Whether you’re housebound for the next few weeks from the COVID-19 quarantine or simply trying to survive a school or work shutdown, you’ll likely be limiting or avoiding trips to the grocery store.
So, you may be wondering: What are the best foods to buy when you know you’re going to be stuck at home — and is it even possible to consume a nutritious diet?
Well, here’s some good news: You can make nutrition a priority, and it’s something that is all the more important if your immune system may be compromised. Though it might look a little different than normal, it’s possible to eat healthfully when stuck at home.
Choosing shelf-stable foods like canned goods, pastas, rice and legumes are great ways to ensure you have a nice variety when your trips to the grocery store are limited.
Below is a list of foods that are not only nutritious but versatile too. They can be eaten solo; combined with other ingredients to assemble mini meals; or used as the base for several recipes.
Just remember that there’s no need to buy out the stock at your local grocery store. Right now, there’s no indication that food retailers will be unable to meet the demand of consumers and it’s also important to consider the needs of others and not overbuy.
What to buy for your pantry?
1. Beans and legumes
Reach for these on your next trip to the store, because they’re not only long-lasting but also a great starting point for a nutrient-rich meal. Chickpeas or lentils for example, can be mixed with salads and pasta dishes, or used in soups and stews. They can also be used for making homemade hummus.
2. Canned fish
Canned or vacuum-packed protein sources like tuna or salmon are highly nutritious and offer a boost of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Look for sustainably sourced if you can (I bet those are still on the shelf!)
3. Nut butters
These are a great source of protein and healthy fats, and pair well with lots of foods, from crackers and breads to apples and bananas. Sun butter, which is made from sunflower seeds, is appropriate for those with peanut or tree nut allergies.
4. Gluten-free and bean pastas, quinoa and brown rice
These are the nutrient-rich grains to stock up on, and they can be used as a side dish or mixed with proteins and vegetables.
5. Soups and bone broths
Bone broth is a nutritional powerhouse that I like to keep on hand at all times! It’s full of easily digestible amino acids, gelatin, and other gut-healing nutrients that benefit hair, skin, and joints. Bone broth is special because the bones are roasted for flavor, then slowly simmered in water for hours (sometimes days) to extract all those amazing nutrients from the bones into the broth. It makes for a great protein-rich base to any soup, stew, or sauce you’re making. While you can easily make your own bone broth at home, my favorite brand is Kettle & Fire, easily obtained online.
6. Steel-cut oats
These aren’t just for breakfast. You can cook oats and add savory toppings like grated cheese, sun-dried tomatoes or even eggs for a quick, nutrient-rich meal. NOTE: while eggs do require refrigeration, they still have a longer shelf-life than most refrigerated foods and can be very versatile as well.
7. High-fiber cereals (non-sugary version!)
A high-fiber, high-protein dry cereal comes in handy for snacking or for a quick meal.
8. Canned fruits and vegetables
Stocking up on canned vegetables, canned fruit and applesauce is also wise. Be sure to rinse the canned veggies to get rid of extra sodium. And don’t forget canned or jarred tomato-based sauces.
9. Powdered greens
When you need a nutrient boost, it’s hard to beat a fresh green juice of kale, celery, lemon and other healthy greens. But if you can’t get to the store (or simply don’t want to leave the house), it’s not a bad idea to have a powdered alternative on hand. Whole foods are hard to replace, but this amazing powder is the real deal – the Shaklee Organic Greens Booster is just dehydrated kale, spinach and broccoli with all the fiber! One little scoop is my shake’s ‘power’ partner!
10. Dried fruit, popcorn and yes, chocolate
Dried fruits like prunes, apricots, raisins, cranberries and figs are a sweet source of iron, fiber and antioxidants. They can be combined with nuts — including my favorite, omega-3 rich walnuts — or almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts or pecans. Sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds are also a tasty nutritious option and can be used for DIY trail mixes.
Popcorn is a great source of fiber and you can sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top to turn it into a savory snack or add dried fruit or mini chocolate chips for added sweetness.
You can even indulge in a stash of chocolate, though the healthiest kind is dark chocolate, which is rich in anti-aging flavanols.
It’s certainly okay to incorporate a few indulgent foods, like chocolates or other sweets, especially during stressful times.
11. Meal replacement drinks
This one might surprise you, since meal replacement drinks on grocery store shelves are typically full of junk. But the one I’ve been using for years, the Shaklee Life Shake, is clinically proven to help you thrive and create the foundation for a longer, healthier life. Just add water or milk of choice, blend and drink. It’s shelf-stable, lasts a long time and comes in handy in a pinch. These are a key part of my emergency food stash.
So those are my top pantry choices. Remember that whatever you decide to stock up on, keep your food expectations in check. Since we’re spending more time at home, remind yourself that every meal doesn’t have to be a production. Sometimes the basics really get the job done.
But to keep spirits high, particularly if your kids are home from school, you can make indoor dining more of an experience by incorporating a theme to mealtime. That may include planning an indoor picnic, or creating DIY ‘bars,’ like a chili bar, taco or burrito bar, pasta bar, omelet bar, or stuffed baked potato bar!