Rediscovering home cooking – a positive outcome from the COVID-19 lockdown

COVID-19 (coronavirus) is affecting all our lives and there is a lot to get used to but it may also encourage us to learn new skills in the kitchen and try new recipes!

To view our complete series of COVID-19 blogs, click here.

A woman prepares food in her kitchen

Caroline Bloomfield, the Public Health Agency’s lead on healthy eating, offers some practical tips to make the most of what COVID-19 has meant for our kitchens. Today, she focuses on food shopping, which has become particularly important as we organise the week ahead.

At home

  • Plan ahead. Plan breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the week ahead. What will you serve? There are some great ideas for simple and tasty recipes in the ‘healthy recipe’ section on
    What do you need? Consider the foods your family likes, your food preparation methods, interests and skills, and the time and energy you will have for preparing meals. Working from home may not mean there is more time to cook – especially if you are now responsible for home schooling and doing the work your employer expects.
  • If you do have children at home, include them in meal planning, preparation, and cleaning up. All of this helps them with literacy, numeracy, reading and science. Get them to draw up a list of their favourite meals and foods and come up with meal ideas. Download a kids recipe book online and let them read through it and pick their favourite recipe to have a go cooking together at the weekend. There are ideas for healthy snacks at and many of these can easily be prepared by children.
  • Try new ideas, like a meatless meal: why not try chilli with beans instead of beef or a meat-free lasagne using lentils and veg? This can help if you don’t have much fridge/freezer space to keep meats fresh.
  • Soups are a great lunchtime option. They are cheap and easy to make and there are so many varieties to choose from. They are a great way to get one or two portions of your ‘five a day’.
  • Once you have decided, write a shopping list and stick to it. Group items by product type and in the order you usually find them, eg fresh fruit and veg, then dairy, then store cupboard … bakery… frozen. Supermarkets use clever marketing techniques to entice you to buy certain products that you may not have planned to buy. Social distancing makes leisurely browsing unfair on others, so this is a great opportunity to learn how to focus when shopping. Planning (writing that list) is everything!
  • If you can, shop online or click and collect. This can help stop the temptation of buying things you don’t really need. If you do need to go to the shops, remember to stay at least 2 metres away from other people.

When shopping

  • Consider lower cost options. Coronavirus might force this, as our supermarkets adapt to changes in demand from customers and we see shortages of some items. No one wants to make a second trip if it’s not absolutely necessary. Supermarket own brands are often the same product as the more well-known (and expensive!) brands and are just packaged differently.
  • If fresh fruit and veg are too costly or you aren’t shopping very often, remember that tinned and frozen fruit and veg provide the same nutrients as fresh.
  • Choose vegetables tinned in water and fruit tinned in juice or water instead of brine or syrup. If these are in short supply, other tinned fruit and veg are fine – just drain and rinse before use to get rid of unnecessary salt or sugar.
  • Pasta could be in short supply but don’t forget that rice and potatoes are a great base for one pot dishes like stews, risottos and paella.

Celebrate your skills

There is a social media movement around food, and ‘cooking through coronavirus’. Some of our favourite restaurants are sharing their secrets, posting recipes and even filming live cookery demonstrations to help encourage cooking recipes at home.

So for now, let’s shop savvy, keep healthy and rediscover our kitchens!

Why not share your favourite healthy recipes? You can tag us @publichealthni on Instagram and Twitter, and @publichealthagency on Facebook

To view our complete series of COVID-19 blogs, click here.

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