This is part of the Good Food team's guide to eating at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The list: Melbourne restaurants offering delivery and takeaway
- What Sydney restaurants and cafes are doing during the COVID-19 crisis
- Chef's fridge, freezer and pantry tips
Make the most of Chinatown
Forget scrabbling for rice at Coles and Woolworths – an Asian supermarket is a far better option for your grains, and you'll find great brands such as Happy Boy and Royal Umbrella.
While you're there, stock up on dried mushrooms and dried shrimps to kickstart any Asian meal (use the soaking water as well, for extra flavour).
Barbecued pork and duck from a Cantonese restaurant's meat counter are brilliant – buy yourself a great big hunk of char siu and use it for a week.
Don't forget Chinatown butchers for lup cheong sausage and pork either; their minced pork has a higher level of fat than Western counterparts, making it perfect for stir-fries and meatballs. Meanwhile, Asian hot bread shops such as Breadtop have brilliant little six-packs of soft, squishy brioche party rolls, perfect for sliders and mini-burgers.
Remember the fruit and veg
Stocking up on frozen cheesecake during the COVID-19 crisis is all well and good, but fresh fruit and vegetables should be an essential purchase because they're highly nutritious, immunity-boosting and straight-up delicious. Fresh food prices are up due to a surge in demand, which means shopping for abundant seasonal produce makes more sense than ever.
Figs, stone fruit, quinces, persimmons, cucumbers, carrots (make a cake!), zucchini and eggplant are all looking good. According to National Farmers' Federation president Fiona Simson, Australian farmers are well-equipped to meet current demand for local produce.
"Our farmers ensure that Australia is one of the world's most food secure countries and between 80 to 96 per cent of the food on our supermarket shelves is Australian grown," she says. "We also produce so much high-quality safe produce here that two thirds of what we grow is exported for the world to enjoy. Right now, farmers have a bigger job to do than ever and we're up to the challenge."
Think outside the major supermarkets box
Milk shelves bare at Woolies? Focus your hunt even closer to home. Our local greengrocer is not only stacked full of fresh fruit and veg but bottles of milk, juice, smoked meats. You may have to get there early, but most butchers have mince when supermarket cool shelves are denuded. At the time of printing, markets and farmers' markets are open, some are doing extended hours for the vulnerable (check websites for opening hours). Don't tell anyone, but some local hardware stores even have loo paper.
Think inside the subscription box
The meal-kit and grocery delivery sector has experienced massive growth over the past five years and many food subscription businesses are still servicing major cities throughout the crisis. Thomas Farms Kitchen offers set-and-forget weekly deliveries and customisable boxes for fridge and pantry essentials; Dinnerly and Marley Spoon (both meal-kit services are operated by the same company) were still taking new customers at the time of writing, as was Hello Fresh and Pepper Leaf.
Tins that aren't tuna
If you've ever been to Continental Deli in Sydney (and hopefully stocked up on their Martinis) or MoVida Next Door in Melbourne, you'll know that tins are kind of a big deal in Spain. Tinned seafood such as chipirones (stuffed squid in ink sauce) and razor clams are a treat on crusty bread. Look for the Cuca and Ortiz brands at specialty grocers, or order online from Alimentaria.
Asian grocers stock a range of tins to add texture to any bland pantry: bamboo shoots and water chestnuts for crunch in salads and stir-fries, and tropical fruit like lychee and mangosteen to pimp ice-cream and desserts.
You can also head to a Middle Eastern or Mediterranean grocer for a whole meal in a can – just add bread. Look for dolmades and octopus, and okra, fat gigantes and green beans in tomato-based spiced sauces.Try Mediterranean Wholesalers or Sonsa Market in Melbourne and Gima Supermarket or Sam's MFC Supermarket in Sydney.
Don't be bland
Based on the edible products to fly first off supermarket shelves, your home pantry is undoubtedly well-stocked with rice, pasta and other beige foods. But unless you also went crazy for tinned anchovies, chilli flakes and vinegars, you're going to develop food fatigue pretty damn quickly. These flavour-packed, shelf-stable ingredients will add life and colour to even the blandest of dishes.
Next time you brave the supermarket, supercharge your shop with hot sauce, spices such as cumin and coriander seeds, salty things including tinned fish, capers and soy sauce, acidic things such as vinegars and pickles, and crunchy goodness along the lines of sesame seeds, nuts and fried shallots. Heck, even those squeeze-tubes of herbs are OK in this instance. See also chef Phil Wood's advice on stocking a flavour-filled pantry.
Empty the contents of your pantry out onto the bench and sort everything in it into "use now", "useful flavour bombs", "future inspiration" and then put it all back. Prioritise all those things that have been sitting there for 10 years (as long as they're safe, of course). Do the same with the freezer and defrost anything completely mysterious and unlabelled to see if you can use it. It's not doing you any good in there, and you'll free up freezer space for essentials. Like ice-cream. And vodka.