Hunkered Down During COVID-19? Make Something.

COVID-19 may trap me in Canada. I’m not complaining. It’s a good place to be trapped and before I left California, I knew this could happen.

I arrived on March 7th and had planned to leave on March 17th but with talk of restricting travel in California and the pandemic response evolving worldwide by the hour, who knows what will happen within the next four days, after which I’m scheduled to head back to San Francisco. So I will likely alter my plans. Major airlines have waived change fees in light of COVID-19.

Here in Ontario, March break begins next week. Yesterday, the provincial government extended the break by two weeks in order to try to slow the spread of the virus. In addition to school closures, events have been cancelled, movie theaters shuttered, major league games postponed. 

Many of us will stay hunkered down at home (or away from home!), either out of necessity or precaution. Now seems like a great time to learn a new skill. Not only will you enjoy yourself, your new skill will boost your self-reliance and resilience.

Here are some ideas to prevent you from going stir-crazy.

Make pasta from scratch

This is really easy. Mix flour and eggs to form a stiff dough, knead it, allow it to rest, roll it out, form shapes, cook, enjoy. Go here for the recipe. Prefer a vegan version? Go here for my recipe for pumpkin pasta. Have sourdough? Here’s a vegan sourdough pasta recipe

And if you want to watch something delightful, check out Pasta Grannies on YouTube. Letitzia, at 100 hundred years old, still makes pasta from scratch!

Start a sourdough starter

My sourdough starter Eleanor turned six years old this year. My sister Michelle recently acquired a starter from her partner’s mother. It’s over 40 years old and dates back to the late 1970s! Eleanor met Michelle’s unnamed starter when the two of us arrived in Bobcaygeon, Ontario last Saturday and they seemed to hit it off.

To make a sourdough starter, you mix flour and water in a jar and wait. When you notice bubbles and smell a strong aroma, you remove most of the mixture and add fresh flour and water to the jar. Do this every day until your starter matures. At that point, when it rises after each feeding, you can make bread. Go here for a sourdough starter tutorial.

If you and your young kids are stuck at home, you might like my sourdough starter lesson plan for a fun activity. Find that here. Think of a name for your new pet.

Eleanor in her travel outfit (the small jar) with her new friend

Bake sourdough bread

If you’ve never found the time to make the bread, you might now have more time on your hands than you know what to do with during COVID-19. You may as well eat delicious bread.

I tell people in my classes that making sourdough is easy when you know how. The recipe looks intimidating but once you’ve done it a couple of times, it becomes second-nature.

during COVID-19, learn a skill like sourdough bread baking
You need only three ingredients to make this: flour, water, salt

Start your first batch of sauerkraut

You need only a head of cabbage, salt, a bowl and a jar to make a delicious batch of sauerkraut. Not only does it taste delicious, the live cultures that develop in it can help keep you healthy. Note I did NOT claim that sauerkraut prevents or cures COVID-19!

To make sauerkraut, you chop or shred cabbage, add other vegetables such as carrots or radishes if desired, add salt and pack the vegetables into clean jars. Allow the jars to sit on the counter at room temperature for a few days and voilà, you have tangy, probiotic-rich sauerkraut that will keep in the refrigerator for many months. It probably won’t last that long though because it tastes delicious.

Go here for the basic sauerkraut recipe.

Make tomato paste if you live in the Southern Hemisphere

When tomatoes are in season, take half a day to make several jars of tomato paste. This will last for months in the freezer. You can also can it. But be warned, once you taste tomato paste you’ve made yourself, as with the other staples I’ve included here, you can’t go back to store-bought. Homemade tastes amazing!

Find the recipe here.

Cook a pot of beans from dry

Beans you cook yourself require a bit of planning ahead because you (usually) soak them overnight before cooking. If you’re staying put at home, forced to slow down, here’s your chance to try making beans from scratch if you’ve never done it. You soak them, drain and rinse them, then cook them either in a pot on the stove, in a slow cooker or in a pressure cooker.

Go here for more details on cooking dry beans. Go here for more info on using a pressure cooker.

Sprout some beans, grains or seeds

In the dead of winter, you can still grow something—sprouts. Soak the beans, grains or seeds overnight, drain and rinse, then sprout them in a jar, on a dish or in a colander (for larger varieties like black beans, for example). Enjoy your sprouts in salads, on a sandwich, in a stir-fry or simply by the handful.

Go here for a tutorial on sprouting.

soaking mung beans
Overnight soak of mung beans
jar of mung bean sprouts
Store bean sprouts and refrigerate for up to a week

Sew something

Have you been wanting to learn how to sew on your grandma’s sewing machine that sits in your home, gathering dust? Today’s the day! You could start with a simple produce bag. To make this beginner project, cut out a rectangle, fold it, sew up the bottom and the sides, make a hem and you’re done. Go here for a tutorial and video on making simple produce bags. Have an old flannel sheet? You could use that to make unpaper towels.

Staying active during the COVID-19 pandemic will help get your mind off of it if you find yourself obsessively reading online news or scrolling through your social media feeds non-stop. You’ll relax, live more in the moment and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

10 Replies to “Hunkered Down During COVID-19? Make Something.”

  1. It’s a great time to experiment when you can’t leave the house, I’m making rock candy because why not.

    1. Hi Alison,
      Totally agree. You may as well do something fun and in the end you get rock candy! Enjoy 🙂
      ~ Anne Marie

  2. This is a fantastic post! ♥️

  3. Trish Waldon says: Reply

    My company is essentially closed and I’m home for the duration – with a to-do list a mile long. One of my top “projects” for sheer enjoyment is to read all the Zero-Waste Chef posts from inception to today!

  4. Madeleine Lawrence says: Reply

    I’m desperately hoping we get to stay home too! Home made pasta is top of my list. You may have heard about the crazy rush on loo paper here in Australia. So yesterday I made reusable flannalette wee wipes – no panic at my place! The vegetable garden is currently producing food faster than I can process it (because I have to go to work) so it would be fantastic if I had some time at home to get it all done. (of course I am giving away any excess I cannot process to neighbours and work friends)


  5. Welcome to coronavirus world. Take care

  6. Great suggestions. Thanks for compiling them!

  7. Linda McCartney says: Reply

    Thank you – keep your spirits up and your minds and hands busy !

  8. Krystle Willmore says: Reply

    I just made sourdough bread last night! How do you store your sourdough loaves? I’m trying to find a zero waste way to do so. I was thinking flour sack towel and then in a bread box?

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