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Pantry staples when self-isolating.

ZIMBABWE, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, once seemed to be a safe refuge from the novel coronavirus that began its journey in late December last year and spread rapidly across the world.

Tinned and dried goods to make tasty meals.

Eventually, cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in South Africa, but Zimbabwe still felt like Tolkien’s last homely house, in a world where wearing a face mask and fighting for loo rolls and hand sanitizer has become the new normal. Everything changed when we heard that corona had surfaced in the border town of Victoria Falls. What had been a distant threat suddenly became a reality, and for Zimbabweans, shopping for food stuffs and other basic necessities became a mission.

Should you and your family need to self-isolate, stocking your pantry in advance with two weeks’ supply of staples would be useful.

Wash your hands before leaving for the shops, and again on returning. If your supermarket supplies wipes at the door, clean the handle of the shopping trolley before you enter, and wipe your hands again on leaving. If you’re over 60 years old, and an ‘at risk’ shopper, try and avoid the crowds by shopping early. When you get home, wipe down all the plastic, metal and glass containers you’ve bought, and leave to air dry before putting them away.

Tinned food

Surprisingly tasty meals can be made from tinned food. Transform tuna chunks into a delicious salad when combined with chopped parsley, mint and thyme, blended with finely chopped spring onions, lemon juice and olive oil. If you don’t have a herb garden, plant out some pots by the back door, or on your balcony.

Cashel Valley baked beans are on the shelves at the supermarket, and are reasonably priced. Create a tasty snack by frying a thinly-sliced onion in two table spoons of oil. Add a dessertspoon of ground coriander and a small teaspoon of chilli powder (or to taste) and stir. Add a quarter teaspoon or turmeric before tipping in the beans, and stirring. Add about half a tin of water, mix and simmer. Temper with apple cider vinegar and salt to taste.

Tinned butter beans and kidney beans can be added to vegetable stews, or combined with fresh green beans to make three bean salad.

Other obvious choices are pilchards, corned meat, tinned tomatoes and a variety of vegetables such as peas and sweetcorn.

Dry goods

Dried beans – can be stored for up to two years, after which time they become hard, no matter how long you cook them for. So if you’re clearing out the recesses of your store cupboard, don’t take a chance soaking and boiling haricots that have been there since 2008.

Pasta – a great standby, whether spaghetti, linguini or macaroni. Can be combined with a sauce made from tinned tomatoes, oil and garlic, made into macaroni cheese, or stir-fried with peanut butter, soy sauce, honey and frozen vegetables.

Rice – white rice and brown rice.

Flour – both self-raising and plain. Make cakes and biscuits, flat breads and bread rolls.

Popcorn – easy to make, and good to munch while watching Masterchef Australia on TV

Frozen goods:

If you have a regular supply of ZESA, freeze as much meat and fish as you can.

Buy packets of frozen vegetables, or buy fresh spinach and kale to blanch, drain, package and freeze.

Finally, don’t forget to include tea, coffee, sugar, salt, pepper and cooking oil. And you may need to buy a tin opener. Although in countries where there is a total lock down, people are still allowed out to buy food, it would be wise to keep shopping excursions to a minimum.

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