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Stocking your pandemic pantry

A smiling woman putting canned goods in a cupboard.

As we work to turn the tide of the coronavirus pandemic, we've all been asked to make fewer trips into public spaces like grocery stores. With fewer shopping trips, you might be tempted to overbuy when you do make it to the store.

But it's important to resist the urge to hoard, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Although everyone needs to have nonperishable foods at the ready, there's no need to panic and overbuy. 

How much food do you need? It's a good idea to have enough medicines, food, water and other essentials to get your family through two weeks. That's how long you could be asked to self-quarantine or self-isolate if you're sick or exposed to the virus. Plus, fewer shopping trips mean fewer chances of coming into contact with the virus.

How to stock a healthy pantry

When you go to the store, focus on foods with a long shelf life. In many cases that means canned or frozen foods. You can supplement these longer-lasting foods with some fresh foods with a shorter life span.

Good things to have on hand include:

  • Healthy cooking oils, such as canola or olive oil.
  • Balsamic vinegar, for flavor.
  • Eggs. They last longer than many cold-storage foods.
  • Milk. Consider shelf-stable milk or nondairy milk.
  • Family packs of lean meat, fish and chicken. Separate these into smaller portions and freeze until needed.
  • Fresh produce with a longer shelf life. Try options like oranges, apples and broccoli.
  • Canned broth.
  • Canned tomatoes or tomato sauce.
  • Dried fruit for snacks.
  • Canned fruits and vegetables. Choose fruit packed in its own juice, not syrup. And pick canned vegetables labeled as low- or no-sodium.
  • Canned beans for protein. Low-sodium is a healthy choice here too.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables. Choose frozen veggies without added sauces.
  • Dried pasta (preferably whole wheat).
  • Brown rice.
  • Hot cereals like plain oatmeal.
  • Dry cereal or granola.
  • Hard, aged cheeses.
  • Protein or fruit bars.
  • Peanut butter.
  • A variety of dried herbs and spices.
  • Food for infants, if needed.

Be prepared

It's a good idea to check out your local options for grocery delivery as well in case you're unable to leave home.

For more on healthy living during the pandemic, check out our Coronavirus topic center.

Reviewed 9/9/2020

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