If you’re worried about being prepared for an emergency or quarantine, fear no more. We are here to guide you into stocking a pantry, fridge and freezer to enable you to cook delicious meals for a good few weeks.
Right now is a scary time in the world. The pandemic is spreading rapidly and even though a lot of the world’s population is not yet needing to be quarantined, I think many people are starting to think about what to do when that happens. I know I am. How do I prepare? I have 5 mouths to feed and if you’re stuck at home for 2 weeks or more, you need to be prepared. Not only that, but in South Africa we are facing Load Shedding (planned electricity shut-downs as our power grid is very volatile).
I decided to share my plan for preparing with you, not to cause panic or to add to the fear going around. But rather to give advice and strategies for when the unpredictable happens. Whether that is a pandemic, days without electricity or when you’re stuck at home with because of a natural disaster/snow storm. I’d also love to invite you to share your ideas with everyone in the comments below.
Stocking a pantry for an emergency
Buy shelf-stable products and foods that can easily be combined to make a delicious meal.
- Water. I always have a few large bottles of water in the pantry for emergencies. This is crucial especially when you live somewhere where tap water isn’t safe to drink.
- Pasta, rice, polenta (grits/pap). Not only are these items rich in carbs, they can easily be used as the base for a variety of dishes. When push comes to shove, a simple tomato sauce made with canned tomatoes on pasta is a delicious meal. Keep them in airtight jars and they will last for up to a year.
- Oats, bulgur wheat, couscous, quinoa and other grains. Similarly to pasta and rice, these grains can be used as a base to recipes (think grain salads, grain bowls topped with vegetables and protein). Oatmeal is perhaps the most perfect nutrient-dense breakfast to make and can be customized with toppings like nuts, seeds, maple syrup and fresh fruit (if you have).
- Canned food. Canned beans, lentils, corn, tomatoes, tuna (and other fish) and coconut milk. These foods are probably the first on most people’s minds when they think of stocking a pantry. Beans and lentils are a great meat-free form of protein, tomatoes and corn are excellent additions to many recipes and tuna and other fish will be a great protein to build a meal around.
- Long-life/Shelf-stable dairy. I always have a few bottles of long life milk in the pantry. If you can’t get to a grocery store for a while, this is one of the first things you might need. This can be dairy milk, nut milk or oat milk. Good for making creamy sauces (thickened with corn starch/flour), for baking and to have in hot drinks.
- Baking supplies. In times of emergency, we all need some comfort. Having baking supplies like flour, sugar, baking powder/soda, cocoa powder, instant yeast, chocolate chips, coconut, nuts, essences/extracts, syrup and honey will mean that you can whip up cookies, cakes and bread in no time.
- Oils. Canola oil, olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil. These are all good shelf-stable forms of fat. Use for cooking and for baking.
- Hot drinks. Tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cocoa. Whatever your hot drink of choice is, make sure you have a supply in the pantry.
- Spices and condiments. Add literal spice to your food by using spices and condiments. A variety of dried herbs, spices like paprika, chilli/red pepper flakes, curry powder, cajun seasoning, etc. are all good to have. Similarly, ketchup (tomato sauce), hot sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, peanut butter and shelf-stable stock cubes/concentrate will add extra flavor to food. Pickles are in this category for me. Whether bought or made by you, these are excellent additions to meals.
- Snacks. Pretzels, potato chips, cookies, chocolate, popcorn. If you’re a snacky person, make sure you have a few delicious treats in the pantry.
Fridge and freezer stocking tips
The freezer is your friend in situations like quarantine, etc. Not so much when you have days without electricity. However, I still prefer to have a well-stocked freezer/fridge. To keep your freezer cold for longer during a power cut, fill soda (cold drink) bottles filled with water and place in the freezer where there are gaps.
- Fruit and vegetables. Frozen fruit like berries, mango and bananas are excellent to have. Use them in smoothies with milk and ice for a nutritious and filling breakfast or snack. Thawed banana can be used in baking and berries can be made into a quick sauce for pancakes or as a topping for oatmeal. Peas, corn, spinach, cauliflower and mixes are great in a pinch. You will most likely crave freshness after a few days at home so having a good stock of frozen vegetables will add some of that goodness to your meals.
- Meat, chicken and fish. Whatever protein you cook most often is definitely what you should have in your freezer. We go through a lot of chicken, ground beef (mince) and frozen shrimp (prawns). Steak, lamb/pork chops, ground chicken/pork, bacon and sausages, salmon, white fish and shellfish all last for months in the freezer.
- Miscellaneous. Ice cream, cookie dough ready to be baked, sliced bread ready to be toasted, dough, frozen pastry and frozen snacks are all good to have although not essential.
