As the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus, continues to spread, we’ve each been encouraged to do our part in “flattening the curve.” For most of us, that means staying home and practicing social distancing: avoiding large gatherings and maintaining a distance of 6 feet from other people, to reduce the chances of contact with those who may be carrying the virus.
Whether you’re distancing solo (true isolation!) or with your family or a small group, one thing is certain: We all need to eat.
Chances are, you’ll need to make a run to the store to stockpile—not hoard—goods, to cover your bases for a few weeks at home. For that, you’ll need a strategy.
Having had my world turned on my head a time or two, as many of us have, I’m no stranger to “just in case” planning, and I certainly know a thing or two about prioritizing my health. Despite my well-rounded selection of goods, I still needed to shop.
Here are some general shopping guidelines to help you be prepared and make the most of these uncertain times. After all, food is comfort!
It’s as good a time as ever to take stock of what’s occupying your cupboards, pantry, fridge, and freezer. Jot down some meal ideas with what you’ve already got.
On the top shelf of my cupboard I found an abundance of canned beans, rice, and several bottles of hot sauce (in addition to the ones in my refrigerator). Combined, sounds like a dish! My freezer is stocked with fish and flash-frozen vegetables. Combined with some coconut milk and curry paste from that same forgotten shelf, bam! Another dish.
Now’s the time to get creative and let your inner chef shine. If you’re anything like me, you’ll use up ingredients formerly taken for granted. After taking stock of the spice cabinet, I found myself toasting whole cardamom and coriander seeds in a stainless pan. Once they cooled, into my coffee grinder they went. A touch of salt, pepper, and cayenne, and I’d designed my own signature spice, which I used to crust a piece of fish.
I rarely bake but already have plenty of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter—so now I must bake. For some reason, I have a wrapped hunk of tamarind paste and plenty of granulated sugar, yet for the last year I’ve been buying tamarind chews rolled in sugar. The whole time I’ve had the means to make my own candy.
Make a Shopping List
What to buy? Cover your nutritional bases. Health care professionals recommend we get most of our nutrients from a wide variety of foods. That variety will depend on what’s available to you, but nutrition 101 calls for carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Carbs: Potatoes keep on the shelf for a while, and rice, pastas, and oatmeal are inexpensive and rehydrate quickly. Cereal doubles as a snack for us grazers.
Proteins: Fresh meats and seafood are fine if you plan to cook them within the next week or so. I bought a large portion of ground beef to mix into a batch of tomato-based pasta sauce, half of which will go into my freezer. Consider canned protein such as tuna, sardines, and beans, and make sure you own a can opener. My freezer is well stocked with salmon and haddock that I purchased already portioned. Another great source of protein is dried beans and legumes. Rehydrate and you’re in business.
Fats: My favorite source of healthy fats is avocados, but frustratingly, the window of consumption opportunity is quite small, so I only grabbed two. Luckily, there are plenty of other options: Safflower and ghee have high smoke points and are perfect for use in pan cooking. Olive and walnut oils drizzle nicely on salads. I whip my coconut and MCT oils into my morning coffee.
Fruits and vegetables: Fresh produce, aka vegetables and herbs, won’t stay fresh for long, but if they’re available, go for it and just plan to eat them in the near future or cook and freeze. I blend a cup of cilantro into my smoothies, so I grabbed four bunches, washed them, rationed them into snack bags, and tossed them in the freezer. They’ll still go into my smoothies!
I always say “eat the rainbow”—the more natural pigment in a food, especially when you slice right through it, the more nutrients. Think beets, leafy greens, carrots, and peppers. Frozen berries are also great to add to smoothies or oatmeal.
Superfoods and healthy extras: Those of us with a heavy snack hand must snack smart. Superfood berries (think goji and unsweetened cranberries), nuts, and chocolate chips make for a great “power trail mix” and have a long shelf life. For me, those chocolate chips also curb my sweet tooth. I purchased snack-sized ziplock bags to ensure proper portion sizes; otherwise, my snacks will disappear. Seaweed snacks often come rationed and offer an abundance of trace minerals.
Despite my preference for getting my nutrients from food, I wouldn’t fault anyone for picking up multivitamins, omega supplements, and protein powders, just to make sure all the bases are covered. Amazing Grass is my vegetable powder of choice, and a scoop regularly goes into my smoothies.
Drinks: Hydration is key to good health. Not having to purchase water will lighten the weight of your haul, so check on the tap water quality in your area before buying. Here in New York City, the tap water is drinkable, and for those who refuse, it can also be boiled or filtered.
For dairy, while a bottle of creamer or gallon of milk may last you a week, or a family a few days, it won’t last you weeks. Grab canned or powdered versions if available. If coffee and/or tea is an important ritual in your life, honor that. Now is the time to keep small comforts in place, if possible.
It’s widely known that too much alcohol, refined sugar and oils, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners can impair the immune system. At a time when we may be spending a little extra time on the couch, I think it’s wise to remember: Everything in moderation!
Shop With a Strategy
So you’ve taken your home inventory and made a list of what you need. Now, visualize your grocery store. Reorder the items on your list to match the store’s layout, so that you’ll only need to make one smooth sweep through the store, without having to double back or scan up and down your list.
Plan for a hectic situation, as the store may be full and items on your list may be out of stock. The backup plan for no carts available is a basket, but just in case, bring your own bags. Use them to shop and to carry your groceries home. Consider bringing a family member to go back for a second look for unavailable items while you’re waiting to check out, as restocking may have occurred (but be mindful that this doubles the chance of exposing the family to virus particulates).
While making the rounds, pick up some “randoms”—outliers from your usual diet. I grabbed a few packets of natural fruit-flavored gelatin; dessert is a comfort! Raw turmeric will be peeled, cubed, and thrown in the freezer to go into smoothies. A package of sliced charcuterie, a hunk of cheese, and a box of crackers will serve as an “everything is fine” treat while I catch up on my Netflix.
Without hesitation I added a package of shiro miso, a fermented soy bean and rice paste I haven’t cooked with for years, to add to soups and stir fry with rehydrated noodles. I was not even aware that “everything bagel seasoning” could be purchased; this trip turned into a full-scale culinary adventure.
Maintaining 6 feet of distance at the grocery store may be difficult, but do your best and remember to thank your cashier for his or her sacrifice.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.
Amanda Burrill sees through an adventurous lens, typically focused on food and travel. Her education includes a bachelor’s in archaeology, a master’s in journalism, a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu, and wine and spirits credentials earned while living in Paris. She is a U.S. Navy veteran, Ironman triathlete, mountaineer, and injury connoisseur who ruminates on AmandaBurrill.com