Cooking at Home While Social Distancing

March 23, 2020 10:45 AM

With many restaurants now closed, an expert explains the importance of large scale social distancing and offers an easy recipe with common kitchen ingredients to make at home.

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Monday, March 16, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the temporary closure of several public places, including restaurants. You may be wondering if this is all really necessary, but nurse scientist Sue Anne Bell, Ph.D, says it absolutely is, especially when it comes to dining out.

Communal eating, like serving yourself in a buffet line, could spread the virus because of the collective serving utensils, silverware and plates. In any restaurant or café, sitting in close proximity to others or coming in contact with an infected surface, like the counter or ketchup dispenser, also poses a risk for disease transmission.

“The CDC is recommending avoiding large groups and restaurants are filled with people that could spread illness,” she says. “You don’t know the health of the people sitting around you.”

These public places often have shared bathrooms, which should be avoided as much as possible in a pandemic for the same reasons.

“It’s good that we’re practicing social distancing, but Governor Whitmer’s order was crucial for prompting others to practice healthy social habits on a larger scale,” Bell says, who is also a member of the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation with expertise in disaster preparedness and response, community health and emergency care­.

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Alternatives to eating out

While you can still get take out, this situation provides people the opportunity to instead focus on making nutritious, budget friendly meals at home.

“The great thing about the internet is that you can learn so much about creative cooking,” Bell says. “If you’re trying to make meals at home, there are websites where you can type in what ingredients you have and it’ll give you recipes you can make, like SuperCook or MyFridgeFood.”

Using grocery delivery services and preparing meals at home will make you a social distancing role model for your kids and present an opportunity to teach them how to cook alongside you.

“We have to take a society based approach to this virus. We have to think about others,” Bell says. “Staying home is doing our part.”

If you’re looking for a quick recipe using common kitchen ingredients, try this chicken and pasta soup recipe, which feeds four to six people. 

Chicken and Pasta Soup

Noodle and tuna in bowl recipe

What you’ll need

  • 1 cup orzo or pasta

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 medium onion, diced

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • 1 medium carrot, shredded (can substitute with a frozen vegetable medley)

  • 1 rib celery, peeled and minced (can substitute with a frozen vegetable medley)

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3 cups cooked chicken (can substitute with canned chicken)

  • 5 cups chicken broth, low-sodium canned or homemade

  • 1 bay leaf (optional for flavor)

  • 1 sprig fresh thyme (optional for flavor)


  1. Add salt to a large pot of cold water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and boil, stirring occasionally until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain the pasta.

  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and salt. If using fresh ingredients, add the carrot and celery and cook for about 8 minutes until tender.

If using frozen vegetables, heat the mixture in a skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Cook uncovered for 5-7 minutes and stir occasionally. Add this medley to your onion, garlic and salt.

  1. Add the fresh or canned chicken, bay leaf, thyme, and broth to the vegetables. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.

  2. Add the pasta to the soup just before serving. Soup can be made in advance and frozen, just omit the pasta and add when serving.

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