores. The ones keeping my spirits and sense of humor alive – those lacking just a little bit of that fight, in which case chaotic emotions entirely overpower logic.
Ok. I completely understand. It happens. And, let’s face it, these are pretty unusual circumstances. Only people raised in a military family in the Alaskan wilderness who have grown up snacking on rabbit feet or moose lip soup could possibly understand this level of “I told you so” doomsday prep…
And, yes, that person is in fact, no lie, for actual fu**ing real, ready for it –
I am not kidding. The woman has been food prepping (I like to call it hoarding, but, you know, semantics) since the day I was born.
But in my household, we’re buy every other day, maybe once a day kind of people so that we don’t bring home unnecessary extras or create much waste, not to mention the space factor. It’s what we’ve always done, even before moving to the island. But, it’s also just generally part of the lifestyle for most city-dwellers. It just makes sense, right? So, never could I have imagined that my mother’s subliminal training would be put into action here of all places!
My life in the “concrete jungle” as she hilariously continues to refer to it is unbelievably foreign to her…until now! Now that it’s go time the world-over, we have a bonding sense of prep, and well, she feels validated…to which I have mixed feelings, because again, let’s just call it what it is. It’s hoarding. Still not cool dude. But, I suppose you win this round, now don’t you Mother?
Back to the point.
A lot of us here are preparing for that possibility of a quarantine when we might all have limited ability to go out to shop for groceries or just little will to do so. Now, remember, we’re not going to go hungry even if that happens, so enough with the panic buying. But, more importantly…WHAT’S WITH THE PASTA AND TOILET PAPER Y’ALL?! Perhaps we’ve missed the mark just a teeny bit??
I know for many New Yorkers, shopping beyond once-a-week brunch essentials for those weekend selfies can be a challenge, no, downright anxiety-inducing. But, let’s all take a deep breath, suck those deer-in-headlight eyes back into our skulls, and have a chat for a sec.
Ok. You know to buy non-perishables – fantastic! Yes! You’re on the right track! Two thumbs up. A+. Here’s your trophy. Now, let’s get real and build on that.
I didn’t realize until this pandemic situation how few friends of mine actually cook or even know how to cook (a herculean task of which I’ve recently learned includes not understanding the intricacies of toaster operations or the complexities of pushing down the plunger of a French press). So, when I shared with one what I thought was a funny observation from my grocery excursion of witnessing a twenty something year old girl dragging with extreme exertion an entire shopping cart (as in a full-sized, run-over-your-heels, four-wheeler) full of JUST pasta and pasta sauce to the checkout counter, and they didn’t see anything wrong with that…I died a little. And, I burst out laughing, and no I was not alone, so down with the “You monster!” talk.
It was one of those “Bless her heart” moments that made me kind of sad actually, because meals, even in hard times, can and should be enjoyed. The process should be enjoyed. The beautiful satisfaction of the devourment should be enjoyed. And, everyone can still do that, even if they don’t know where to start. So, I beg you, please don’t let your insides and spirit turn to mush because all you can think to hoard during these crazy times are adult-style spaghetti-o’s!
Not only is a balanced, well intended if not perfectly executed meal good for your overall health, it also keeps your spirits up, which does in fact affect your immune system. Making a meal can and should be something to look forward to, and perhaps for many of you, especially New Yorkers, it will be an entirely new experience altogether! Cooking. With your hands. Without a delivery app. Who knew?!
Yes, most of us in the city have about a two-foot prep area in the kitchen, and hand washing dishes isn’t exactly thrilling, but you can do it. You can have fun with it. And you can easily, affordably create delicious restaurant-style meals from your closet-sized space with some basic essentials. It’s all about making good buying choices, getting creative, and just remembering to enjoy the moment. Because for some, the chance to even cook a meal is an impossibility right now. So, count your blessings, try something new, and for the love of Prague stop with all the pasta!!!
I’ll be sharing some of the meals and recipes I have planned in upcoming posts. But, for now, here’s a quick look at some of the base essentials I’ll be working with, and no, I don’t necessarily recommend these brands; it’s just what was available. Remember, work with what you can get.
These are all great for bulking up meals or as sides. You don’t have to worry about them going bad, and they provide protein and essential nutrients.
Keep some simple soups around for sick days, snacks, meals, etc. Get those seasoning packets too. And, don’t forget to have some fruit options for if/when you don’t have access to fresh produce.
BEANS, GRAINS, PASTA
Yes, I said enough with the pasta, but SOME is still good. You probably just don’t want that for every meal. Mix it up with beans, rice, quinoa, etc., and make a more thrilling meal out of it with some bulked up, pre-made, restaurant night sauces like these Indian Fare ones.
Fruits like apples and oranges tend to last a while, as do potatoes. Also, if you’re like me and can’t imagine a “cheat” day without a bagel, then grab some fresh ones, and put them in the freezer. See, you can still have your brunch and post it too!
BREAKFAST & SNACKS
Breakfast is an easy meal to make healthy, like some oatmeal with peanut butter and apple. But, I absolutely can not start my day without my greatest vice – coffee! Instead of expecting to go out for a cuppa every now and then, I just stocked up, so I don’t have to experience the horrible shakes of withdrawal!
Don’t forget about things like toppings, sauces and spreads! Trust me, you’re going to want those. Also, don’t be afraid to indulge yourself in a little dessert. I mean, if you’re going to get through this, you just might need a sugary pick-me-up.
PROTEIN & FROZEN
For those meat eaters, you’ll want all kinds of different proteins on-hand to satisfy different cravings and to stave off boredom. From poultry, to beef, fish, and frozen staples like veggie rice, your freezer can really be a lifesaver!
SPICES, OILS & SAUCES
I can not stress this enough – Don’t neglect your spice cabinet!! You can make even the most unappealing, bland foods taste delicious with the right spices and sauces!
And guys, the cooking part is not as hard as you think. Google recipes, watch YouTube tutorials, dust off that cookbook you bought to look pretty in the corner but had no real intention of ever cracking open. Learn how to turn on your stove. USE that fancy Ikea dinnerware. Now is the time to try something new!
New Yorkers tend to think that they are the only ones who truly know how to live. It’s a whole obnoxious attitude that can set in once you cross the George Washington bridge that’s all about that high-priced service life. But, can you truly live that good life if you don’t know basic human survival skills like boiling water should the need arise? Like say, now? You can’t always rely on grubhub, or guy-on-mitten-cycle, or whatever it may be. I mean, it’s not like most of us will have much else to do with our spare time for the foreseeable future if we become restricted to our homes. So, what do you have to lose?
You can do it! We can do it! Stay hopeful, and count your blessings!
P.S. – Stores may be emptying out, but you can still make some nonperishable purchases online.
P.P.S – THERE ARE OTHER GROCERY STORES BESIDES TRADER JOES AND WHOLE FOODS OUT THERE! Times are tough. Sacrifices must be made.
P.P.P.S?? – I mentioned my two hungry cats. I did go ahead and buy two months’ worth of food for them and had it delivered via Chewy. Excessive, yes, but I have one that’s special needs and on a prescription diet, so I do have to think ahead with them. Just don’t forget about your pets during this time; they have to eat too.
I’m out, and may the odds be ever in your favor.