How’s everyone doing out there? I hope you are all doing your best to protect your health, including your mental health. These are wild times to say the least.
I don’t know what it is like in your neck of the woods. Where I live, a lot of people saw the writing on the wall at the end of last week and prepared to self-quarantine. Stores were suddenly packed as people stocked up with the necessary supplies to stay home for several weeks. (Yes, and dozens of rolls of paper towels and toilet paper, too.)
I’m sure many of you have already put recommended social distancing policies into place. If you haven’t stocked your homes with supplies that will allow you to avoid going out as much as possible, now’s the time. I’m going to focus on prepping your kitchen today. Don’t forget the other parts, though: prescription and over-the-counter medicines, basic hygiene (soap, laundry detergent), pet food.
How Much Do I Really Need?
That’s hard to say. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends having a two-week supply of food. On the other hand, it’s clear from some of the hardest-hit areas around the world that we all face the possibility of staying in for longer than that. A lot of people are stocking up for longer, but please remember that everyone needs to shop now. Prepare for a few weeks, yes. Hoard for months, no.
I’m sensitive to the fact that not everybody has the resources to buy two or three weeks of food at one time. Even in countries that have implemented strict closures, grocery stores have remained open. That means we can hope and expect that we’ll be able to shop for more food as we need it even if stricter quarantines go into effect. Of course, do what you can to be safe—avoid crowds, keep your distance from other shoppers, don’t go out if you’re feeling sick, wash your hands after leaving the store.
What Should I Get?
You’ll want to pick up extra frozen and shelf-stable food. Also get your usual groceries—meat, eggs, produce, and so on—to last through the first week.
In my opinion, this isn’t the time to split hairs between “Primal” and “not Primal.” Yes, it’s great to stick to your normal nutrient-dense foods to support overall wellness right now. At the same time, if you’d feel more comfortable having a pound of dried beans in your cupboard just in case, go for it.
Obviously don’t buy food that makes you sick. Beans work for me; they might not work for you. I’m also not advocating you dive face-first into sheet cake. Just don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, especially if your stores have limited supplies right now. Make the best decisions you can, but the last thing any of us needs is unnecessary added stress right now.
The list below is to give you ideas. You obviously don’t need everything here.
- Check your spice cabinet. I’m not putting any herbs and spices on the list, so add any you want to restock.
- Check your salt. Cooking without salt is a major bummer, plus you want to keep your electrolytes up.
- Take stock of what you already have in your fridge and pantry. Don’t bother to buy more tuna if you already have a whole case. Leave some for the next shopper.
STOCK YOUR FRIDGE
- Fresh meat/poultry/seafood to cook the first week
- Fresh produce to cook the first week
- Condiments (salad dressings, mayo, ketchup & mustard)
- Fermented foods*: sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi (gut health is always important!)
- Dairy products: Greek yogurt, cheese, cream for your coffee
Don’t forget that a lot of produce actually doesn’t require refrigeration, such as:
- Avocados (keep them in the fridge to delay ripening, though)
- Potatoes, sweet potatoes
- Winter squashes: acorn, spaghetti, kabocha, delicata, pumpkins
- Stone fruits: peaches, plums, nectarines
- Apples, pears
- Citrus fruits (just watch for rotten ones—they’ll spoil everything)
- Whole melons
- Peppers (store in a paper bag)
STOCK YOUR FREEZER
- Frozen meat/poultry
- Frozen fish
- Frozen vegetables (for smoothies, don’t forget frozen greens and even avocados if you can find them)
- Frozen berries
STOCK YOUR PANTRY
- Canned/tinned fish
- Cooking oils (olive, coconut, avocado, etc.), ghee
- Coconut milk
- Nuts & nut butter
- Bone broth
- Pasta sauce
- Grain-free pasta (e.g., Banza)
- Jerky, beef sticks, biltong, hard salami
- Grain-free crackers
- Grain-free granola
- Whey protein powder
- Protein bars
- Dark chocolate
- Non-dairy milk in Tetra Paks
- Creamer like Better Half and Nutpods (shelf stable until opened)
*Note that fermented foods that are shelf stable, like sauerkraut and pickles, have been heat-treated. That kills the living organisms that make fermented foods so beneficial for health. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy shelf-stable pickles or sauerkraut, of course, but don’t eat them for their probiotics.
**The items in italics are ones that I would consider “borderline” foods in terms of Primal sensibilities.
- Chia seeds
- Hemp seeds
- Flax seeds
- Coconut flakes
- Coconut flour
- Almond flour
- Paleo pancake mix (e.g., Birch Benders)
- Parchment paper
- Food storage containers and bags
If you’re feeling anxious about leaving the house or, for example, you’re immunocompromised and need to take extra precautions, consider grocery delivery services like Instacart and Amazon Prime Whole Foods delivery. Last time I looked, they were predictably running much slower than usual, but they were still operating. Some grocery stores do curbside pick-up so you don’t have to get out of your car. Order meat and seafood online if you have freezer space. If you have a favorite brand of protein bar or gluten-free bread or whatever, look to see if you can order directly from the company.
Expect that everything might be slower than normal and supplies might be limited. Plan ahead if you can, but also don’t hoard food. And yes, I know that’s vague. We’re all figuring this out as we go along.
If you have kids at home, this is a great time to get them involved with cooking. Little ones can help you wash produce, stir ingredients, brush oil, tear lettuce, and break apart broccoli and cauliflower. Older kids can progress to using different kitchen appliances with supervision, cutting herbs with scissors, chopping ingredients once they can handle a knife, and helping read recipes to you while you cook.
One way to avoid having to shop more often is to make the most of what you have. Here are my three favorite ways to avoid waste:
- Make bone broth with all your vegetable and meat scraps and bones. I use my slow cooker because I can add scraps to it over a day as I cook, but the stovetop or a pressure cooker also works great. You can also freeze scraps to use later.
- If you have a stockpile of nuts, you can make your own nut milk for coffee or chia pudding. Then use the pulp in recipes, such as these from Elana Amsterdam of Elana’s Pantry.
- If your freezer isn’t full, freeze leftovers before they go bad so you can thaw and reheat them later.
GO EASY ON YOURSELF
Like I said, we’re all figuring this out as we go along. I know a lot of people are dealing with financial and food insecurity right now. If you need support or ideas for how to make it through, please reach out in the comments.
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