15 Groceries Every Home Should Have Right Now
I don't think there's ever been a time when grocery shopping has been such a critical part of our lives than right now when we're all self-quarantining and self-distancing.
Staying at home amid the coronavirus pandemic is the smartest and safest thing to do, but it also has everyone stockpiling groceries in fear of not having enough food. Local grocers are finally starting to catch up from the initial demand and are restocking their shelves. So, now is an okay time to go back to the store and pick up essentials to make sure your kitchen is stocked for what looks to be at least one more month of self-distancing.
But, since it's definitely not cool to hoard items (we're all in this together), the following items are a collection of basics that everyone should have to get through the next month in a healthy, happy, and efficient manner.
Beans are a nearly perfect food staple. The easiest and most inexpensive way to buy beans is to scoop up a one-pound bag of dry beans, which can easily be soaked overnight, or cooked with onions, garlic water, and spices over a low simmer for a few hours.
High in fiber and protein (and completely void of anything processed), beans are an essential superfood to have on hand. Dry beans can also keep on your shelf for years without going bad. (Oh, and by the way, the more you eat beans, the more your body adjusts to them, which lessens their, um, negative side effect.)
Whole grains like rice, oats, quinoa, etc. are the perfect partner to beans. Long-grain and unprocessed grains are much better for you, so try to avoid the instant or minute-rice options. Rice pairs well with almost anything, and works very well when mixed with sautéed veggies and a bit of protein like chicken or fish.
Related: How to Cook Quinoa
Anyone with small children knows that pasta with butter is a staple, and for good reason: It's delicious, easy to prepare, and filling. Is pasta the healthiest meal? Not in excess. But, it's a good treat, and dried pasta keeps on your shelf for ages. For a healthier alternative, opt for chickpea pasta (that's pasta made out of chickpeas) or veggie pasta that you can make by putting zucchini through a spiralizer or getting spaghetti squash.
Like beans and rice, nuts are full of protein, are (mostly) not processed, and super healthy to consume in moderation. Nuts also make almost any salad taste better, more filling, and crunchier too.
The process of drying fruit extracts some of the nutritional value of fresh fruit, but there is still a great deal of nutrition you can get from dried fruit. Natural fructose is concentrated during the drying process (which can help satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthier way than reaching for candy), and the fiber in dried apricots, prunes, and raisins can help aid in digestion and feeling full.
Meat for Freezing
While fresh steaks and chops are always your best option, you can make your purchase last longer by freezing them for later use. The key to this is to first freeze the steaks the moment you get home, but more importantly, then thawing the meat precisely. Don't use the microwave or run frozen meat under warm or hot water. Plan ahead, take your time, and simply place the frozen meat on a cast iron or metal pan. Turn the pieces over after an hour and within a couple of hours, the cuts should be ready for cooking. Don't refreeze thawed meat, though. Cook it no matter what and refrigerate what isn't served/eaten.
Clearly, fresh vegetables are a higher priority than their frozen counterparts, but the shelf life of fresh veggies only lasts so long. Yes, the supply chain for fresh produce will continue to put fresh fruit and veggies on your local grocer's shelves, but it's never a bad idea to load up on a backup stash. Some veggies hold up better than others from flash freezing, such as spinach, broccoli, and green beans, but this is solely an issue of personal taste.
Butter and Oil
Want to know why food often tastes so good when you go to a nice restaurant? The chefs are often less concerned with your health than they are with making your food taste as good as possible. Butter makes food taste great, and it can easily be frozen. Butter is not a life-saving staple, but a crucial ingredient in most of the great pleasures that come from home cooking. Don't forget your olive, coconut, and vegetable oils as well, which can be used in place of butter in many recipes.
Canned Veggies and Tomatoes
No, vegetables are not their most nutritious when served in a can, but they last a long time and they can still be delicious. Canned tomatoes (and tomato sauce/paste) is a pivotal ingredient in many recipes, especially stews, chilis, and, of course, tomato sauces.
Onions and Root Vegetables
The root of many great meals is sautéed onions and garlic (mmmm, smells so good!). Whether you're cooking beans, rice, or pasta, onions and garlic (and perhaps even a shallot if you're feeling fancy) can offer a sharp bite when uncooked or natural sweetness when cooked. Most importantly, these bulbs can keep unrefrigerated for some time.
Not every grocery store trip needs to be for armageddon. Make sure you buy enough fruit that can be consumed before it goes bad. But, even overripe fruit can work great in a smoothie, or you can freeze it for later use.
Did you know that bread can be frozen too? Bread is the stuff of life—and even if you're on a paleo or keto diet, odds are, someone else in your home may be craving a sandwich or a piece of toast. (Psst: There are even sprouted bread options that offer more protein.) Also, if you plan on serving hot dogs or burgers, don't forget the buns, which can easily be frozen as well.
Related: The Best & Worst Store-Bought Breads
The Right Kind of Dairy
Dairy products can be tricky to purchase. You don't want to load up on milk only for it to go bad. The solution? Look for Ultra High-Temperature Pasteurization (also referred to as Ultra Pasteurization or UP) milk that is sold in cartons outside of your grocer's cold storage containers. These can last for a much longer time in your cupboard and need no refrigeration until they are cracked open. Also, eggs typically can stay good for up to five weeks (give or take), and some cheeses can be frozen (artisanal cheese should be eaten fresh, though).
Soups and Stock
Want to make a rice dish even tastier? Substitute some of the water for chicken or even veggie stock, and watch your taste buds pop. Stocks are the root of many great recipes and cans of soups. The latter are often loaded with salt and preservatives, though, so you should eat them in moderation when you're craving a warm and nourishing meal. The plus side: They'll keep for years!
If chocolate is not your thing, then feel free to get some other treat that you fancy (candy, sweets, ice cream…) Just because we are all stuck at home does not mean we have to deny ourselves at least some indulgences. These are tough times, and if a piece of chocolate (opt for dark over milk for its health benefits) will perk you up, then it's a good buy.