I know that a lot of people are afraid right now, and that’s causing a lot of panic in a lot of places, especially in the grocery store, because there’s a very real chance a lot of us might have to face a mandatory or voluntary 14-day quarantine.
For one, at least in the US, there is no shortage of food so take comfort in knowing that. While you should have enough food for 2 weeks, panic buying, and in some cases hoarding groceries, does more harm than good as it puts grocery workers at risk (because of crowded stores), potentially contributes to future food waste and blocks supplies/food for the most vulnerable among us.
So, buy what you need for you and your family. We’re in this together!
REMEMBER: If you’re feeling feverish, have a cough, or any other flu-like symptoms, or if someone close to you is exhibiting those symptoms, it’s important to isolate yourself or your family so that you don’t risk spreading the infection.
And while we’re at it, if you’re feeling good and going about your routine and your gym remains open, please practice good hygiene and wipe down the equipment before and after using it…and that’s an action we should always practice long after the coronavirus.
And before we get to the pantry and fridge, let me also encourage you to regularly deep clean the kitchen on a monthly basis. Now is the perfect time for a deep clean of the fridge, the handles of cabinets and the floor. I’ve always been a fan of warm antibacterial soap and water, but there are a lot of kitchen cleaning supplies on the market. My go-to brand for my kitchen is Meyer.
Also, remember to replace your kitchen sponges – they can be a magnet to collect bacteria and dirt from constant use and being wet.
So I thought I’d make the best out of this global challenge and discuss what kinds of things you could be stocking your kitchen with right now, and share my best advice about how you can continue to eat “fresh” even if you’re facing a mandatory or voluntary quarantine.
In the health and wellness community, even when we meal prep, we put a LOT of emphasis on buying “fresh,” and preparing it the same day or very close to it. And we equate shopping and eating this away with better taste and a more nutritious, healthier return on our dollar.
But that’s just not the case.
You can put together a quarantine supply kit that will keep you healthy AND happy if you end up stuck inside for fourteen days. All you need to do is blow the lid off of the way you think about the words “fresh” and “nutritious.”
Let’s start with protein because this is where people have the hardest time.
Buy frozen protein
Did you know that frozen meat, fish, and poultry can be just as nutritious, if not MORE nutritious, than the butchered meat you buy at the grocery store?
From the moment any food is harvested from its source, it begins to lose its nutritional content as it makes its way from the farm, to the processing facility, to the grocery store, and finally into your kitchen. But the food that’s frozen immediately after its harvested retains its nutritional content from the moment it’s frozen. So, buying frozen can be health-ful!
You’ll want to stock up on chicken and seafood in particular: salmon and shrimp are GREAT frozen options.
You can also freeze them yourself when you get home! Here’s my pro-tip: at the end of the week many stores have manager’s specials with discounted foods, like chicken and beef. It’s usually heavily discounted because they need to get rid of it; purchase it and then freeze it immediately. It’s a great way to save some money by taking advantage of end-of-the-week deals.
Another great way to save some money? Shopping for canned protein! I know that might sound like a dirty word in the health and wellness community, but it really shouldn’t be and here’s why.
The canning process doesn’t make protein less nutritious than fresh or frozen variety; it preserves the nutritional content of most protein.
Only water-soluble nutrients like Vitamin A and C might be damaged by the high heat involved in the canning process.
But that same process can INCREASE healthy compounds in some canned foods, such as the antioxidant content in canned corn and tomatoes. Some canned fruits and vegetables, and canned foods like chilis, are always a good idea to have on hand just for the sake of adding more moisture and bite to a recipe.
So don’t write off canned food!
Just pay attention to the labels and make sure you’re only adding the lowest-sodium options to your cart. Also, when it comes to canned goods, prioritize those where the ingredients are simply the food you’re purchasing – i.e., corn, diced tomato or beans and nothing else.
Remember eggs are a great source of protein and can last pretty long in the fridge! Especially, carton egg whites – they are a staple in my kitchen!
One last word about protein: don’t forget about plant-based sources!
Frozen edamame makes a great snack in between meals.
Firm tofu can last a long time in your fridge.
Lentils, chickpeas, and other legumes like black beans can be used to make a protein-rich vegan-friendly chili or a black bean quesadilla. Oh, and stocking up on legume-based pasta is a good idea too if you’re looking for a protein-rich base to build a meal around.
Other fantastic options for base ingredients that will last a long time in your pantry are whole or minimally processed grains that won’t take up too much space in your kitchen. Plus, they almost ALWAYS can be paired with any meal you create to make it heartier.
My favorites for right now include:
- rice-based pasta
- steel-cut oat
The best tip I can offer for selecting any whole grain is to go for the least-processed variety, as it will always retain more nutritional value.
Now for fruits and veggies. You might think you need to use produce immediately after you buy it, but that’s not always the case.
Did you know that some vegetables, like cruciferous veggies, can ALL last at least a month if stored correctly?
- potatoes and sweet potatoes
- citrus fruits like lemons, limes, grapefruit
- varieties of squash
Hack Your Way to Freshness
There are LOTS of hacks you can use to keep your produce fresh as well!
- Wrapping celery in tin foil keeps it crisp.
- Store sliced avocado in a container of chopped onions to keep it from browning – and no, the smell of onion is not absorbed by the avocado.
- Wrap green onions and leafy veggies in a damp cold paper towel keeps it fresh and crisp MUCH longer
- Hearty greens like kale will stay crisp longer if you store them with their stems in a glass of water, covered loosely with saran wrap or a damp paper towel.
- Any fruit that’s about to spoil can be chopped and kept in the freezer to use in smoothies.
Prepping our kitchens for a potential quarantine doesn’t have to mean sacrificing our love of fresh food or eating less nutritious meals. If anything being “stuck” inside temporarily will bring out our creativity and resolve to make food that’s even tastier!
In some cases, there may even be ways to improve our nutritional intake – take the time to increase your kitchen confidence and competence.
Remember, cooking is therapeutic! So if you find yourself a little stressed, maybe grab a glass of wine (or whisky in my case), then head into the kitchen to whip up something delicious and nutritious for you (and your family).
SO I WANT TO KNOW: WHAT ARE YOU STOCKING YOUR KITCHEN WITH?
AND WHAT HACKS DO YOU USE TO KEEP YOUR INGREDIENTS FRESHER LONGER?
Share them in the comments to let others know!