Two weeks indoors? Ten things to plan for your pantry

Ultimate comfort food: Adam Liaw's winter herb polenta.
Ultimate comfort food: Adam Liaw's winter herb polenta. Photo: William Meppem

Now that  the zombie apocalypse is upon us many of us are looking to manage our potential exposure to coronavirus, we might be spending a little more time inside than we're used to.

Whether you're returning from overseas or living it up in your castle made of stockpiled toilet paper, here's a shopping list of things you might want to fill your kitchen with before you shut the doors.


Playing smart, you're better off skipping the melee in the canned tuna aisle and heading for the salt instead. This super-preserver has been our best friend in the kitchen since even before kitchens existed. Now that you've got a bit of time on your hands you might like to try making own pancetta, turning a few litres of milk into feta, or curing a fish that you've caught barehanded from a nearby stream. Preserving what you have isn't hard, but without salt you're straight out of luck.

Why not try:

Keep calm and make bread.

Keep calm and make bread. Photo: Tom Merton


Before you start stockpiling all that flour, my advice is to think about what you're going to do with it because not all flours are created equal. If you're thinking of sourdough, maybe a few kilos of unbleached or wholemeal flour might be the way to go. Pasta is going to need something relatively high in gluten, but you might also need to get some regular old plain flour for cakes and things. Steer clear of the self-raising. It'll just limit your options.

Why not try:

Eggs are possibly the most versatile food in the world.

Eggs are possibly the most versatile food in the world. Photo: iStock


Eggs are quite possibly the most versatile food in the world. Mayonnaise, cakes, fried rice, omelettes, souffles or just boil one and eat it. If you weren't going to be heading to the supermarket for two weeks you could do a lot worse than having a few dozen eggs in the pantry to keep you in good food for the duration. 

Why not try:

Dried mushrooms add a punch of umami to any dish.

Dried mushrooms add a punch of umami to any dish. Photo: Supplied

Dried mushrooms

Dried mushrooms should be a staple in your pantry at all times. They add a big punch of umami and a meaty texture to dishes, and reconstituting them in water gives you an instant mushroom stock. I'll even grate dried shiitake over pasta like a vegan parmesan.

Why not try:

Use chuck steak for a warming beef stroganoff.

Use chuck steak for a warming beef stroganoff. Photo: William Meppem

Chuck steak

Mince is versatile, but after your tenth consecutive meal of it you'll be craving something with some texture. Opt for chuck steak in the freezer instead and you'll be enjoying delicious toothsome meals while everyone else is eating with a spoon. You can always mince it yourself anyway.

Why not try:


Give me a few cups of rice (and a couple of eggs) and enough time and I'll build you a civilisation from scratch. Every Asian family knows that rice makes anything a meal. Either make dishes to accompany it or just scrounge a few bits and pieces and turn it into your family's favourite fried rice.

Why not try:

Corn and green pea rice.

Corn and green pea rice. Photo: William Meppem

Frozen peas

The purists may sing the praises of slowly shelling your own for maximum flavour and freshness, but that doesn't get greens into my kids' mouths within two minutes with no complaints. From soups, to pastas to curries, peas are pretty well perfect.

Why not try:

The ultimate baked beans.

The ultimate baked beans. Photo: William Meppem

Dried beans

Dried beans aren't considered the most exciting of foods, but they can be pure magic even if you haven't traded the family cow for them. They can certainly be used to bulk up braises and the like, but they really come into their own when you think of them less as filler in a chilli con carne, and more in the vein of the elegance of cassoulet, silky white bean hummus and homemade baked beans. Hashtag #soakthemovernight.

Why not try:

To All My Friends. Craft Beer bar. Fried polenta chips and whipped blue cheese
 Photo Elesa Kurtz

Fried polenta chips. Photo: Elesa Kurtz


Polenta is a very underrated apocalypse food. What I like about it is that is that it's a different meal every day. Pasta tonight is leftover pasta tomorrow (not that there's anything wrong with that), but today's soft, buttery polenta is tomorrow's grilled polenta, or polenta chips, or even a sweet polenta pudding.

Why not try:

Keep the kids entertained by getting them to make this condensed-milk Victoria sponge.

Keep the kids entertained by getting them to make this condensed-milk Victoria sponge. Photo: William Meppem


Trying to entertain kids indoors for two weeks might be worse than any virus, but a good baking project can keep them occupied for half a day at least. You're going to need sugar for that. Maybe even trying making some jam or cordial. You might be able to trade jars or bottles of it when our financial systems collapse.

Why not try: