Perhaps like you, I’ve decided to stock my fridge and pantry during the COVID-19 (Corona Virus) pandemic. This does not mean, however, that I have gone out of my way to hoard a boatload of provisions preparing for the end of days. I have only purchased enough goods to last me and my family for roughly two weeks, in case we are required to go into quarantine.
For me, it is very important that I stock my fridge and pantry in a thoughtful, considerate way that not only ensures no waste, but also the safety of my family and those in my community. There are many, many people who are already food insecure and shortages of staples such as rice, beans, bread and milk, will have a crippling effect on their wellbeing.
These are uncertain and scary times and developments are unfolding by the hour. Nevertheless, falling into a state of panic-induced shopping only begets more panic, which ultimately leads to shortages and, you guessed it, even more panic! A small step you can take to help others during this time, is to pick up one or two nonperishables or cans of food and deliver it to your local food bank so that they can effectively distribute it to those in need.
In an effort to help you considerately and thoughtfully stock your fridge and pantry during the Corona Virus pandemic, I have put together the following resource. What you are able to buy will be based on the availability in your area.
If you can’t get to a store, there are a number of online market places, like Thrive Market, that will ship directly to your door. If you use this link you can save 25%-off your first order and receive a 30-day Free Trial membership.
If there is anything I’ve missed and if you have any other suggestions to add, please leave a comment below so that others can see your responses.
I personally tend to limit my intake of grains, legumes and starches in general. However, given the current state of affairs and my desire to avoid going to the grocery store unnecessarily, I will be incorporating more dry goods such as rice, pasta and legumes. They are easy to store, last long, and are inexpensive.
If you notice that things like rice and pasta are sold out at your local store, try looking to less popular options, such as buckwheat, farro, chickpeas, beans, lentils, couscous and bulgur. These are all very easy to prepare and are shelf stable. Beans are rich in protein.
Having different types of flour, nut-based ones, alternative gluten-free ones, or wheat-based ones, are also great to have in your pantry because they can be used to make breads, muffins, pancakes, or as a coating for cooking meats. This Easy No-Knead Bread is a good one.
In fact, I would also recommend stocking up on a box or two of matzo, an unleavened bread similar to a large cracker. They last a very long time and can be used in the place of bread.
Canned beans, legumes and vegetables are shelf stable and can be worked into a number of recipes or eaten on their own. Be sure to read ingredients lists because a number of canned goods, such as sweet peas, have added sugars, which are unnecessary and can cause inflammation. I prefer canned beans and chickpeas over dried ones because they are already cooked, making them easier to cook with or eat as is.
Some canned goods I will try to keep on hand during this time are:
Tomatoes and tomato paste
Certain jarred, preserved foods have a long shelf life and happen to be excellent for your health. Specifically look for fermented foods like kimchi, pickles, and sauerkraut. Many fermented foods are high in probiotics, which are beneficial for gut and immune health.
Other jarred foods, such as preserved vegetables, are delicious and make for excellent side dishes to meals. My favourites include ajvar, a Balkan-style red pepper spread, and eggplant spreads, such as zacusca. Other jarred goods to include in your pantry are olives, which can be added to salads as a healthy source of fat, and marinara sauces, which can be used to make pasta sauces, such as my Bootleg Bolognese.
Other jarred goods to consider are nut and seed butters and fruit preserves. Nut and seed butters, like almond and tahini, are loaded with healthy fats and protein and have a long shelf life.
Since freezers are not as large as pantries, it’s important to be mindful of space. The first thing I recommend is taking an inventory of your freezer and freeing up space by getting rid of anything that you don’t need or expect to eat – we all have something in our freezers that we’ve just forgotten about over the years. Once you free up some space and take stock of what you have, you can think about carefully making use of the available space.
There are two approaches: the first is to stock up on frozen goods, such as raw vegetables, fruits, meats, sausages, seafood, and pre-packaged goods, such as dumplings, pastas, or microwavable meals. I like to have a mix of raw ingredients so that I can make things from scratch, and prepared foods when I don’t have as much time to cook.
If you buy meat and seafood in bulk, I recommend portioning them out and individually packaging them. Individually packaged things like ground beef, chicken breasts, fish filets, and small portions of shrimp, defrost quicker than those packaged in bulk. It also reduces waste because there is a chance that you may not need to cook or eat a large batch of chicken thighs.
The other route is to prepare meals in bulk and individually freeze them for serving later. Things like soups, stews and bone broths can be frozen for months. Both approaches are great and will ensure that you have something to eat when the time comes.
Generally speaking, fruits with peels tend to last a bit longer than things like berries. Look for different varieties of citrus, bananas, apples, pineapples, melons and even plantains, which can be refrigerated for a longer life. It’s also great to stock up on frozen fruits, which can be defrosted at room temperature, made into jams on the stovetop, or blended into smoothies. Fruits are packed with vitamins, fibre and antioxidants, which help keep your immune system healthy.
Vegetables such as cauliflower, radish, beets, fennel, cabbage, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and onions, can last quite long when properly stored. In fact, all of these vegetables can be refrigerated for an even longer life span. Beets, fennel and cabbage in particular last a very long time and can be prepared in a number of ways. They can be eaten raw in a salad or slaw, can be roasted, sautéed, braised, and pickled. Cabbage can also be stuffed and braised and later frozen for a later time.
If you’re like me, you don’t drink milk but you have a young child who does. Milk can be frozen in plastic or glass jars for several months and thawed in the fridge at a later date. It’s important to leave some space (headroom) in the jar you’re freezing the milk in to make sure the jar doesn’t crack as the liquid expands. It’s also important to defrost the milk in the fridge, to avoid it accidentally spoiling on the counter.
If you live in a small, rural township, or in an area without access to clean drinking water, you should consider purchasing bottled water or water filter. Filtration systems are preferred because they are more convenient and reduce waste.
There’s nothing wrong with having a bag or two of your favourite potato chips, plantain chips, tortilla chips and pretzels in the pantry, but try to think about longevity and nutrition as well. Having an assortment of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, such as prunes, raisins, dates, apricots, figs, makes for excellent snacking and has the benefit of being rich in healthy fats, protein, fiber and vitamins. Nuts, seeds and dried fruit are not only more filling than chips, cookies and pretzels, but they also last longer and don’t go stale as quickly when sealed in air-tight containers.
Canned fish such as sardines, sprats, tuna and salmon are packed with nutrition and have a very long shelf life. They can be enjoyed as is, made into salads, or mixed into sauces for pastas. The healthiest ones are packed in water or olive oil.
Oils and Vinegars:
Oils and vinegars last a very long time and are essential for cooking. Use them to sauté or make dressings, and distilled white vinegar can be used as a natural cleaning supply.