10 hacks to cook mindfully during the lockdown

April 24, 2020

Author: Chef Arabella Parkinson, IG: @eat_to.thrive

Nature thrives without us. Today, humankind is reminded of this as we witness the rewilding of our cities from the confines of our homes and the screens of our devices. We have forgotten how to mindfully take what we need, while sustaining our natural ecosystems.

During these unprecedented times we are being reminded about how we consume. Our habits are exposed as we have time to observe. Imagine your every bite slowly and steadily influencing change...

Let’s use an example. Ordering fast food. We type. We select. We pay. It arrives, covered in plastic. We eat. We throw away. Consuming fast food is a one way road to a bin full of plastic and a belly full of health issues. Habits indicative of our on-demand and conditioned minds. Addiction to convenience. While we remain at home, let’s see this as an opportunity to develop more sustainable food habits.

Cooking for yourself requires more time and love, but allows us to support local farmers and sustainable food enterprises. Furthermore, I firmly believe the soulful energy we expend during the cooking process gets reabsorbed by our loved ones when we eat together.


As a plant-based chef and holistic health coach, I strive to raise awareness about our modern food systems and eating habits. Over the past few weeks I have chosen to see creativity in times of constraint. So, from my humble and cosy Muizenberg kitchen to yours, I share my top 10 hacks on how to cook mindfully during the lockdown.

1. Avoid the supermarket, distribute your support - By-pass the supermarket and sign up to support local farmers. By receiving a box of seasonal produce you don't need to leave the house, you support small businesses and you are encouraged to get creative. There is an abundance of sustainably minded, local businesses such as Faithful to Nature faithful-to-nature.co.za/fresh offering door to door delivery. Place your order and get stuck into your mystery box challenge. To discover other businesses offering food delivery, head over to insideguide.co.za/cape-town/delivery-coronavirus-lockdown/

2. Think like ouma, know your pantry — Go through your pantry, carefully. This will highlight how much you have and jolt you out of the scarcity mindset. Start collecting jars and swap out the plastic containers. As you know, Fresch is a longtime friend of the Sealand Crew, and a great resource for stocking up on your pantry staples, even during lockdown. Head over to freschonline.com to find all the kitchen staples you will need. A pantry stocked with nuts, grains and legumes is an essential foundation to any kitchen. Next, bring the oldest items to the front, dust them off and use them up! Make sure you have a good rotation in your kitchen. Think like a chef, “first in - last out”. Waste nothing!

3. Research those labels, Google is your friend - While you are taking inventory learn about what you buy and why. The less ingredients on a label, the less processed the product. A rule of thumb: If you can’t pronounce it, your body probably has no clue what it is.

4. Plants are your friends, eat them! In our fast paced world we end up eating on the go or mindlessly consuming to fill up the tank. Let’s stop guzzling empty calories and take time to stick our heads out the window and enjoy the journey. Do you want to learn to cook? Do you want to learn with a chef in your kitchen? My virtual mystery pantry sessions will help you do just that. How it works: You send me a video of what you have in your pantry. I create two custom designed recipes from what you have. We then have 1 hour to create the dishes, with my guidance, and your cooking! These sessions help inspire people to use what they have, reminding them that the best dishes come out of those last bits and pieces in the fridge. For bookings please visit eattothrive.co.za/retreats-1

5. Grow some friends - I believe the most valuable thing you can add to this world is growing your own food. You would think this would be determined by where you live, but vegetables are resilient opportunists and will grow where you give them space to. Find a balcony for your herbs, a wall, pot or patch of earth and get your hands in the soil. My main tip, start small and plant in the correct season for the best harvest. Getting your hands dirty will give you deep gratitude as you nurture an organic vegetable from earth to plate. 

6. Preserve your plants - Make your food go further, prevent waste and strengthen your immune system by learning to pickle and lacto-ferment. Did you know that your gut is considered your second brain? That scientists predict that as much as 90% of serotonin comes from your digestive system? Through maintaining a balanced gut not only can you stabilize and enhance your mood but you can give the immune system the support it needs to fight disease. In order to keep this living ecosystem of microbes happy and working hard, lacto-ferments in your diet are essential. From kimchi, yoghurt, kefir to kombucha, these are all delicious ways to feed your body the good bacteria it needs to thrive! Find my kungfu kimchi recipe on my instagram instagram.com/stories/highlights/17866195744558651/ 

7. You have the time now, make your own rusks - Give up store bought products and create your own. From granola to rusks, bread and milk, they taste so much better from home! Check out Fresch’s rusk and granola packs for some fun baking hacks! freschonline.com/collections/baking-kits/products/health-seed-rusks

8. Do you experience PMSS? - Post meal sofa slumps? Eat less meat - It’s expensive and carbon heavy. Do you need to collapse horizontally in order to digest your food? Each meal should energize rather than exhaust you. Take time to be conscious of the quality over quantity with the animal products you use. Less is more. A more plant-fuelled lifestyle has proven to stabilize blood pressure, lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation in the body. So choose wisely and support free-range and organic local industries.

9. “Make dem guud sweets” - Plant-based confectionery is easier than you think. These are perfect for those lockdown blues getting you in the kitchen along with some sneaky health benefits to encourage you to indulge. No more guilt. No more sugar dips. Just some sweet companionship for those afternoon cravings. My favourite treats right now are my STOKE balls, they speak for themselves. Salted chocolate, peanut butter balls. Follow the link for the recipe. instagram.com/p/B-o5hAUpu2y/ 

10. “I hope you like jammin too”- Have fun, experiment, get the family involved, don’t be scared to fail or get something wrong. If it doesn’t taste right, try it again. If it tasted good, write the recipe down and make it again! Like a kid in the sandbox, be playful. Get creative, get colourful and have fun eating your rainbow.
Arabella Parkinson is a plant-based chef and holistic health coach. You can follow her colourful journey at www.eattothrive.co.za or IG: Eat_to.thrive





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