While the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak continues to spread throughout our country, you, like most American’s are probably starting to prepare for the possibility of an extended home stay. As you start stocking your home and your kitchen, these tips will help you prepare affordably and plan healthy(ish) meals that everyone will enjoy.
Here in Colorado, schools are closed, and that means that we’re going to need to be stocked up in groceries, because when Anthony is home all day, all he does is eat! The Department of Homeland Security actually recommends stocking up a two-week supply of food for each person, and pet, during a pandemic. Stockpiling – not hoarding, canned, dry and frozen (if you have the extra space) items that are easy to prepare should be the foundation of your stockpile. And don’t forget coffee and cream!! Although they aren’t necessarily essentials, they definitely play a huge part in your mental health if you’re going to be stuck at home. Keep in mind the extras you might need for babies, think formula and fruit/veggie pouches, or family members on special diets.
Yesterday, we went to the store to pick up a few extra non-perishables and frozen groceries. Before I went to the store, I took an inventory of my kitchen, and figured out what groceries I already had in the house. I used my Kitchen Inventory sheets (click link to download), and went through the fridge, freezer and pantry and wrote down exactly what I had on hand. As I was looking through my kitchen, it reminded me of when I was preparing for The Pantry Challenge. If you’re not sure what The Pantry Challenge is, the goal is to use the food in your fridge, freezer and pantry with little or no need to go grocery shopping. It’s a really great way to save money by using the groceries that you already have instead of going out and buying more. You can learn more about The Pantry Challenge HERE.
Once I figured out what exactly I had, I made a list of meals with what I could make with those ingredients to make a meal plan. On my list I had some great pantry meals; spaghetti sauce, tacos, egg fried rice, macaroni and cheese, and chicken noodle soup, just to name a few. I added the little extras I needed to go with the pantry meals, like romaine lettuce and basil to my grocery list, and then focused on stockpiling. Our family eats a lot of pasta, rice, beans, canned tomatoes, and frozen vegetables. After taking inventory, and accounting for certain items on the list of meals I created, I added some of these items back to my grocery list. Then I added some perishables that last a while, like clementines, potatoes and bananas.
This is what my grocery lists looked like:
– 5 lbs potatoes
– romaine lettuce
– string cheese
– white american cheese
– whole milk
– white and brown rice
– black beans
– frozen vegetables (corn, peas & carrots, peas, broccoli)
– half & half
– mini bagels
– pinto beans
– canned tomato soup
– pasta (spaghetti, penne and elbow)
– peanut butter
– granola bars
– frozen pizza (we usually always have 2 or 3 of these at all times)
With these small lists, I was able to re-stock my freezer, fridge and pantry. Between both lists, I only spent around $100, and that also included some Easter baking items that I didn’t include in the list. I already had a lot of oatmeal, eggs, cheese, and meat, so these items weren’t high on my priority list. When we got to the store, I was shocked to see just how empty the shelves were, and how picked over everything was. Our local King Soopers (Kroger) was completely sold out of dried beans, and canned pinto beans, among the other things like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. I bought what I could, and made notes of what I needed to order through Walmart Grocery when I got home. Scroll down to the bottom to download your Free Printable Grocery List.
Coronavirus Shopping List
So worst case scenario, you’re stuck at home for two-weeks. What exactly do you need to keep in your kitchen to feed your family breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks? Well, it all depends on how big your family is, and what kinds of foods your family likes to eat. This list of nutrient-dense items, in no specific order, will keep your family nourished and happy. Add the ingredients you need to the Free Printable Grocery List (click link to download), and shop. If you don’t want to go to the store, or you’re not one for crowds, or waiting in line, and you still need groceries, check out Instacart and Walmart Grocery. If you click the links, you can save $20 Off your first Instacart order with free delivery and $10 Off your first Walmart Grocery with free delivery. And, if you’re needed some meat and seafood, ButcherBox is offering $30 Off your first order and is giving away 2 FREE pounds of grass-fed ground beef!
This probably isn’t the first thing you think of when thinking of preparing for the Coronavirus, but there are a lot of long-lasting perishable items that you can keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. Just make sure when purchasing these items that you choose ones with the latest expiration date. This list of longer-lasting perishable items will ensure a well stocked fridge, and a happy family.
