10 Food Hacks I Only Learned Thanks to COVID-19

I’m not a bad cook. But I’m no Emeril either. And thanks to COVID-19, I’m in a position where I’m cooking now more than ever.

Mainly I’ve been focused on trying to eat healthy, keeping meals interesting, and making sure that none of it goes to waste.

This isn’t a tech post. But I’m a tech gal who has to eat! So here are some aha food moments for my fellow non-cook peeps, courtesy of quarantine.

1. You can freeze just about anything.

Seriously: bananas, mozzarella cheese, cooked mushrooms, bread! When you only leave the house once every few weeks, you find ways to make the good stuff last.

Cooking mushrooms (left) and letting the cooked ones drip (right) before putting them into freezer bags. I ate these about ~2 weeks later and they were pretty tasty, without being too wet.

2. Canned tuna can be ‘wow’.

Pre-COVID Dee would open a can of tuna, throw in some mayo, and call it a day. But now I know better: diced pickles, onions and old bay seasoning make all the difference.

3. You don’t need pancake mix to make pancakes.

Baker peeps, I can see you rolling those eyes! It’s true: before this, I only knew how to make pancakes using the box. When I couldn’t find any mix during my last grocery trip, I hoped there was a magical way to make use of the flour, baking powder, butter and milk that I had sitting at home. Turns out, there is.

Yes, I have a tiny spatula for my mini pancakes.

4. The key to homemade tomato sauce is a blender.

I make my own tomato sauce because of all the added salt and sugar in the pre-made stuff. But mine was always on the lumpier side. Now, I know. The same device that blends my smoothies is the secret to smooth, saucey tomato sauce.

5. A scoop of tomato paste makes all the difference with canned beans.

Also, if you can make beans, you can make chili. Just add ground beef and veggies.

First chili. That seemingly un-appetizing stuff on the top is cheese and nutritional yeast.

6. Grits don’t get enough credit.

I didn’t eat grits before this. But a month ago when I didn’t know when I’d step outside again, I stocked up. Now I’ve got about 6 months of grits to work through.

And lucky for me, they’re pretty versatile. I can make them sweet (with cinnamon, sugar and milk), or savory (with cheesy and a pile of shrimp on top).

7. Different seasoning can open up a new world.

I’ve tried at least 5 different spices and 4 hot sauces since quarantine. It feels like I’ve broadened my culinary horizons…and I didn’t even have to eat out to do it!

Some of my new friends .

8. To make your snacks last….buy bad snacks.

If you get all of your favorite snacks, you’ll go through them like it’s nothing. (Doubly so if you have kiddos.) So stock up on the mediocre stuff. These are the snacks you’re meh about on a good day, but potentially grateful to have during a pandemic!

Except for kit kats. Always buy as many of those as you can.

9. Frozen corn on the cob is a good staple.

That’s all.

10. You can pretty much make a “parm” out of anything.

I’d be hard-pressed to say that there’s any red sauce + cheese combo that isn’t perfection. Yet I can still surprise myself – like I did with my portabello I-have-nothing-else-in-the-fridge parm!

Homemade sauce using canned tomatoes, onions and garlic (right), which I’m about to slather on those mushrooms to the left. Baked in the oven with some mozarella = quarantine heaven.

Hope you enjoyed these super random food tips, as I try to survive this pandemic.

p.s. Reflecting on these food hacks, it’s not lost on me that there are people struggling right now to find their next meal. And I want to help. If you have the means and would like to help someone else get their next meal, consider donating to your local food bank or to charities like these.

Share your thoughts!