People across the world who normally eat at restaurants or on-the-go are learning how to stock a pantry and cook more at home. Learning what bulk foods to keep on hand and how to build a meal plan from those foods can be daunting. Clinical Dietitian and Vegan Nutritionist Amanda Sevilla talked to us about staying well-stocked and well-fed during quarantine.
What items do you recommend always having in your kitchen?
ALWAYS have fresh fruit and veggies. I like to use having fresh produce in my fridge as a good gauge of when to go grocery shopping. Other things essential to the kitchen are nut butters, oats, rice, seasonings- italian herb mix, taco seasoning mix, Mrs. Dash; spices-turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper, cumin, paprika; herbs- rosemary, thyme, basil; legumes- lentils, chickpeas, black beans, navy beans, tofu, edamame, pinto beans; and any nuts/seeds you enjoy.
Which comes first, stocking your pantry or meal planning?
I like to do both simultaneously. If there's anything in particular i want to add to my weekly meals, I plan it out then look at what i have. I go grocery shopping according to what kind of foods I feel like making throughout the week but also take note of items that are running low. This is why I love storing my bulk and dried goods in glass jars, because I can visually see and be reminded of what I need.
How are you handling meal planning with limited grocery trips?
To be honest it's business as usual. I already only make one big trip once a week and if I need a smaller item I reassess to see if i can wait for the weekly trip. If I absolutely need it (I've had to do this for bananas... we eat a lot of bananas in this house), I'll go but safely! Otherwise, meal planning is quite simple. Just prep and batch cook veggies ahead of time, always make sure I have some kind of whole grain available to cook, and add some kind of heavier, heartier element such as beans and/or tofu.
Shopping in the bulk section for the first time can be intimidating! What's the process? Do you bring your own containers?
Under normal circumstances I bring my own containers. It's nice to weigh your containers (I use glass mason jars) before going in on a food scale and writing it down on the cap or somewhere they'll see it. Then go to the bulk section and just fill up your jar! It might feel weird at first but you get used to it. And the cashiers may or may not know how to charge you based off a tare weight but hopefully you get someone who can. If not, it WILL happen but they may need to call a supervisor. This is a plus for both of you because now the cash register worker knows how to do it next time some environmentally friendly person tries to buy bulk in his or her own containers.
For those just getting into cooking, what basic kitchen supplies should everyone have?
The basics include pots and pans, a cutting board, a few good knives, a spatula, a cooking spoon, etc. I live in a small space and actually just have a kitchenette (no real kitchen) so appliances are a HUGE help. We have two pressure cookers (Instant Pot and Cosori Cooking pot), 1 air fryer, 1 high speed blender, set of pots and pans, a cooktop, a toaster oven, and a microwave. These things have really done the bulk of the cooking around here and can be easily put away :)
What are some common mistakes you see, nutritional or cooking technique, when people first start cooking at home?
I still do this sometimes, but I believe that the world would be a better place if we all knew (or had the patience) to read the recipe first, like it's a science experiment. This means preparing first. Making sure we have all the time, equipment, and ingredients we need. And not just the ingredients freshly bought from the store but already portioned out and ready to cook. Having all of these things reduces the chaos and allows us space and time during our cooking to narrate the process and "toss" the ingredients in like we are in our own cooking show. Gathering all ingredients and supplies is what is called mise en place, and is practiced in all professional kitchens. Let's bring it to the home!
Amanda Sevilla, RDN
Amanda Sevilla is a Clinical Dietitian and Vegan Nutrition Coach.