I’m not one to be an alarmist or to make plans to live off the grid, but the panic-stricken-pantry-stocking frenzy driven by the rapid spread of the COVID-19 evokes angst and thoughts of limited access to food. If you end up quarantined or choose to self-quarantine for whatever reason down the road, a little planning and a few items will help maintain your sanity and meal variety if you are stuck at home.
First let’s start with the obvious dried staples such as BPA-free canned foods (or even better boxed) such as black beans, chickpeas, artichoke hearts, green beans, peas, and coconut milk. Tuna and some fish come in high quality tins or jars too. Pasta is a must as well, gluten-free or rice noodles work if you are celiac or gluten-intolerant. Buy some lentils, your favorite dried beans, and also stash away various grains such as rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and flours (I keep an assortment of all-purpose, almond, coconut, and cassava). Store some tomato puree (such as Mutti) or boxed chopped tomatoes (Pomi is my favorite), several jars of marinara, and pizza sauce so you can mix and match to make different meals. Buy an assortment of nuts (you can make nut milk or nut butters in a pinch), seeds (make a great snack and are nutrient-dense), and pre-made nut butters. (Note that nuts and seeds can be stored in the freezer long term.) Finally, keep onions (in their mesh bag), potatoes (in a paper bag), and garlic tucked away in a cool, dark place.
Pack your fridge with sturdy vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, celery, carrots, and kale. Eggs can keep for a long time in the refrigerator. Then, stuff your freezer with as many fruits and vegetables as you can since they are picked and frozen at their peak of freshness. Spinach, corn, peas, cauliflower rice, and berries are readily available, but sometimes you can find other foods such as butternut squash, carrots, zucchini or asparagus (and if can’t, cut and freeze them in advance!). Keep a reserve of frozen, ready-to-bake breads. You can also freeze lemons and limes, cheese (yes!), milk (make sure the container has enough room to expand), and butter. If you need to make an emergency batch of guacamole, avocados freeze exceptionally well. Cut them in half and vacuum pack them or mash them with a little lime juice and place in a plastic bag, squeezing as much air out as possible. I like to freeze ground meat in half-pound portions and vacuum-pack some cod and salmon in individual packets. Some bone-in chicken will come in handy for some homemade broth. Phew, that seems like a lot, but with a little organization in the freezer, everything is crammed in.
Don’t forget to buy oils that you use (avocado, olive, sesame), vinegars, and other seasonings or condiments such as Sriracha or soy (tamari if you are gluten-free), tahini, canned chipotle peppers, canned green chilis, mayonnaise, mustard, spices, and of course stock up on one of the best antiviral herbs known to mankind, ginger.
Some easy-to-make dishes using staple pantry items