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Coronavirus Grocery List: What To Buy While Quarantined

By: Susan Finch
March 30, 2020

Coronavirus isn't just a risk to our health and well-being. It can also wreak havoc on what's inside our pantries. 

A quarantine requires a strategy at the store. You’ll need to stock up on the essentials as efficiently as possible. 

Grocery stores are still open during the quarantine. However, everyone should limit their time outside the house as much as possible to avoid further contamination and help flatten the curve. 

Stocking up should not be hoarding or going crazy in a panic-buying spree. There’s enough to go around for everyone. 

During a "self-quarantine," you should stock up on a 14-day supply of food for every person — and pet — in your household. There's no need to stock up for more than two weeks.

What to Buy for Your Pantry

Whole-wheat and bean pastas, quinoa, and brown rice

Stock up on filling, nutritious foods that are versatile in multiple recipes. Dry whole-wheat pasta and bean pasta last two to three years. 

Dry quinoa has a shelf life of about one to two years. Uncooked brown rice lasts 6 months to a year. 

For a simple meal, try some quinoa with aging veggies that you need to use up quickly. Add red pepper, spinach, and onions with a splash of lemon juice and sprinkle of seasoning.

Steel-cut oats

Steel-cut oats serve up 5g of fiber per 1/4 serving of dry oats. They last one to two years when uncooked. 

Add your favorite fruit, a dash of brown sugar, or a handful of nuts and raisins. That’ll give you a filling anytime breakfast. 

High-fiber cereals

Fiber helps keep us full and may help your body absorb vital nutrients from foods. Stock up on your favorite high-fiber cereals that are good for up to eight months when unopened. Turn your cereal into an event with a handful of dates or raisins to sweeten up your bowl.

Beans and legumes

Beans and legumes are cheap, packed with nutrients, and can last indefinitely when unopened. Most experts say to use them up within three years to ensure vitamin quality. 

Throw a can of garbanzo beans onto the skillet. Then, lightly fry them with olive oil and chopped up sweet peppers and spinach. Finish it all off with a sprinkle of parmesan to heighten the flavor.

Nut butters

Nut butters are filling, tasty, and a unique way to cook. They also last about two years unopened, or up to four months once you pop open the top. Bake a sweet potato and cover it in pecan butter sauce for a dessert masquerading as a meal.

Canned or frozen sugar-free fruits and vegetables

Canned and frozen fruit and vegetables are surprisingly nutritious. They offer a similar amount of vitamins as their fresh alternatives. A fruit cocktail or smoothie also makes for the perfect breakfast or a snack. 

Potatoes and sweet potatoes

Get back to basics with filling potatoes and sweet potatoes. They can last up to two to three months in your pantry. Load up your potatoes with vegetables, butter, and a dollop of sour cream to turn them into a meal. 

Try pairing sweet potatoes with pecans and a sprinkle of cinnamon to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Canned soup

Canned soup is exceptionally durable during a quarantine. Fortify your pantry with a few of your favorite options that can stand alone as a meal. 

Keeping a few cans of cream of mushroom soups can quickly bring a meal to life. Try layering it over cooked farrow, fresh mushrooms, and chives to bring some variety to your dinner rotation.

Canned fish

Canned fish is processed in an airtight container. However, it’s still packed with the same amount of protein and omega-3 fatty acids as fresh fish. Mackerel, sardines, and tuna are all tasty and complement your pantry stock. They typically last three to five years. 

Canned fish can also be fun to cook with. Whip up some beer-battered sardines with 1/2 cup of beer, a dash of salt, 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, and three cans of sardines. Find the recipe at Epicurious.

Granola bars

Granola bars are an easy, filling option for adults and grown-ups alike. Most granola bars last about six months when left alone and unopened. 

Try them with yogurt. You can also crumble them and sprinkle them on top of a baked apple.

Applesauce

There's something comforting and reliable about applesauce, especially for young kids. Once you open a jar and place it in the fridge, it lasts a week or two. However, it can endure up to 18 months unopened.

Sprinkle cinnamon on top of your applesauce. You can also add a cup to your favorite apple bread recipe to enhance the flavor. 

Baby food and formula 

Babies are living their best life with their parents at their fingertips and around-the-clock sustenance. Stock up on what you need, plus a little extra in case of an emergency. However, when it comes to baby food and formula, you should closely follow the use-by date of the manufacturer.  

Treat yourself — dried fruit, popcorn, and chocolate

How do you expect to get through the next few weeks without a sweet treat every now and then? Treat yourself to dried fruit, popcorn, and chocolate for an indulgent snack or dessert. Bonus points if you can somehow combine all three for an Insta-worthy dessert.

What to Buy for Your Refrigerator

Eggs

We've all read the smug stories of the over-prepared who have five chickens in their urban yards and are ready to lay eggs by the dozen. Inexpensive store-bought eggs are also fine and last up to five weeks. 

Eggs are also notoriously versatile, filled with nutrients, and work in just about everything. Add one to rice noodles, vegetables, and soy sauce for a quick meal.

Cheese

Cheese makes most meals better, from eggs to pasta. Properly stored, hard cheese lasts up to six weeks in your fridge. 

Reclaim a piece of your childhood and enjoy a plate of cheese and crackers. You can also turn it into a meal. Add olives, raw vegetables, and hummus for a satisfying lunch or dinner.

Produce of your choice!

Make the most of your quarantine by getting in those daily servings of fruits and vegetables. You can expect to get one to three weeks out of them before they start to go bad. However, heroes like garlic and onions can last up to three months at room temperature. 

Throw veggies into casseroles, pastas, or in the skillet with your favorite stir fry sauces for dinner every night of the week. Fruit makes a nutritious dessert and champion smoothie.

What to Buy for Your Freezer

Meat & seafood

Fill your freezer with meat and seafood to incorporate into your nightly or weekly dinners. Meats and fish have different freezer lives. However, they can usually last up to three months. Cod and flounder can last up to six months.

Meat and seafood pair well with whatever you need to use up in your fridge. Thaw some frozen salmon and serve it with asparagus. You can also throw meat and eggs together for a filling breakfast.

Fruits & vegetables 

Make frozen fruits and vegetables mainstays in your freezer to balance out your meals. Frozen fruit also pairs perfectly with smoothies or on top of ice cream. You can throw frozen vegetables into soups, casseroles, or as a side for dinner.

Frozen treats: ice cream, popsicles, and dog treats 

No one said social distancing and waiting out a quarantine would be easy. Give yourself a break once and a while and perk up your tastebuds with frozen treats. Savor a bowl of ice cream or enjoy a fruity popsicle while connecting virtually with friends. 

Just don't forget your furry friends. Dogs love Frosty Paws and other frozen treats made with pups in mind.

Wait, So Should I Buy 100 Rolls of Toilet Paper from Costco?

Absolutely not! Yes, it's okay to stock up for a week or two during times like these. But please be mindful of your neighbors and take only what you need. The world will be thankful for it. 

Final Thoughts

Grocery shopping doesn't need to be complicated, even during a quarantine. Stock up on what you need and blend long-lasting, nutritious foods while sneaking in a few treats.

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