When we're not proudly supporting our local restaurants, we're all cooking more at home. A lot more. And while we're getting by with the long lines at stores and temporary shortages of some products, many still have justifiable concerns about food safety.
Here's the good news: In the FDA's own words, “[T]here is currently no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging being associated with transmission of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19."
There are many ways you can still contract the virus, but you're highly unlikely to contract it by touching food. Now is not the time to get lax about hygiene, so cleaning your groceries during the coronavirus is key. Keep any raw meat in leak-proof containers, and clean your counters regularly (more on that later).
But if you want to adopt some new habits that can make your space cleaner and healthier, now's the time. It's not like we have a ton going on right now.
If you're a regular in the kitchen, you've inevitably come in contact with raw meat. And as everyone knows, if you're butchering a chicken or making meatballs, you have to wash your hands before moving to the next step. It can be time-consuming and if done incorrectly, can lead to cross-contamination.
But cooking with latex gloves can be a huge help and a big time saver. Wearing gloves will speed up your prep time and by improving your grip, gloves can even improve your knife control. They can be purchased at most big box stores and pharmacies, but maybe wait a little bit before picking up a box.
We started with the easiest tip, and this one is going to be the hardest. From now on, only two things are allowed on the kitchen counter — food you're about to cook and homework. No more keys. Absolutely no more cell phones. No more mail or sunglasses or leashes.
When you go into the kitchen to start cooking, hopefully, the first thing you do is wash your hands. Because you want your hands to be clean when you handle raw food. But what about the surfaces your food touches? Some of those things are with you all day long. And when we know the virus can remain active on different surfaces for several days, it's just not worth the risk. Keep your everyday carry items in a neutral space, like near the front door or on your dresser.
And yes, that also goes for groceries. Don't put bags on the counter anymore when you're putting them away, especially reusable bags. To prevent spreading the virus to everything in your pantry, leave the bags on the floor and put one bag at a time in the kitchen sink. Unload each item and put it away, wiping it down if it looks like it needs it.
When you're done, throw the bags away, or put them away for later use. Wipe down your reusable plastic bags after each trip to the store. If you use heavy duty canvas tote bags, wash them regularly according to manufacturer instructions.
When was the last time you cleaned your stovetop? When was the last time you cleaned your oven? Yeah, thought so.
The best way to keep your space clean is to keep your space clean. That means getting into the habit of cleaning as you cook. For example, when you chop vegetables and you put them aside or add them to your dish, wipe down your cutting board and counter as you go. Dishes and utensils don't go in the sink, they go directly into the dishwasher. And when you're done, spray down the counter with the antibacterial cleaning spray of your choice.
The more you use your kitchen, the more you'll have to clean it. If you're cooking for two or more people most nights, do a cursory wipe down every night and a heavy-duty cleaning twice a month. That means the entire kitchen counter, so you're going to get underneath and behind the coffee maker, toaster oven and whatever else you keep on your counters. Move it all into another room and spray down the entire counter and clean the floors. Clean your oven as often as necessary.
Go through your pantry and clean out all the cupboards. While you're organizing everything, toss out the spices and ingredients that are expired or anything that's just taking up room. Free up some shelf space for the stuff you know you'll be using frequently, stuff like rice and lentils and pasta.
Until farmers and supermarkets are able to sort out supply chain issues, it might be a good idea to give your inner gourmand a break, and instead, learn new techniques to make old favorites and standbys.
And that goes for when you're at the supermarket, too. It's enticing to stock up on stuff you might want at some point. But for now, consider only shopping for food you'll eat for the next week. It may mean there's less stuff in your pantry and your fridge, maybe even less than you're used to seeing. But as long as your kitchen is stocked with food that will get eaten and not collect dust, it's money well spent.
Like everything else in life right now, the key to keeping your space (and your mind) clean is to focus on the things you can control. It doesn't matter if it's your kitchen or your subconscious.
Taking small steps every day to keep yourself and your home clean and coronavirus-free won't seem that overwhelming. Now's the perfect time to get into a good routine to maintain good habits moving forward.