'Dubai's new once-every-three-days supermarket rule has forced me to, finally, become a meal planner'

How one week has helped to undo the bad shopping habits of a lifetime

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 25 MARCH 2020. Joan Cadelin (Phil) an employee at Grandiose Supermarket on Beach rd in Jumeirah, prepares a home delivery order while wearing a protective mask and gloves to avoid the possible spread of disease while keeping food and necessities available to customers. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: None. Section: National.
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Everyday life looks very different for most people right now. There have been huge changes to every facet of our daily routines, and while some have been hard to accept, others have been welcomed.

Last week, Dubai residents applying for police permits to head to grocery shops were met with the news that they could now only go out once every three days. There would be no more popping out to pick up bits and bobs here and there. Essentials mean essentials.

I've never been much of a meal planner, always more of a pop to the shop after work and pick up whatever I fancy for dinner type of person.

I had used up my quota of shop visits two days earlier, when I ran downstairs to grab an emergency onion midway through a recipe, not stopping to think what else I might need while out. With my planned ‘big shop’ now denied, I was forced to look into the depths of the cupboard to come up with meals to last me through until the next permit.

I’ve never been much of a meal planner, always more of a pop to the shop after work and pick up whatever I fancy for dinner type of person. There are always the staples of pasta, rice and frozen vegetables in the house, but they usually sit there, neglected, in favour of whatever new and shiny thing caught my attention in Spinneys that day.

But thanks to Dubai’s new rules, we all now have to be meal planners. Each trip to the shop needs to yield at least three days worth of food, and so, I made my list.

It consisted of all the meals I would make over the coming week, and everything I needed for them. It streamlined the shopping process when I eventually did make it out, and for once, I didn’t come back with snacks I really didn’t need.

Instead of planning specific days for specific things, I just make a list of every meal I have the ingredients to make, and ahead of each mealtime, I dive in and pick one. Not only has it hugely cut down on the amount of food going to waste in the house, it’s also saved me time and money, and stopped me ordering last-minute takeaways. I even have a chart up in the kitchen. It's the small things.

I've also discovered sites like supercook.com, that lets you put in all the ingredients you have in at home and creates a recipe for you, throwing up delicious choices I would never have thought about myself.

Curries, salads, roasted veg, leftovers for lunch. I've finally become the person in the office I always envied as I hastily ordered lunch at 2pm.

It may sound trivial, but it feels like a small win amongst all the madness. One hopefully that I can carry with me beyond this and into a more organised and wholesome future, at least in the kitchen, anyway. So thanks Dubai, I will be sticking to your three-day rule long after the restrictions lift.