Times are strange right now. Malaysia’s official lockdown period to manage the coronavirus outbreak begins today, and it may seem like doomsday to stay under self-house arrest for two whole weeks. However, there are actually ways to make the most of it, and without making any compromises with your well-being. I’ve compiled some quick tips on how to stay clean, nourished, healthy and happy.
1. SOAP OVER SANITIZER
I’ve heard stories of Malaysian families hoarding bottles of hand sanitizer at stores for fear of others taking it instead. Such behaviour at this time is not only inconsiderate, but also unnecessary. Hand sanitizer provides a means of keeping germs at bay when one’s access to soap and water is limited or nonexistent. If your home has access to clean running water and a bar of soap, it is redundant to rely on hand sanitizer. In fact, a Purdue University professor has assured that conventional soap and water is a proper method of sanitizing hands, a method that cannot and should not be replaced with the use of hand sanitizer. Check out this 1-minute video to make sure all the steps of hand washing are covered in your household and elsewhere.
2. WASH OVER WIPE
Again, horrible hoarding stories surrounding toilet paper. I wish the downfall of a nation didn’t depend so much on the scarcity of tree-killing dry AF paper we use to wipe our bums. Yet here all of us are. However, if you live in Malaysia, there will almost always be a certainty that water – either in a pail or from a bidet – will be within arm’s reach from the toilet. If you have a bidet, it’s a great alternative for toilet paper should you run out of rolls. If there’s water in a pail, you can use your ha-I KNOW THIS IS REALLY GROSS BUT IT HAS TO BE TALKED ABOUT OKAY- and make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap afterwards. Whenever I need to use my hands, I wash them twice or three times over before leaving the bathroom. As much as it may gross out someone used to toilet paper, choosing water does incredible things for the environment and some may argue is even healthier for you. As a Healing Diets student undergoing experiential assignments with digestive health, I’m thankful that I’ve become a lot more comfortable with anything to do with poo. At times like these, it might be worth getting comfortable with yours.
3. BUYING DRY PANTRY FOOD (AND IN BULK IF POSSIBLE)
Dry beans and grains have been a staple in my pantry ever since I dropped meat off my diet 8 years ago. They can be stored for months without going bad. A life-changing tip I learned from zero waste buddy Melissa Tan is to freeze – for at least 24 hours – any type of dry food that is prone to weevils. This simple step prevents any eggs that have been laid in your food from ever hatching. I know, it’s not a pleasant thought and not very vegan-friendly either… but the truth is that the existence of weevils and their eggs are pretty much a guarantee in any nut, grain or bean you buy. The freezing process at least keeps you away from unpleasant surprises, and saves food from getting thoroughly infested and you having to throw it all out. Another method is roasting, which I apply to nuts and seeds.
If you live in the Klang Valley, I know of three bulk stores that will be remaining open during the lockdown, some with restricted hours (refer to links):
THE HIVE BULK FOODS (Outlets in Bangsar, Taman Tun Dr. Ismail, SS2 and The Intermark)
A BIT LESS (Kepong)
SEEDY ZERO WASTE STORE (Shah Alam)
And this isn’t a bulk food store, but if you’d like to stock up on vegan food items, Vegan District in Kota Damansara will upkeep its normal operating hours too.
4. FREEZING YOUR FRUIT
Freezing fresh fruit is a great way to keep them for longer without them losing their nutritional value. They’re perfect to blend into smoothies and, when left in the fridge to thaw overnight, can be stirred into oatmeal. Remove inedible skin and seeds, cut flesh into bite-size pieces if needed, place in a container or reusable zip-lock bag and freeze immediately. My favourite fruits to freeze are bananas, mango, papaya, pitaya, passionfruit and longans.
5. COOKING MEALS FROM SCRATCH
Most Malaysians I meet say they don’t cook their own meals, simply because they don’t have the time. However, visiting the supermarket yesterday, I saw shelves being completely cleared of instant noodles, box meals and other highly processed items. It breaks my heart to see how much we have surrendered our rights of eating what’s good for us, to companies who don’t really care. These two weeks of staying at home is the PERFECT time to dig out all the recipes you’ve bookmarked and saved on your social media accounts. Enjoy the therapeutic benefits of making food. Don’t be afraid to get messy and make mistakes. Take in the victory of feeding yourself and your loved ones something that was created by your own hands.
