Coronavirus Lockdown? Stretching your Food Supply If You Can’t Shop

We can all do our part to shop wisely and rationally and, in between, let’s practice ways to make our current home food supply last as long as possible.

In general, foods in the refrigerator will spoil the soonest while foods kept in a freezer / deep freezer last longer and foods kept in the pantry generally have the longest shelf life.

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During a self-quarantine due to COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, getting the most from our food supply is so important. Our access to grocery stores is increasingly limited and may remain that way for a while. We can all do our part to shop wisely and rationally and, in between, let’s practice ways to make our current home food supply last as long as possible. Although not an exhaustive list, the following steps can help you stretch your food supply while still providing balanced and healthy meals.

Take a thorough inventory of your food pantry and freezer. You can use a special app on your phone OR simply use a pen and paper. Choose the method that works best for you. Start by noting the following:

Are these foods perishable? If yes, write down their expiration date.

  • In general, foods in the refrigerator will spoil the soonest while foods kept in a freezer / deep freezer last longer and foods kept in the pantry generally have the longest shelf life.
  • Discard foods that are past their expiration date.

Organize the foods in your inventory list based on location. Be sure to track how many you have of each.

  • Refrigerator
    • Milk, cheese, yogurt, butter
    • Non-dairy milk
    • Eggs
    • Fruit, fruit juices
    • Vegetables
    • Breads, grains, pastas
    • Meat, poultry, seafood
    • Sauces, dressings, condiments
  • Freezer
    • Meat, poultry, seafood
    • Frozen fruits and vegetables
    • Meal kits, premade meals
  • Pantry / Dry storage
    • Canned goods, soups, broth
    • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions
    • Breads, grains, pastas
    • Canned meats, seafood
    • Peanut butter, nut butters
    • Beverages
    • Cooking or backing “staples”– flour, sugar, brown sugar, oil, salt, pepper, spices, etc.

Tailor this list to your individual needs – the goal is to know what foods you have on hand. Next – make a meal plan and map out your upcoming breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas.

Decide how far out to schedule based on the amount of foods you have on hand.  A general rule of thumb when creating a meal schedule is to pick your protein first.

  • Whether including animal proteins (meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, etc.) or meatless options (beans, tofu, peanut butter, etc.), consider this as a central point of the meal. Why? Unlike fat and carbohydrates, the body cannot store extra protein for later use…instead, try to include a reasonable portion of protein at each meal and snack.
  • Plan out your plate in quarters or thirds – first, choose your protein source (beans, tofu, meat, peanut butter, etc.) and then fill in with one or more of the following – grains, vegetables, fruits, and dairy.

General Tips for Stretching Your Food Supply:

Make a plan to consume the foods that have the closest expiration date first. STICK TO THIS PLAN. If you have a food that is close to expiring, try to include it as part of breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.

Focus on including protein (meat or meatless) at each meal.

  • Meatless protein sources include: beans and legumes, tofu, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas, green peas, grains (such as quinoa), sprouted breads, soy milk or other non-dairy milk alternatives, oats or oatmeal, wild rice, nuts, nut butters, seeds, etc.
  • Animal sources of protein include: fish, seafoods, eggs, dairy (cheese, milk, and whey), poultry, red meat (cows, bison, deer, etc.), etc.

Keep it simple. Prepare foods that can be used in several meals, such as beans, ground beef or turkey, eggs, etc. and use in a range of recipes.

  • For example, cooked and browned ground beef can be used for – tacos, casseroles, soups, sloppy joes, and more!

Embrace leftovers!

  • If you don’t finish a meal, save it for later.
  • When batch cooking, be sure to refrigerate or freeze leftovers right away – be sure to include these meals in your meal plan or schedule.

Find (and use) healthy fillers and meal “extenders.”

  • Beans – full of fiber and protein, beans can be added to soups, chilis, salads, and more.
  • Pasta, rice, other grains – try adding cooked and chilled pasta to tuna or chicken salad.
  • Vegetables – corn, potatoes, and peas can be easily added to many dishes. Other, vegetables (like broccoli or peppers) can be added to stir fries or scrambles.

Mix things up.

  • We know you can have breakfast for dinner…but why not try dinner for breakfast? If you have chili, soup, or casserole on hand, start your day with this balanced and savory meal.
  • Include treats.

The primary purpose of food is to serve as a fuel source but let’s not forget that we also want to actually like the foods we eat!

  • Whether your favorites are sweet or salty, take inventory of these foods. Build them into your meal plan as appropriate.
  • Try not to over-purchase foods at your next grocery trip by buying more than you need.
  • This not only creates scarcities in grocery stores but it also increases the chances of your own food going to waste when you can’t eat it before the expiration date.

What other ways have you come up with to make your food supply last longer between shopping trips? Share your ideas with us. Stay safe!

 

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Kristen N. Smith, PhD, RDN, LD

Kristen N. Smith, PhD, RDN, LD, has been the Executive Editor of Environmental Nutrition since 2018. As a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Kristen is experienced in the areas of weight management, health promotion, and … Read More

View all posts by Kristen N. Smith, PhD, RDN, LD

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