WINCHESTER — As precautions against the coronavirus pandemic continue, area residents stuck at home might be looking to make the food in their pantry stretch longer than they’re used to.
Whether you’re self-quarantined, trying to save money or can’t find your usual foods at stores, there are many ways to make do with what you’ve got.
“You have everything you need at home,” said Marisa Hartzell, business manager at Nibblins, a kitchen supply store on the Loudoun Street Mall that also offers cooking classes.
“Shop [in your pantry] first before you go out and buy a bunch of stuff you don’t eat,” Hartzell said.
Most people can’t fit more food into their pantry anyway, she said. “Their pantry is already full of stuff.”
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has raised fears for potential illness around the community, has sparked mass closures of schools and encouraged an unprecedented number of people to work from home and distance themselves from the community.
As a result, many people might be making most of their food at home and getting discouraged when stores are out of what they’re looking to buy.
“I love baking, I love cooking,” Hartzell said. “You probably have so many things you can make just right in your house.”
Some of the big food staples she recommends people look for in their supply at home are flour, rice, canned soup and spices.
“If people have literally flour and water of any sort, you can make biscuits, tortillas, anything like that,” she said.
Roll beans and spices in a tortilla to make a vegetarian burrito or taco, she said.
Dress up canned soup by adding some spices, or cook up rice to pair with canned chili.
“There are 1,000 things you can do with rice,” Hartzell said.
Recalling how her mother would use rice to make gumbo, she said they would use the leftover rice in the morning with butter and cinnamon sugar on it.
“And it became a cereal,” Hartzell recalled. “And it’s actually delicious, I wanted it.”
Some stores have been out of bread, but Hartzell said if people have cornmeal they can make cornbread, corn muffins or corn cakes.
Boxed cake mix will make muffins, she said, and pancake mix can be used to make cookies.
If stores are out of butter, alternatives include vegan butter, coconut oil or canola oil.
If you’re out of oil for baked goods, pancakes and waffles, substitute yogurt or applesauce instead.
“Save your bacon grease to use for later for cooking,” Hartzell said.
Keep any leftover potatoes to use in a breakfast burrito with eggs.
“One thing we don’t do really well in my family is leftovers, but in times like this, you need to start using your leftovers,” she said.
“Be strategic about your meals,” she said. “It will prolong what you have very much so.”
The website myfridgefood.com offers a digital recipe generator so people can check off ingredients they have at home and get recipes for how to combine them all.
The site lets users select their food requirements, such as vegetarian, low-carb, low-fat, crockpot, diabetic and gourmet. You can filter results by breakfast, sandwiches/burgers, desserts, drinks, entrees, snacks and more.
Other recipe sites and search engines like Pinterest allow people to search by ingredient to find recipes.
“I think the problem with what’s going on is people are so scared that everybody else is going to get to stuff before they do that they’re not calming down and they [the stores] can’t keep up with it,” Hartzell said.
Beyond food, she mentioned how stores selling out of toilet paper is a sign of people fearing for the worst.
With her family of five, including three teenagers, she said, “A nine-pack will do us two weeks.”
“Think about that,” she said. “How much are you really going to use in, say, a month?”
Advising people not to be too stringent with expiration dates, she said stale bread can be used to make a French toast bake or reserved for stuffing or croutons.
Eggs can be frozen separately in ice cube trays and stored in freezer bags until needed in recipes, and people good at canning can go as far as to can bacon and hamburger meat.
“I’m not worried at all,” she said. “I don’t think people realize the stores will still be open.”
For now, if trying to save money or make it through food shortages at the store, she advised shopping from what you already have.
“That’s what we’re going to do,” she said. “We’re going to see if for the next several weeks if I can not go to the grocery store. … We’ll be saving so much money.”
Spice up your home library with cookbooks from area libraries, available through book borrowing apps like Libby and Hoopla.
Nibblins is featuring three recipes in its e-newsletter this month using ingredients that people might have at home already. Find the recipes here: