Cooking at home during self-isolation

We've developed a basic cooking guide that features heart-healthy meals to get you through the lockdown. It'll help your money and food go further too.

People in a kitchen cooking mushrooms in a frying pan

Feeling stressed about having to cook more during lockdown? Don't panic, we're here to help. We've put together a guide on making the most of pantry and cupboard foods, easy homemade recipes and tips for food storage.

Useful pantry foods

First up, having some basic pantry/cupboard foods in stock at home is essential. Pantry staples like pasta, rice and beans are cheap and can help you cook simple meals. Non-perishable foods are ideal for this as they don’t go off quickly.

What are non-perishable foods?

Non-perishable foods are foods that do not go bad over time. They tend to be in cans, packets or frozen. Non-perishable foods such as canned beans, corn or frozen vegetables, aren’t very inspiring on their own, but with one or two other ingredients can make up a full meal.

Lots of pantry items can help make your meals go further. For example, a can of kidney beans or lentils can bulk out a dish, add fibre, fill the belly and provide a larger number of nutrients in every mouthful.

What should I stock up on?

The cupboard and freezer foods we recommend help form most meals are outlined in one of our top cookbooks CheapEats. Keeping these foods in your cupboard or freezer is a great place to begin. These can be used to bulk out a meal or make a meal when fresh foods aren’t available.

Vegetables and fruit

  • canned vegetables
  • frozen vegetables
  • canned tomatoes
  • tomato puree/paste
  • frozen fruit
  • canned fruit (drained)

Legumes, fish, seafood, eggs, poultry, meat

  • canned kidney beans, chickpeas, butter beans
  • dried lentils or chickpeas
  • baked beans
  • canned fish
  • frozen fish
  • frozen chicken – whole or in pieces
  • frozen meat – bought in bulk and frozen into meal-size portions

Grain foods and starchy vegetables

  • frozen or canned sweet corn
  • kūmara, potatoes and taro
  • oats
  • rice and barley
  • dried pasta
  • couscous
  • dried noodles i.e. vermicelli rice noodles
  • whole grain crackers

Milk, yoghurt, cheese

  • milk powder

Healthy oils, nuts and seeds

  • olive oil
  • canola or rice bran oil
  • peanut butter
  • nuts and seeds – look for unsalted options

Herbs, spices and sauces

  • dried herbs i.e. ground cumin, coriander
  • spices i.e. curry powder, chilli flakes/powder
  • pepper
  • vinegar
  • soy sauce

Simple family favourite recipes

It is always good to have some simple recipes for you to try at home that are suitable for the whole family. These meals make enough food to feed everyone at the table, or if it’s just a few of you at home, box up the leftovers and put them in the freezer for another night. If your freezer is looking full already, divide the recipe up to only make enough for the number of people at home.

  • Have a Mexican-themed dinner. Use this chilli mince and beans recipe to make nachos, burritos or tacos.
  • Macaroni cheese is the ultimate comfort food. We’ve refreshed the classic recipe to get more vegetables in. This is a great one for the kids.
  • Use frozen vegetables, chicken and rice from the pantry to prepare this quick and tasty chicken and broccoli stir-fry.
  • Want to make the Friday favourite of chicken and chips? Use our chicken drumstick recipe to prepare your chicken with some potato wedges on the side. Serve with some salad and you have a Friday dinner for the whole family.

Get the kids involved in what is happening in the kitchen. Teach them basic cooking skills with some guidance from our kids in the kitchen lesson plans.

family baking in a kitchen

Vegetarian recipes

Bulking out meals with vegetables is an excellent way to work towards your 5+ a day while everyone is eating at home. Vegetables used in meals can be fresh, frozen or canned, whatever is accessible to you at the time. Here are some our favourite vegetarian meals:

Canned food recipes

Canned goods are the go-to for non-perishable food. Despite the supermarkets staying open, it seems many people have stocked up on canned goods. We have some suggestions on how to put these canned foods to good use:

  • Rice and bean salad can be made as a main or served as a side with your choice of meat or fish.
  • Based on canned corn and only a few other ingredients, these corn fritters are great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Working from home means no more popping out to the shops to buy lunch. Here are some simple lunch options to make at home that rely on non-perishable foods like canned tuna and lentils.

Soup recipes

Being at home as autumn progresses means that soup season is well and truly underway. Soups are a great way to get lots of extra vegetables in for the whole family and can be made with fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. Any extra soup can be easily poured into some freezer bags or containers for another night.

Baking recipes

Baking is often good comfort food and there is no doubt you are feeling like you need a little more comfort right now. We’ve refreshed some classic baking recipes to make sure they are as heart-healthy as possible for you and your family:

How to store food to make it last longer

Making some of these recipes might mean there will be leftovers. It is a good idea to put these into the freezer while you work out if you will use them again in the next few days. If you leave the leftovers in the fridge, the food is more likely to go to waste. Reducing food waste is always important, but especially now as we want to avoid multiple trips to the shops.

Some quick tips to storing your food correctly:

  • use freezer friendly containers with good seals
  • if using freezer bags, remove all the air before sealing up
  • let your food cool before putting it into the freezer
  • mark each bag or container with the date and a label saying what the food is.
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Nickie Hursthouse, NZRD

Nickie Hursthouse, NZRD

National Nutrition Advisor

As a Registered Dietitian, I know that food gives us so much more than just nutrients. I am driven to simplify nutrition messages, educate on all aspects of food and support Kiwis to develop a love of food that helps them stay healthy throughout their life.