Quarantine eats. A phrase that came about recently because practically everyone in the world has been affected one way or the other by COVID-19. It’s a phrase that I’d really rather not have (who wants a pandemic anyway?), but if you’ve been at home for weeks now, then you’ve definitely had your fair share of quarantine eats. 

Here in Metro Manila, we’re on to Day 50 of the community quarantine. Most of us are staying at home. The ones fighting the good fight are out there; they are the ones we’re protecting by staying at home. Kudos to these front-liners. God bless them all.

It’s a stressful time. So many things have changed, most especially our daily routines. Admit it, even if your commute to work wears you out, even if you can’t stand being at work because you feel like it sucks your soul, right now, you are actually missing it. 

Then there’s social distancing and all the COVID-19 news that bombard us day in, day out. People are confused, scared, anxious, even mad. Such emotions are contagious. Then you read about people overachieving at this time when all you want to do is stay at home, wear jammies and do nothing.

Eating out? No way, José! Restaurants have limited hours of operation for delivery and take-out, after all. Let’s also consider the health and safety of those people who work in the food industry. If you’re getting food delivered, tip generously.

Whether you call it emotional eating, comfort eating, or stress eating, eating becomes our coping mechanism in these uncertain times. Suddenly, we’re craving certain foods that bring us comfort. I’ve even been drinking Ovaltine, a favorite growing up, something I haven’t had in decades.

This is such a new experience for all of us, and we all have different ways of coping and processing. Mine includes baking and cooking up a storm because it keeps my anxiety level down and relaxes me. But for others, even meal planning and cooking can be stressful. 

Here are some ideas to help you manage your quarantine eats:

  1. Use what you have cooking. If a recipe calls for an ingredient or two that you don’t have, so what? Just keep cooking. Don’t go running outside every time to buy what you lack. Remember, we’re supposed to stay at home! You can add the missing ingredient to your grocery list and get it the next time you go out. But definitely get cooking.
  2. Cook in bulk. If you have space in your refrigerator or freezer, pack the extra food you cook and refrigerate. You can eat it again later in the week. For the longest time, I’ve delegated Fridays as “leftover Fridays”, which means exactly how it sounds like. It’s a great way to avoid food waste.
  3. Simplify your cooking. Since community quarantine began, I’ve been cooking a lot while trying to be frugal with the ingredients, a kind of food rationing. Somehow, I worry about the food supply because you never know if food supplies will run out. I usually bump up meat dishes by throwing in a vegetable or two or adding a side of vegetables. Sides are usually roasted broccoli and cauliflower, garlic string beans, atchara, kimchi – that sort.

    Adobong Dilaw (Yellow Adobo)
  4. Try new recipes. What’s the worst that can happen if you try new recipes? You might not like it. What’s the best that can happen? You and your family just might find new family favorites! During this quarantine, I saw recipes for Adobong Dilaw (Yellow Adobo) and Spicy Chili Adobo, tried ’em and liked ’em both!
  5. Set an alarm for mealtimes. When you’re working from home, it’s easy to keep eating and eating. The refrigerator and the pantry are just there waiting for you to check it mindlessly every so often. Yet interestingly enough, it’s also easy to skip meals. That’s why it’s important to remind yourself to eat on time. Don’t forget to schedule snacks in between meals too!
  6. Support local. Get your produce from your neighborhood stalls and shops, instead of joining the fray at the supermarkets and grocery stores. You can also buy produce from local farmers online, instead of buying imported ones. You’ll be helping them and their families, plus you don’t even need to wait in line.
  7. Have that treat. If you’re a junk food junkie and you decided to put the lid on it right now, you might be putting undue pressure on yourself. Comfort food is called comfort food for a reason – they make you feel better when you’re not feeling alright. Right now is definitely the time when we don’t feel alright – or at least everyone’s emotions are up and down. So yes, if you want that treat, you go have that treat.

    Samyang Ramen
  8. Check out those instant meals. Staying under quarantine means our access to fresh food is limited, yet it’s easy to take for granted food items such as condensed soup, instant noodles, boxed macaroni and cheese and the like. But you can work some magic by adding ingredients to them. That’s what I did with this Samyang Ramen. I added cabbage, chayote, spring onions and half a hardboiled egg, topped with a bit of leftover lechon kawali. One pack of instant ramen fed my husband and me. Not bad, right?
  9. Take turns cooking. There is no need to cook all the family meals on your own. Rope in your family members because everyone’s at home anyway. It’s a good time as any to get everyone to learn about cooking, baking, grilling, barbecuing, etc.
  10. Keep tabs on your local community. Swap, trade and barter fruits, vegetables and food items with your neighbors, while you protect yourself accordingly. If you live in a condo complex or a subdivision, look for the community page on Facebook. I looked up our subdivision’s community Facebook page, and to my surprise, there’s a thriving hyperlocal economy in the subdivision where we live! So far, I’ve seen people sell longganisa, embutido, kakanin, honey, kimchi, ribeye steak, cakes and packed meals. Cashless transactions are possible, and they can leave the items outside your place.

There you have it, the ten ways to manage your quarantine eats in the time of corona.

I’ve read some well-meaning advice to exercise daily and eat healthily during community quarantine. But right now, that’s probably the last thing you want to do. Or like me, the desire to exercise waxes and wanes. Admittedly, it’s easy to overeat. But what’s more important? You don’t need to be hard on yourself or anyone right now. If you want to cook and eat healthily, go for it. If not, that’s alright. No need to beat up yourself over it. But don’t deprive yourself of what you want to eat. These are unusual times, and the usual ways of doing things may or may not be the best approach. Who knows? The way I see it, our quarantine eats are meant to help us stay alive and survive the pandemic.

Much as I want a return to normal, I also know that the old normal was what brought us to this point. All I want is for all of us to make it to the other side of this pandemic with our good health and wits intact, and to remember the lessons we learned.

Now go reach out to someone you love.

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