Eggs: For a family of 4 for a two-week period, I would recommend having at least 3 dozen eggs in the fridge. If your family is like mine, and really loves eggs, and you plan on doing a lot of baking, add an extra dozen eggs. If you’re nearing the expiration, eggs can be prepared into freezer meals, and used at a later date.
Fruit & Vegetables: Onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic, lemons, limes, apples, clementines, bananas (if you buy when green-ish), winter squash, carrots, brussels sprouts and cabbage all last a long time if stored properly.
Cheese: Harder cheeses like parmesan and cheddar cheese can last a month or more if properly stored in the fridge. Softer cheeses like mozzarella, feta and cream cheese only last about two weeks. Cheese freezes really well too.
Breads: Bread, bagels, english muffins and tortillas are all probably on your weekly grocery list. If you use a lot of these items, be sure to add an extra loaf of bread or package of tortillas to grocery list, and place them in the freezer.
Canned foods have a long storage life, and require little or no cooking. Canned fruits and vegetables are a great way to ensure that you’re still getting your required vitamins and minerals, when you are not able to access fresh produce.
Fruit: Peaches, pears, fruit cocktail, grapefruit, pineapple and mandarin oranges all make good choices. Look for fruits with no added sugar as they are much healthier.
Vegetables: Corn, green beans, and peas make good choices when choosing vegetables to serve as a side dish.
Tomatoes: Crushed, diced, puree and tomato sauce are all essentials to a well stocked pantry. Use them to make spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce, salsa, or to add to recipes like tacos.
Beans & Lentils: Black, pinto, white, kidney, garbanzo, red lentils, split peas and baked beans are all a great source of protein, and can be used in many meals from chili, to tacos, to soups.
Fish: Salmon and tuna are both great choices of protein and omega-3’s. If you like canned fish, make sure to add some to your grocery list, and use it to make sandwiches, or casseroles.
Soups & Stocks: Tomato soup, chicken stock, beef stock, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup and vegetable soup are all great choices to have in your pantry. Chicken and beef stock can be used in many different recipes, and the cream of soups can be used to make casseroles, or in other recipes.
I actually share a Pantry Staples List in my Monthly Meal Plans. Having a well stocked pantry prepares you for emergencies, and allows you to make substitutions to meals when needed. You may already have some of these items in your pantry, but if you are going to be stuck inside for an extended period of time, they will run out quickly. These essentials will ensure a well stocked pantry.
Pasta: Spaghetti, elbow macaroni, penne and mini shells are some of my favorites to keep on hand since they can be used in so many different recipes. Whether you choose traditional pasta, whole wheat or a gluten-free variety, if your family likes pasta, be sure to have a few boxes on hand. At any given time, we usually have about 10 boxes in all different varieties.
Rice & Whole Grains: White rice, brown rice, quinoa, rolled oats, and quick oats are all great to keep on hand. Rolled and quick oats can be used for oatmeal for breakfast, or as a breadcrumb replacement. Quinoa is very high in protein, making it a great base for meals, and white and brown rice can be used in so many other recipes.
Nuts & Nut Butter: Peanut butter, almond butter, cashews, and mixed nuts are great choices for your pantry. Nuts are loaded with nutrients, heart-healthy fats, and essential minerals – they make a great snack, anytime. Nut butters can be spread on fruit, chocolate or breads or can be used to make granolas, or fun snacks like ants on a log.
Dried Herbs & Spices: Salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, cumin, parsley, basil, cinnamon, nutmeg, white pepper, ginger powder, crushed red pepper flakes, rosemary, thyme, sage and oregano are my essential spices. With these, you can make almost any dish. Be sure that your spices, especially salt and pepper are full.
Baking Goods: Flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, honey, cream of tartar, cocoa powder, almond flour, coconut flour, and chocolate chips. If you do a lot of baking, make sure that your baking goods are well stocked as well. Baking is a fun activity to do together as a family if you are stuck at home for two weeks.
Oils & Vinegars: Olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, rice wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and non-stick cooking spray are all on my pantry essentials list. If you cook a lot with these items, make sure to add them to your grocery list.
If you’re going to be stuck inside for an extended period of time you’re going to want some snacks. Some good, and healthy snack choices include:
Applesauce: Applesauce, whether homemade or store-bought is a healthy snack that everyone will love. If making homemade, freeze apple sauce in individual size ziplock bags, and thaw as needed. Applesauce can be used to add to baked goods, and in sauces as well.
