Eating well in a lockdown by Maresa Bossano

In a bid to help share information during the lockdown in Exeter, we are inviting people to contribute helpful articles with us on Exploring Exeter. Maresa Bossano coordinator of Better Health Exeter shares her tips on eating well in a lockdown.

The current lockdown is affecting everyone’s normal eating patterns for a variety of reasons:

  • Limited access to food shops, and limited availability of some products
  • Most restaurants, cafes, etc. have closed, so we can’t eat out
  • Schools have closed, and children are home all-day
  • A lot of us are working from home, or are now out of work, or as key workers, we are having to work more hours, in a more stressful environment.

This all means that many of us are eating a lot more food at home, and spending more time cooking, but are having to do so by making our existing budgets stretch much further, or in a lot of cases with far less money available.

Here are a few tips on how to make your money go further, and to ensure you eat well at the same time and get the food you need to stay healthy. 

how to eat well in lockdown

Don’t panic buy

There is nothing wrong with buying what you need in bulk – I usually buy a lot of my food in bulk from wholesalers, like Essential Trading.  But supermarkets are not set up for everyone to shop like this, as they only have limited shelf space, and restock on a regular basis. Also, panic buying basically means not thinking carefully about what you need first and buying things just because you think they’ll run out. This is actually leading to loads of food being wasted, so not only are other people not able to get the food they need, but a lot of it is ending up in the bin.


Plan ahead

If you are going to a supermarket or other shops you need to try and get in and out as soon as possible to allow other people to shop. So try to plan your meals in advance and work out exactly what you need and write a shopping list. If you’re lucky enough to get a delivery slot when shopping online it’s also good to have a list so you can place your order quickly, as otherwise, it might not go through. It is also better to shop less frequently and get enough food for a week or two.


Stock up on store cupboard ingredients

The best things to buy in larger quantities are foods with a very long shelf life. Fresh ingredients will go off, so you should only buy what you need and use the most perishable items first.

Pulses – e.g. chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans, butter beans, etc. are great for loads of dishes, like curries, soups, chilli, pies and salads, and are cheap, filling and healthy. Tinned pulses are quicker to use, as they are pre-cooked. But if you have more time at home to soak and cook, dried beans will be much better value for money and you can buy a lot more at one time. Lentils don’t need soaking so it’s best to buy dried. It is definitely less stressful knowing you have a shelf full of pulses and won’t starve if you can’t get to the shops for a while.

Grains –  some people are finding it hard to get hold of pasta but there are lots of cheap healthy whole grains you could try using instead e.g. brown rice, barley, bulgur wheat. I like making minestrone type soups using different grains instead of pasta, and you can make nice risottos using barley instead of rice.

Nuts and seeds – although these are quite expensive, they are very nutritious. They are also good to have as healthy snacks, either raw or roasted in the oven. You can also add nuts and seeds to lots of sweet and savoury dishes like sprinkling them on top of salads or making your own pesto.

tofu curry

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

It is really important to still eat lots of fresh fruit and veg to keep healthy. Buying produce that’s in season will be better value. Root vegetables, cabbages and greens, e.g. kale or spinach, and squashes are all still available from local farms and will keep well. All these vegetables are very versatile and can be used for loads of different dishes e.g. raw in salads or roasted in the oven.

I am also eating more local salad leaves at the moment due to the hot weather, if you want these to keep longer wash them first and then keep in a plastic bag in the fridge.

I don’t eat a lot of frozen food but I normally have peas and sweetcorn in the freezer just in case. I also always have frozen berries to make smoothies or to eat with yoghurt.

Tinned tomatoes are great to always have in the cupboards, and to use in sauces, stews and soups.

At the moment I am mainly buying bananas, apples, oranges, and locally grown rhubarb rather than anything more exotic, and we just eat them as snacks or added to smoothies or juices, cakes and desserts.


Buy from local shops and farmers

Small shops and local producers need our support more than ever, and many of them have stock available that may be hard to find in large supermarkets. It may easier to get hold of some pulses and grains in health food shops. Seasons, Health Foods Unlimited , Zero are all still open and are doing some deliveries – you can also try ethnic food shops, which often sell them in huge bags.

Some veg box schemes e.g. Shillingford Organics have had so many orders that they have had to close to new customers, but other new delivery services have started, some being run by wholesalers or farmers who used to supply the catering trade. Exeter Farmers Market is also still running and is just as safe to buy food from, as going to a supermarket.

pumpkin soup

Batch cook your meals and make use of leftovers

Even for the most avid cooks, making three meals a day, every day, can soon become a chore, which is why we have got so used to eating out, having takeaways or relying on ready meals. But if you plan your meals carefully you can cook less often and use your leftovers to make several different meals. For example, a brown lentil and tomato sauce could be used with pasta, as a soup or a vegetable chilli by adding in a tin of kidney beans and some spices. The other day I used some leftover mushroom gravy as a sauce for my stir fry and just added some garlic, ginger, chilli flakes and fresh mint. One of my favourite dishes is using leftover spinach soup and adding some coconut milk, cumin, turmeric and ginger, or other spices and some leftover fried tofu to make a tofu spinach curry.

If you want any more recipe inspiration you can follow me on Instagram


About the Author – Maresa Bossano

I currently coordinate Better Health Exeter which aims to support local people to better manage their health conditions. My background is in the community and local food sector, including working with small organic farms, coordinating a food co-ops project and setting up the farmers market and veg box scheme. I’ve been vegan for nearly 30 years and worked in vegetarian restaurants since I was 16 and ran my own vegan organic café. I am also a single mum with a five-year-old and so am currently attempting to work from home and home school at the same time, as well as cook, clean, grow food, get some exercise, etc….

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