When posting on my IG last night, I asked what other food topics I should cover. I only received 2 responses, but both were good ones (shouts out to the fabulous ladies for the ideas!).
One person gave me the idea for doing a post on arepas. I will revisit this one in the future due to the unfamiliarity of them (only made them once) and I am missing a few key ingredients-masa for one. So that will be for another day.
The other idea was to do a post on how to keep fresh food fresh for an extended period of time. This is a great idea during a time where grocery stores are bare for essential ingredients that are needed to feed our families.
During the past few weeks, finding fresh food has been almost as challenging as tracking down Carmen San Diego. When word of the pandemic first broke out a few weeks ago, individuals fled to the stores to stock up on product for their households. I can sit here and say that supply chain was not at all prepared for a situation like this. There should have been a plan in place for the weeks, and maybe even months, ahead of keeping warehouses stocked so product can continuously be on the shelves for consumers.
My husband and I were fortunate to get to a store that was still fully stocked with produce, meat, dairy, and other household items (shouts out to Wegmans and Kroger during that time). I am glad that we did because now, most stores do not have a lot of product. Here is what you can do with what you already have.
Working in the food service industry has taught me a few things:
1. Always stay ahead of situations
2. Never run out of product.
3. How to extend the life of your product; especially fresh product.
4. How to utilize what you have in house to produce what you need.
Numbers 3 and 4 are essential to what a lot of us are dealing with at the moment.
Extending the life of your fresh product.
Many items that you purchase from the store have a shelf life that can be extended to keep it fresher until you are needing to use it. This is possible for produce and meats especially.
Produce-if you put your produce items in one of those plastic bags…remove them from the bag before you store it in the fridge. The closed bag will create condensation within the bag that will cause your produce to wilt or prune faster than it would if it were just in the fridge with out it. Thats what our modern refrigerators have bins for produce and some have a dial to control the humidity needed to keep your food fresh.
Speaking of refrigeration: If your produce is in the grocery store out on the floor (in a bin, on a table, etc) and not on a wet wall (you all can tell that I use to work in retail grocery), your product does not need to go into the fridge UNLESS you have cut into it with a knife. This is for your potatoes, onions, garlic, citrus fruits, tomatoes, bananas, herbs (basil), etc. Refrigeration can actually shorten the life of these items.
You can extend the life of lettuce by cutting off the butt (bottom where the root would have been), wrapping it in a wet paper towel, and storing it in a Ziploc with the top exposed. The same can go for bunched of celery and carrots.
Herbs-can be frozen chopped or torn, placed in a Dollar Store ice cube tray with oil or juice and then frozen for use in cooking and marinades.
Fresh berries-wash, rinse, toss on a sheet pan to IQF them )individually quick frozen, and then bag up for cobblers, smoothies, etc.
Fresh vegetables, wash, par cook in simmering water or broth for a few minutes , shock in an ice bath, drain, place on a sheet pan to IQF, and once frozen, place in bags to freeze.
Meats: If you can, purchase bulk packs of meats and then breaking them down in smaller portions to bag and store in the freezer. Wegmans had bulk packs of chicken breasts for around $10 (9 breasts were in the pack so it was maybe around $1.11 per breast.) I took the breasts and cut them in half which gave me 18 pieces of chicken, placed each of them on a sheet pan to IQF them and bagged them up in separate bags for meals. I try and do the same with all proteins, even plant based ones. Getting them out of that plastic and letting them breathe before storing also helps.
Curing is also a way to extend the life of proteins (this also includes egg yolks). Equal parts salt and sugar and then an acid is all that you need.
Utilizing what you already have on hand for meals is ideal. What if you are not able to get out to the store or better yet, if you get out to the store and what you needed is out of stock. You have to adjust your meal and replace it with something else that is similar. I have started pre planning out meals for the house, so I will know exactly what to purchase from the store, as well as, not over spend.
Anything that we all can do to save and preserve food during this time will help each of us for the future. As we have seen just in this month, anything can happen and we must be better prepared.
Leave me something in the comments. Tell me how you have started to better prepare for grocery store visits, meal planning for your family, and better shopping habits.
Stay safe folks!