Cooking, Food Keeping Things Fresh in Your Pantry

By Linghan Mei

Hi Penn pals,

As a student juggling working on my thesis and job searching while also practicing social distancing, I found many ways to avoid food waste, shop for groceries less often, spend the least amount of time on cooking, and still eat balanced meals every day. Eating well gives me energy throughout the day and helps me compartmentalize my work and personal time. Reducing food waste is not only eco-friendly but also helps keep my neighbors and community safe.

Keep 'em Fresh

While attempting to use up the pantry items I have lying around to avoid leaving my house to go shopping, I noticed that some veggies and fruits perish more slowly than others. Veggies commonly sold in grocery stores that last long include onions, potatoes, carrots, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower. These vegetables can be stored in your fridge in either the original packaging or an air-tight container. You can also purchase frozen Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower or freeze your own in food-safe storage containers for up to 2-3 months. Apples are the winner amongst fruits, but if you are up for the work and live near a farmer's market or wholesale market, fruits like mandarins and berries can be also cooked down in bulk into a jam or marmalade that you can use to top up your breakfast later on. Meat products store well in the freezer, so they are easy to keep around for a long time.

Use 'em or Lose 'em

We have all had that moment where we are left with five pieces of different veggies that are about to perish if we don't put them to good use soon. Here are some strategies that I like to use:

  • My go-to solution is to make oven roasted veggies. However, starchy vegetables like potatoes are hard to season and leafy greens like spinach can end up too dry. You can drench potatoes in oil and add dried seasoning, but you may have to roast them separately from other veggies to avoid undercooking them.

  • A great alternative is a quick stir-fry. It works particularly well with a soy sauce-based stir-fry sauce or other seasoning mixes that you prefer. It preserves the moisture and texture of veggies better than roasting in the oven. Pro tip: cutting all ingredients into the same shape (either thin slices or sticks) makes it easier to stir-fry and improves the appearance.

  • I love chopping up mixed veggies and adding them to my omelet. Chopping them into little pieces makes them easier to cook through and adds a lot of fun texture to the omelet.

That’s my two cents on reducing food waste while social distancing! I hope you can all find time to cook and enjoy good meals with family and friends, in-person or remotely. Please feel free to share with us on social media or in a virtual skillshare any pantry tips or your own cooking and baking experiences!

Stay safe, stay healthy, and fight on!


Linghan Mei is an Administrative Support Fellow at the Graduate Student Center. She is pursuing a Master's in Bioengineering at SEAS. Her academic interest lies in understanding the connection between structure and function of biomolecules and exploiting these connections to develop tools that are useful in the clinic. In her free time, she enjoys watching musicals, jogging alongside the Schuylkill River, and trying recipes from different cultures (often failing and resorting to ethnic eateries at all corners of Philly).

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