Here are some of my recipe suggestions for beginners:
MAINS & SIDES:
Tahini Soba Noodles
Herbal Hot Pot
Beet & Coconut Stir-Fry
6. ORDERING IN
I don’t outwardly advocate food delivery. However, if cooking at home is not within your means, I’ve got a few healthy eating recommendations for those residing in the Klang Valley. If you live elsewhere, do contact the health cafes in your area to see what arrangements they have with operating hours and delivery services.
SALA (Sri Hartamas) – My most favourite plant-based restaurant in town that has become so popular, you’d be hard-pressed to find a seat on some weekends! Serves up mouthwatering Tex-Mex inspired food with a tiny curation of well-made local dishes. It attracts all sorts of customers, from families to office peeps, from travellers to gym rats, and there hasn’t been any friend I’ve introduced to this place who doesn’t enjoy the food. Sala is currently open only for delivery and pickup. You can find Sala on GrabFood or Foodpanda. Even better… place an order for pickup or scheduled delivery on their website to take advantage of a great deal going on for only the next few days!
AGRAIN (Bangsar South, The Gardens North Tower, Menara Hap Seng, The Intermark and Sogo KL)
This homegrown cafe chain does a remarkable job at making healthy food taste so darn good. Their ‘buildable bowl’ concept features predominantly oven-baked whole foods, and allows you pick from a humungous range of bases, proteins, supplemental sides, toppings and dressings, technically allowing one to never eat the same Agrain meal twice, even as a vegan. I can’t recommend it enough… and that’s not just me speaking as an Agrain ambassador! Look them up on Grabfood or Foodpanda, order on their website for personal pickup, or if you’re at any of the physical outlets to do a takeaway, quote DAVINAxAGRAIN20 to enjoy 20% off your meal.
SOUL FOOD (TTDI)
I’ve watched this restaurant evolve in my mum’s neighbourhood, testing the waters to see what type of food best serves the wellness of the community. At this moment, the team has settled for a focus on nutritionist and dietitian – supervised meals, which is SO needed especially in an era of too much information from too many sources – many of which have questionable reliability. The restaurant can create customized meal plans for their customers and can cater to specialized diets like gluten-free, low carb, keto and vegan. Drop them a line during lockdown to see what they can arrange for you. You can also make a delivery order from the weekday lunch and dinner menu – with even the option of ‘contactless’ delivery if you want to stay extra careful. Once the Covid 19 cloud passes, do visit the restaurant for its great plant-based lunch deal of RM8.90 for three sides, soup and rice.
7. NO-EQUIPMENT WORKOUTS
My partner and I enjoy an active lifestyle together, and it was a bummer to hear that our apartment management was closing down the gym and pool as part of the lockdown. We are thankful though that we have a small collection of weights, bands and other fitness tools to keep ourselves fit in our own living space. We do enjoy switching things up with no-equipment workouts. There are plenty of them to be found on Youtube, ranging from beginner to intermediate to advanced levels. To our surprise, a lot of the shorter ones can turn out to be the most grueling. This seven-minute ab workout was one we could barely finish the first time, and I doubt I will ever understand how Pamela Reif still looks like a million bucks at the end of a video, while I look like I just waltzed with a jackhammer.
8. CALMING DOWN
Words like ‘house arrest’, ‘isolation’ and ‘self-imposed quarantine’ can come with negative connotations. You might feel worried about your loved ones, stressed about cancelling events, and/or frustrated that you’re forced to take unpaid leave. Am I bummed out that my work as a freelancer has been affected, that my community potluck event has to be postponed, that my sister in Borneo can’t fly in to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow? Thoroughly. But my partner has reminded me once again why I married him by making this profound statement:
“This is 14 days gifted to us that we’ll never get again.”
Instead of seeing it as a form of hindrance or punishment, this lockdown is an incredibly unique opportunity to sit back, reflect, and do things we love but never give ourselves time to do. It is helpful to ‘let go’ of the situation as something we have no control over, and see the opportunities currently presented to us. My partner and I will be devoting our time to de-cluttering and decorating the house, something we’ve kept in the backburner for years. I’ll also be catching up on my Healing Diets studies. There’s broken things to be repaired, books to be read, thoughts and emotions to be meditated upon. The next 14 days will be as beautiful and fruitful as we Malaysians want it to be. A lot has been happening lately in our country and around the world. Consider it as the ‘time-out’ we never realized we needed.