Food and family during Coronavirus

It’s not easy being stuck indoors all day, particularly with young children, but with a little knowhow, food and mealtimes can be a chance for fun, connection and structure throughout the day.

With the current advice to shop less, there’s extra pressure to plan meals and pick up all the right food at the shops… all with small children in tow.

As these are challenging times for families, here are some tips and recipes from the Home-Start Food Volunteers to help make planning, prepping and cooking less stressful.

Tips for food shopping

We would always recommend meal planning and making a shopping list before you go out to buy, and this is still just as relevant now, even though specific things may not be available. It’s sensible to make a flexible list, with an idea of meals you plan to have over the coming week. Then it’s easier if they don’t have your usual stuff to swap items for something more available, and of course make the most of each journey to the shops by making sure you don’t forget any essentials.

Gradually build up stores of tins and freezer items so you have spare meals in case you cannot go out when you plan – see our recipes for clever cooking with tinned tomatoes

Buy fruit and veg that last longer – butternut squash, sweet potatoes, cabbages, apples, oranges, kiwis.

Buy rolled porridge oats – So, so, so useful and good for you. They keep you full for longer and are very nutritious – see our recipes for easy oat bars and cookies here. Gluten free oats can be found on the free-from shelves in supermarkets.

If you find yourself with a collection of random ingredients and no ideas how to use them, you can also try #JackMonroesLockdownLarder on twitter. Jack, the amazing @BootstrapCook, will respond to posts asking for advice on how to use up what you have at hand. Her website is also fantastic for guidance on making meals on a shoestring.

Making food fun

Mealtimes and snacks can be a fun part of life in lockdown as well as giving structure to the day. Plan some things to be the same as usual so that your children retain some of their normal routine, and some things that are new and different.

What about having Movie Night twice a week and make your own popcorn?

Food play is really good for introducing kids to new foods, or making things they usually don’t like seem more appealing. Make our Funny Faces – great for lunch, supper or snacks. Even toddlers can have fun doing this.

Get your children cooking – little ones can learn to spread, and mash with a fork, and mix in a bowl, primary age to cut safely, measure weights and liquid, read recipes – see our tips for cooking with children. Older children could plan and cook a whole meal.

A picnic can bring fun to mealtimes very simply. You’ll probably be making a lot more lunches than usual – mix it up by eating on a blanket outside or inside one day, and encouraging them to help you prepare the sandwiches. Here are some recipes for picnic food that the children can help make.

Kids love helping around the kitchen, and having a bit of extra time at home is a good opportunity to get them more involved. Laying the table for a meal can be fun – if your children squabble then let them each do it on a different day.

Storing food safely

Coronavirus: how to store food safely Advice from Which? about what you need to wash, and tips to keep your food lasting longer between supermarket stock-ups.

What can I do with leftovers?

Bake-Off champion Nadiya Hussein even has recipes on her instagram for how to make use of the bits of food that people normally throw away, like BBQ Banana Skins and Scrap Soup.

More inspiration and ideas

  • HENRY Easy, healthy family meals and other advice
  • BHF Recipe Finder Put in a key ingredient, cuisine or other requirement and let it give you a selection of recipes from their collection.
  • Jack Monroe Number 1 for tasty meals on a tight budget

Getting food in a crisis

In response to the needs of vulnerable people all across the borough, Coronavirus Mutual Aid Groups have formed in neighbourhoods all over the borough to help with grocery shopping and other needs. Here is a complete list of groups in Wandsworth:

Wandsworth Food Bank is still operational to help families get emergency food supplies during Coronavirus. They currently only do home deliveries and require referrals from voucher partners including Home-Start Wandsworth.

Please contact us if you are struggling to get enough food for your family.