Isolation Living

The time has come to admit that the Virus is going to be about for quite a few weeks, if not months and it needs ALL of us to think of ourselves and others to protect the most vulnerable.

If coronavirus forces you to self-isolate, you’ll need to make the most of what you already have in your kitchen – and whilst I am not advocating stockpiling IN ANY WAY – the following is a checklist that, if you have in your cupboards, we can definitely use to cook with if you are stuck at home.

Whole plum tomatoes

  • Essential for sauces, soups, stews, casseroles – a true all-rounder!

Pulses and beans (chickpeas, cannellini, kidney, and lentils)

  • Great fillers and bulkers, full of protein and fibre.

Light coconut milk

  • Add to soups and curries for a mellow, creamy flavour.

Good-quality tinned tuna, salmon, or sardines

  • Great for simple pasta dishes and fishcakes.

Good-quality anchovies

  • The perfect salty seasoning for sauces and stews.



  • Perfect for pasta bakes or straight-up stovetop wonders – make sure you hang on to any leftover bits to stir into soups and stews.


  • Great for stir-fries, soups and curries.


  • Full of protein and made from semolina, couscous is a beautiful accompaniment to a tagine or stew, and makes the perfect base for a salad. Add chopped dried cranberries or apricots to really jazz it up.

GRAINS (bulgur, pearl barley, farro)

  • Also great and relatively cheap bulkers for stews and soups. Cook a larger batch than you need and turn into delicious salads, warm or cooled.


  • Add a touch of sweetness to sauces and marinades. At breakfast and in baking, you only need a little drizzle!


    • Add a bit of a kick to stews, sauces and marinades, or use as a condiment.
    • Tip: a tablespoon of grainy mustard and a tablespoon of honey make a great coating when roasting sausages.


Groundnut or vegetable oil

  • Good flavourless oil for everyday cooking.


  • Seasoning for Asian dishes, marinades and sauces.


VINEGARS (red wine, cider, balsamic)  

  • Lots of dishes benefit from a little vinegar – think dressings, marinades, sauces and stews.

Herbs & spices


  • Mediterranean vibes. Also an essential flavour in Italian-American cuisine.

Smoked paprika

  • Punchy, smoky goodness, from Spain to the American Deep South.


  • Flakes, powder, mild or  hot…we all need a bit of spice!


  • A warming and comforting flavour. Bakes and sauces – both sweet and savoury – love a little sprinkling.


  • Robust and earthy, and integral to Indian and Mexican cooking. Buy the seeds and toast in a dry pan to release another level of flavour.


  • Lemony and fragrant.

Curry powder

  • A classic blend for basic sauces and curries


  • A fabulous blend for marinades, rubs, and noodles

Sea salt

  • Sea salt flakes will last you longer than table salt, and encourage you to use less salt in your cooking.

Black peppercorns

  • Buy whole peppercorns and grind them when you need them in a pepper mill or pestle and mortar. It tastes a hundred times better than stale, pre-ground pepper.



  • An excellent way to add flavour and seasoning to loads of different dishes. Try the low-salt versions – they’re often just as good.


  • perfect for a filling breakfast, even in warmer months. For a change from porridge, try making muesli – it’ll keep in the fridge for a few days. Oats are also super useful in baking, from biscuits to crumble toppings

Plain flour, self-raising flour (wholemeal or white)

  • For thickening sauces, coating meat, fish and veggies for frying, and baking.

Nuts and seeds

  • Have a couple of packets of your favourites for toasting and sprinkling over salads, soups and stews, or onto yoghurt.

Good-to-haves (extras but not essentials)

  • Olives
  • Capers
  • Tomato purée (add a flavour punch to lots of different dishes)
  • Bread flour
  • Dried yeast
  • Dried fruit
  • Cocoa powder
  • Sugar (white and brown)
  • Toasted sesame oil (a flavoursome oil used often in South-east Asian cuisine)
  • Baking powder
  • Turmeric (beautifully yellow, and a secret weapon in lots of Indian recipes)
  • Garam masala
  • Ground ginger
  • Fennel seeds
  • Your favourite condiments (ketchup, brown sauce, mayonnaise, Tabasco – you never know when you’ll need ‘em)


vegetables, meat and fish.  Butter and milk will both freeze happily. Bread. You can either buy frozen herbs or freeze your own. 

FRIDGE – garlic (lots of!) and fresh chillies / fresh veg / bacon / pickles / butter /milk/yogurt

Now is the time to put your cooking skills to good use.  When I started this blog Cooking for One it was to encourage those on their own to get back into the enjoyment of shopping, preparing, cooking good food – and I did not want to encourage you to batch cook.  Times have now changed and if you can help someone in any way by offering a meal to those in self isolation, particularly older people or on their own, now is the time to do it.

As I am myself trying to stay at home, I shall post recipes more often particularly using the above ingredients, and also telling you how you can cook the same dish for more.  In the meantime, be kind to yourself and others, stay safe and, please DON’T BULKBUY OR STOCKPILE so we can all have what we need.

pooksLove from Pookie

ps If anyone wants to email me listing what they have in their cupboards, I may be able to whip up a recipe just for you! xx


4 thoughts on “Isolation Living

  1. Definitely looks like it will be a long road to a profoundly different future. Cooking for One could not be more appropriate to help so many of us through this. Keep up the good work Ailsa and I hope we all get to celebrate together again soon. On the bright side, it will be an interesting accomplishment tidying up and using all the odd bits of grains and tins in my larder! WITL “What’s In The Larder” suppers will force us all to be more creative and less wasteful in the kitchen . Stay well All. X


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