As we all settle into a new reality of spending more time at home, we are required to make adjustments in the way we work, socialize, exercise, and even eat.
There are a number of new stressors, big and small, that we have to navigate, but throughout it all, it is important to continue to find ways to support your physical, emotional, and mental health.
I understand that this time can leave you feeling all sorts of ways and I wanted to make this transition a bit easier for you by sharing some simple tips for staying well at home with the aim to equip you with tools to make nourishing yourself a little easier.
This week I wanted to share some super practical tips on how to prioritize the food you have and have access to– whether it be fresh, frozen, or non-perishable (pantry items) and how to make the most of what you’ve got in your kitchen.
1. Prioritize Fresh: Try and use your fresh, perishable ingredients first (i.e. fruits, veggies, meats, dairy, etc). Also be sure to check the shelf life of your pantry items to make sure you use them before they spoil.
2. Freeze What You Don’t Use: If you have fresh produce or meat that is going to spoil, place it in a food storage container and pop it in the freezer to preserve it. You can also freeze leftovers from meals like soups, sauces, and baked pastas.
3. Plan Ahead: If you want to make the most of your ingredients, plan several meals ahead of time. This way you can make sure that you are using all of what you have and nothing goes to waste. For example, if you are making a soup one night that calls for spinach and you still have some left over, make a spinach salad for lunch the next day. If you have lots of random leftover ingredients at the end of the week – stir fry, grain bowls, and omelets are all easy recipes that can allow you to use what you have and swap ingredients for what you don’t have.
Trips to the grocery store during home-quarantine are less frequent than normal, and it’s important to know what items are good to stock up on. Here are a few suggestions to fill your pantry and freezer with:
1. Canned and Dried Beans and Legumes: Beans and other legumes like lentils and chickpeas are incredibly versatile. They can be used in soups, stews, bowls, or can serve as the base for a variety of foods like veggie burgers and hummus. Not only do beans and legumes contain a variety of important nutrients like B-group vitamins and iron, they also contain complex carbohydrates and protein, to help keep you fueled. Other carb and protein sources like bread and meat, can spoil much quicker, so dried and canned beans and legumes make a great pantry staple when access to other foods may be limited.
2. Longer Lasting Fruits and Veggies: If your trips to the grocery store are limited and your access to fresh fruits and veggies has reduced, it’s important to know what fruits and veggies will last longer so you can have them throughout the week. Many citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit can last for several days and beyond. Fruits like bananas and apples also make great choices to stock up on because not only do they last for several days, but they can also be cut up into smaller portions and frozen for later use or used for baking if they’re past the point of eating in dishes like banana bread or banana pancakes. Lower water-content vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, turnips, beets, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower tend to last longer and also freeze well. And don’t forget to load up on garlic, ginger, and onions as they last for several days and can be used to flavor lots of different meals. If you do buy items like berries or lettuce, be sure to only wash them as you need them. Washing some produce prematurely can cause it to spoil quicker.
3. Frozen or Canned Fruits and Veggies: It goes without saying that frozen and canned fruits and veggies can last for several months. Many believe that when produce is canned or frozen, it is less nutritious than fresh produce, however since frozen and canned produce is typically packed immediately after harvest, most of the nutrients are persevered. In fact, canned and frozen produce often retains more nutrients than fresh produce since fresh produce may not get to your grocery cart until many days or weeks after harvest.
4. Whole Grains and Starchy Roots: Non-perishable whole grain items like pasta and oatmeal are great options to stock up on since they last much longer than bread or crackers and can be stored at room temperature. Whole grain foods can contribute to daily fiber intake which is important for digestive and heart health. Starchy vegetables like potatoes and yams are also great carbohydrate sources that are easy to store and last long in the pantry. They can be used to make many different types of meals and contain important nutrients like fiber, protein, vitamin C and vitamin b-6.
5. Canned Proteins: Since proteins like meats, fish, and dairy tend to spoil quicker, canned proteins are an easy swap to ensure that you’ll always have good quality protein on hand. Fishes like tuna and salmon hold flavor well when canned – just be sure to pick ones that are canned in water when possible. Also, beans and peas are a good plant-based source of protein that are easy to find in canned options. You can also find proteins in items like soups – for example chicken noodle or lentil soup – just be sure to look for reduced sodium options when possible.
By Nora Minno, RD, CDN