Popcorn: Microwave popcorn or kernels – whichever you prefer. Popcorn is a great snack for anytime of the day, and is easy to store in your pantry. Buy an extra box of popcorn to add to your stockpile.
Beef Jerky: If you have an air-fryer, or the air-fryer attachment for your Instant Pot, you can make homemade beef jerky. Otherwise, pick some up to add to your snack collection. Meat sticks are also another great option for a high-protein snack.
Granola & Protein Bars: These are essential if you have kids for easy snacks. Protein bars will help keep kiddos full throughout the day, and last a long time in your pantry. And when school is back in session, granola bars make awesome school lunch snacks too.
Dried Fruit: Raisins, craisins, prunes, freeze dried strawberries and dehydrated mango are great choices for keeping a well stocked pantry. The raisins and craisins can be used in baked goods and granolas, and the freeze dried strawberries can be used in oatmeal or baked goods.
This is when having a chest freezer comes in handy. When freezing food, and bringing frozen food home, make sure that everything is properly labeled. Frozen food can get freezer burnt if not stored properly, or if the freezer is over-crowded, so take the amount of space you have into consideration when stocking up your freezer.
Vegetables: Corn, peas, mixed vegetables, peas and carrots, broccoli, green beans, spinach cauliflower, diced onions and frozen herbs are all great choices to stock up your freezer with frozen veggies. They can be used in many different recipes, and last about 6 months to a year in the fridge if stored correctly. Choose about 5 or 6 bags of your favorite vegetables to keep in your freezer.
Fruit: If you make smoothies in the morning, make sure to add your favorite fruit blends to your grocery list.
Meat & Seafood: Most meats and seafood freeze very well. Use what you already have in your freezer before adding more meat and seafood to your list. If you have a vacuum-sealer, use that to freeze your meat, if not, wrap portioned meat tightly in plastic wrap, and then transfer to a labeled ziplock bag.
Snacks: Treat ‘yo self to your favorite frozen treat. If you’re going to be stuck at home for two-weeks, you deserve it! Otherwise, ice-pops are a great, budget friendly frozen treat to keep in the house.
Pizza: Or pizza crust if you have shredded mozzarella, tomato sauce and pepperoni already. Frozen pizzas are great to have in the house. We always have 2-3 in our freezer at all times. It’s one of those guilty pleasure things. Pizza makes a great dinner, or snack any night of the week.
Misc. Household Items
Of course, you’re probably going to want to make sure that you have other necessities in the house too. Most homes already have everything that they need, but check to make sure that you have a two-week supply of these household supplies and toiletries in stock.
- Toilet paper
- Pads and tampons
- Diapers and wipes
- Paper towels
- Hand soap and hand sanitizer (if you can find it)
- Laundry detergent
- Dish soap
- Trash bags
- All-purpose cleaner
- Prescription medications
- OTC pain relief, antacids and allergy medications
- OTC cough and cold medicines
- Pedialite or Gatorade
- First-Aid kit
What To Cook – 18 Easy Recipes
The lists above include almost everything I could think of to keep a well stocked pantry. Look at what you have and make a list of meals that you can make with those ingredients. Most of us plan our meals around meat as the main ingredient. If that is how you plan your meals too, use this as your starting point. To stretch your grocery dollar even further, see if you can use the meat in multiple meals by not featuring it as the main ingredient. For example, make stirfry, using only 1 chicken breast for the whole family, and more fresh or frozen vegetables, or make tacos, and use only half of a pound of ground beef, and add a can of pinto or black beans to the meat. Use the other half of pound of ground beef to make a second meal of nachos or cheeseburger macaroni. These recipes use ingredients that you would find in your pantry, fridge and freezer.
How Much Food To Buy
Now that you know what to buy, just how much of it should you actually buy? How much food you purchase should depend on the size of your family and what you already have in the house. You will need enough food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and drinks for two-weeks. Use this Free Printable Meal Planner (click link to download), and add your favorite meals from the list that you made earlier to your menu. Be sure to only buy what you will eat though, or you will be wasting your money. If you hate pinto beans, don’t buy pinto beans. Not only does having a Meal Planner help you figure out exactly what groceries you still need to buy, it helps you know exactly what is going on in your kitchen over the next couple of weeks so that you don’t run out of groceries or overindulge.
Download these Free Printables to help you shop, and prepare for the Coronavirus.