Food rationing tips to make your supply last longer. PICTURE: Unsplash
Food rationing tips to make your supply last longer. PICTURE: Unsplash

9 tips for rationing food supply and stretching meals

By Sacha van Niekerk Time of article published Jul 15, 2021

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Make your food supply go further and last longer with these tips for rationing.

With no time to prepare, the people of KZN were hurled into a state of panic as many grocery stores across the province were looted of their food supply over the past few days. Thus, many have been left to rely on whatever groceries they had at home as well as what’s left in the shops.

With queues for goods snaking around the few stores that remain open, there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding when peoples’ next sufficient grocery shop will be. In the meanwhile, rationing your supply to stretch your food for as long as possible seems to be the safest way to ensure you will have food until then.

From assessing your stock to using up scraps, this list of tips for rationing your food supply at home will help make your food go longer during these trying times.

9 tips for rationing food supply and stretching meals:

Take stock of what you already have

Look through the fridge, freezer, deep freeze, pantry and kitchen cupboards to take stock of what you already have. You need to assess the situation, to better understand how many fresh, frozen and non-perishable items you have available, as well as what should be eaten first.

How many people you are rationing for

Consider how many people in your family that you will be rationing for. It is important to note this before heading out to the grocery store as you do not want to over shop unnecessarily and risk wasting food or understock. You also need to think about who lives in your household and think about their various needs that will differ depending on age, gender, weight, and activity level.

Properly seal what has been opened

Spice mixes, pasta packets, bags of rice, flour, oats, lentils and more are usually bought in bulk and stored in cupboards to be consumed over some time. These items that are at risk of insects need to be properly sealed to avoid insects such as weevils from getting inside and spoiling the goods. Use pegs to close packets, double bag and knot the goods or, if you have enough freezer space, bag the goods in plastic (to prevent water from damage) and then place them in the freezer where they will be kept fresh and out of reach from insects.

Freeze, eat, pickle and store

Fresh produce like bread, veggies, dairy and fruit that is at risk of perishing need to either be frozen to prolong its shelflife or cooked first and consumed or cooked and preserved. For example, fruit like apples can be stewed and frozen and tomatoes liquidized and frozen to defrost and consume at a later stage. Certain soft-skinned fruit like plums and berries need to be refrigerated, eaten or washed, sliced and frozen before one's peels, and last a few weeks outside.

Canned foods like baked beans and creamed corn, pickled items and dry food items like cereal, pasta, lentils and couscous will last in the cupboard for usually as long as their container remains sealed (no rust, dents, or swelling). Pickle fruit and veggies will greatly prolong their shelf life and, as a bonus, they will remain nutritious, providing your body many of the vitamins and antioxidants they possess when raw. It is always helpful to label any food you have cooked, pickled, decanted or frozen with the date it expires/date you bought or cooked it.

Repurpose leftovers

Leftovers need not go to waste. Stale bread can be made into breadcrumbs, croutons, bruschetta, casserole toppers for some crunch used for French toast or even bread and butter pudding. Day or two old rice works best in certain dishes, like rice pudding and fried rice. Veggie peels and leftover bones and can be made into veggie stock and broth, and other food scraps, have multiple uses around the home and garden.

Meal prep

Meal prepping involves the prepping of food in advance. This entails washing, chopping, and cooking entire meals to store and eat throughout the week. Having this planned out will help the rationing process as it will prevent the unnecessary cooking of extra meals, instil the notion of having set meal times and therefore prevent overeating and snacking.

Stretch your supply

You can make your groceries go much farther with a few simple tricks that are one wart practicality and one part creativity. By mixing butter with mayonnaise, it’ll stretch a lot further and can be used to butter bread and flavour veggies. Rather than serving a plate of meat, veggies and a carbohydrate, cook a stew consisting of those same items that can be bulked up with grains like barley, lentils or rice, as well as a variety of fresh or canned veggies.

Save fast dripping from bacon, sausages or roasts to season anything from savoury rice to soups and gravies. Also, wherever possible, try to use all parts of your vegetables and meat so as not to waste them.

Use an ingredient matcher

You may come home from the grocery store with a random assortment of groceries that were based on the scarce supply available in the store. If you do not know what to cook with your items, use a recipe generator to help make full meals based on what you have at home. This will help stretch your meals further.

Look at expiration dates

Most important of all is to look at expiration dates. Do this when shopping for goods as well as while assessing what you have at the back of your cupboard. From eggs to milk and bread, when at the shops, pick fresh items that have expiration dates further in the future as you will have more time to enjoy them before they begin to perish.

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