- Eggs and dairy. Some dairy will last up to 7 days in the fridge (milk, cream). Yogurt however can last for much longer and makes a good snack, breakfast, sauces and condiments. Cheese, buttermilk and sour cream can also be kept for longer and hard cheeses can be frozen. Eggs can last for up to 2 weeks (sometimes even longer) if kept in the fridge. Store the in the container they are sold in as they are porous and can absorb scents. No one wants a garlicky egg.
- Fresh fruit and vegetables. These will most likely not last very long however there are ways to keep them fresh for longer. Carrots and celery can be sliced and kept in jars in water for instance. Mushrooms last longest if kept in brown paper bags. Leaves like lettuce and spinach will most likely go off first. Fruit like apples, oranges (most citrus), pineapples, mangoes and avocados will last a good few days in the fridge. Remember not to store bananas in the fridge. Tomatoes should ideally not be refrigerated as they can get floury but they will last longer that way.
- Meats. Cold meats/cuts like salami, chorizo, etc. will last for ages in a fridge as they are cured. They are delicious in pasta dishes, on pizza or as a snack.
- Drinks. I like having apple juice to make iced tea but any juice will last a week or two in the fridge. If you drink wine or beer, make sure you have a few bottles or cans as a back-up. Similarly, if there’s a soda you like, make sure you have a few extras.
Easy recipes to make with pantry staples
There are a plethora of recipes that can be made when your pantry, fridge and freezer are stocked. The links below are all recipes that can easily be modified to include food from your pantry, fridge and freezer. Almost all of the recipes on Simply Delicious can be modified to work with what you have (except for maybe salads, etc.). These are just a few that I would rely on.
- Buttermilk pancakes – The buttermilk can be replaced with regular milk (add a teaspoon of vinegar).
- Cheesy bacon potato breakfast casserole – Good for feeding a crowd and for making ahead. Sub in or out any ingredients you do or don’t have (fresh vegetables like peppers, broccoli, etc. all work well in a breakfast casserole).
- Make-ahead freezer breakfast sandwiches – A great freezer breakfast. The English muffins can be replaced by breadrolls or bagels.
- Easy breakfast yogurt fruit pots – Use frozen fruit to make a delicious stir-in sauce for yogurt.
- Creamy pineapple and strawberry breakfast smoothies – Frozen fruit and milk of your choice are really all you need but add nuts, seeds or oats for a more nutritious and filling breakfast or snack.
- Creamy healthy oatmeal – Oatmeal is my go-to filling breakfast. Customize it with different toppings.
- Easy healthy blueberry muffins – Muffins are great because they last up to 5 days in a sealed container in the fridge and can be frozen for up to 3 months. Use frozen blueberries for this easy, healthy muffin recipe.
Lunch and snack recipes
- Mexican chicken lunch bowls – A base of grains topped with seasoned chicken. Finish it off with jarred salsa, frozen corn and beans.
- Easy lemon pepper shrimp – Frozen shrimp, simply seasoned with lemon juice and pepper. Delicious if served with pasta but great on its own too.
- Easy jalapeño corn pancakes – Canned or frozen corn works really well in these easy fritters/pancakes.
- Curried chicken salad sandwiches – Frozen chicken (rotisserie chicken is also delicious), mayo, curry powder and whatever fresh, crunchy vegetable you have. Apples last well and they are delicious in this chicken salad.
- Pea and feta quinoa salad – Feta cheese in brine lasts for weeks in the fridge. Combined with frozen peas and quinoa, this salad is easy, delicious and filling.
- Soy honey noodle salad – Noodles, condiments and some frozen chicken. All you need for a great lunch.
- Coconut oatmeal cookies
- Easy crusty bread
- Brown sugar cinnamon banana bread
- Easy healthy chicken broccoli soup – Frozen vegetables are a great replacement for fresh in this easy, healthy soup recipe.
- Easy weeknight chicken curry – Curry is such comfort food and this recipe requires no fresh products. Coconut milk can be substituted for the cream and frozen chicken pieces works well.
- Lemon Chicken piccata meatballs – Frozen ground chicken, dried breadcrumbs and seasoning. Meatballs, done!
- Butternut squash curry with crispy chickpeas – Another recipe only needing pantry staples. Butternut squash is a wonderful vegetable to have and will last for weeks. The rest of the curry is made with stuff you probably already have in your pantry.
- Cheesy chicken lasagna – Lasagna is fantastic for freezing and will feed a crowd.
- One pot tomato basil chicken rice – One pot recipe filled with deliciousness. Leave out the basil or use dried.
- Easy Vegetable soup – Another recipe that is good for freezing. Add as many vegetables as you can and frozen veg works really well.
- Marinara sauce – Swap fresh herbs for dried and use canned tomatoes. Delicious served with pasta for a speedy dinner. The sauce can be kept in airtight jars for up to 2 weeks in the fridge and it freezes very well.