We’ve been hearing a lot about preparation recently, but it is difficult to figure out the best way to prepare when there is an undercurrent of fear and uncertainty. We’ve seen what not to do (like panic buy toilet paper), but what actually makes sense?
Quick Tips to Stay Prepared in Times of Uncertainty
#1 – Stock your kitchen.
To prepare in a thoughtful way, stock your kitchen. Containing the spread of any illness is much easier if you don’t have to make a grocery store run every time you cook dinner.
#2 – Rest, Hydrate, and Eat Nutritiously.
Remember that for both prevention and treatment, it’s important to rest, stay hydrated, and eat as nutritiously as you can. Resist the urge to buy anything that promises to boost your immune system, including the perennial favorite vitamin C.
#3 – Keep a variety of food on hand.
Reasonable advice from places like Harvard include keeping a 2-4 week supply of nonperishable food, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have tasty and nutritious choices. Because we’re not preparing for a power outage, feel free to stock your freezer and fill your fridge with foods you will look forward to eating. Although it’s tempting to buy enough frozen pizza to last a few weeks, your future self will thank you if you have more variety.
Healthy Ideas for Types of Food to Purchase
Purchase the food you normally eat while trying to include veggies, fruits, protein, and whole grains. Here are some ideas for each group:
- Frozen mixed vegetables take the chopping out of making a stir fry.
- Frozen broccoli, cauliflower, and okra all roast well right from the freezer. Enjoy as a side or use as taco filling.
- Frozen peas and carrots help make a simple fried rice.
- Canned vegetables of any type is the easiest way to get a veggie on the table. Compare brands to find the ones lowest in sodium.
- Canned tomatoes come in a variety of options: try crushed, diced, and tomato paste for soups and pasta.
- Canned pumpkin can replace part of the cheese in mac and cheese without changing the flavor.
- Fresh carrots, celery, and cabbage all stay good in the refrigerator for 3 weeks. If you don’t get to them before then, they would work in a vegetable or minestrone soup.
- Onions and garlic both stay good for at least 2 months in the pantry; use them as a base for almost any dish!
- Russet and sweet potatoes will last in the pantry for 2-3 weeks. Try roasting them with onions, just don’t store them together.
- Bananas – cut them in half and freeze for smoothies once they start to brown or make these yummy banana flax muffins.
- Apples, oranges, lemons, and grapefruit last 3 weeks in the fridge. You can actually freeze whole citrus fruits if you don’t finish them in time.
- Frozen fruits: blueberries, cherries, mango, pineapple… the possibilities are endless. Blend them in smoothies, stir them into yogurt, mix into oatmeal, sprinkle on cereal, or eat them right out of the bag.
- Canned fruit or fruit cups: look for ones canned in their own juices or in water.
- Unsweetened applesauce is a another great shelf-stable fruit option.
- Dried fruit – these make a great snack when mixed with unsalted nuts.
- Canned beans (black, cannellini, kidney, pinto, red) are a great side or base for a meal like beans and rice.
- Frozen veggie or black bean burgers make dinner easy.
- Canned fish minimizes the prep for salmon or tuna patties. Farm and wild caught salmon have similar amounts of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, with farmed actually having a bit more.
- Eggs are awesome scrambled, fried, boiled or poached, but if you want something new, try making shakshuka, breakfast burritos, or a vegetable quiche. Frozen burritos are great and quiches freeze surprisingly well.
- Nuts and seeds are perfect for snacking, sprinkling on oatmeal, or topping a stir fry.
- Nut and seed butter like peanut butter are a great shelf-stable proteins for sandwiches.
- Cheese sticks are easy snacks and low-fat ricotta or cottage cheese are useful in cooking; they stay good for quite some in the sealed factory container.
- Low-sugar yogurt makes a prep-free snack, and plain yogurt is good for cooking or as a topping anywhere you would use sour cream.
- Frozen lean meats are helpful for stews and sauces, especially if you take the time to cook and portion them before freezing.
- Barley, brown rice, quinoa, wild rice – just like meats, they can be cooked, portioned, and frozen to reheat later.
- Whole grain bread and tortillas; they freeze well and taste fresh after heating
- Whole grain cereal and pasta are shelf stable crowd-pleasers.
- Steel cut, old fashioned, or instant oats are all considered whole grains.
- Popcorn – yes, it’s a whole grain! Visiting a movie theater may not be on your list right now, but enjoying a movie with popcorn at home is a great alternative.
Before you head out to the store, check your supply of oil, vinegar, broth, herbs, and spices so you can create something tasty with your well-stocked kitchen.
Don’t Forget to Give Back to Those in Need!
If you feel comfortable with your own food supply, now may be a good time to consider donating to places like The Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, Feeding America, or Meals on Wheels so they are even better equipped to get food to those who need it.
Take care and wash your hands.
About Meredith Ebersohl, RD
Meredith is a registered dietitian who teaches nutrition classes, offers one-on-one nutrition counseling, and develops education material. She is passionate about explaining nutrition research and helping people incorporate sustainable changes in their lives. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband, their two young children, and their middle-aged pets.