For a bunch of additional ideas for meals with three ingredients or less, check out other options here.
And for those of you concerned that you’re not as excited about food as you used to be, know that this is a totally normal response to what’s happening. The goal is to nourish yourself, and that may or may not involve experiencing pleasure through food right now.
2. Prep in a single day for the entire week with these pro tips
Because just the process of getting groceries to your home is completely exhausting, you may be better off getting most things kitchen-related out of the way one day a week. Doing some minimal planning can help facilitate this process and cut down on supermarket runs. Make a list of what ingredients you’ll need, and aim for foods that have a longer shelf life. If you enjoy fresh produce, go for fruits and vegetables that last longer when they’re stored properly, like apples, pears, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and squash (check out this database for more info on how long all different kinds of food last in different kinds of storage). That way you can stock up knowing that stuff will last.
Once you get your food home, try to get as much prep done as possible. Chop your onions, garlic, and vegetables and store them in airtight containers. (By the way, this Hamilton Beach Mini 3-Cup Food Processor & Vegetable Chopper, $ 25, Amazon has saved my life.)
Cook batches of staple foods for the week. For example, you can make a pot of rice or quinoa, set aside what you’ll be using for the week, and freeze the rest. Similarly, you can make a batch of soup or stew and store it in the fridge for the week. Boil your eggs in advance so you can easily add them to meals. Rinse and drain canned beans. Squeeze lemons and limes and store them in an airtight jar…. Get my drift? Anything you can do in advance, do in that one day. After you’re done, you can exhale and not have to think about cooking as much for the rest of the week.
3. Swap food with neighbors
Something I’ve been doing lately is taking turns cooking with my neighbor. One week I make a large batch of pancakes for breakfast and they make a batch of ackee and saltfish (yes, my neighbors are the best). We pack it up, put on face masks and gloves, and do a no-contact drop-off in front of each other’s doors. Aside from not having to cook as much, it’s really exciting to see what they’re going to make as the weeks go by. It also motivates me to put something together with lots of love and flavor because I would hate for them to think I’m a blah cook. Note: If you’re not super tight with your neighbors, this isn’t the best time to start hanging out and conversing. Maybe get to know one another and set it up via text.
4. Buy pre-made meals
Let’s talk about mental health for a sec. Spending any time cooking right now may not be doable because you just…can’t. If the idea of being in the kitchen for more than five minutes is a source of sadness, anxiety, and distress, it’s time to talk about pre-made meals. And I’m not just talking about the super healthy, flavorless kind; it can be whatever brings you satisfaction and nourishment at that moment. For those of you thinking, Wait, but isn’t pre-made or frozen food less healthy? Maybe yes, maybe no. Health goes beyond nutrition, and even beyond food, and it’s important to factor in your mental health. If what you need right now is a frozen box of mac and cheese, then that’s what you should go for. If you do want to be health-conscious, there are great options available for meals that are frozen and shelf-stable in places like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Also, if you’re able to afford it, there are a variety of meal kits that make cooking way easier.
5. Get takeout or delivery from local restaurants
Takeout is always a great option, even more so right now…. am I right? Independent restaurants employ 11 million workers, all of whom have been hit hard by COVID-19. Millions of people have lost their jobs, and supporting local restaurants that are open for takeout is a critical way to help small business owners and boost the local economy.