When the New York State Pause went into effect, I thought that maybe in two weeks, things would return to normal. I was wrong. The COVID-19 virus was not willing to give up after just two weeks. It wasn’t done fighting…and killing. Staying at home saved lives. So, I’ll continue to support the lives of health care workers, all essential workers, our vulnerable population (which is really all of us), by respecting the stay at home rules, social distancing, and wearing a face covering when I absolutely need to be in a public space where following the six-foot rule could be challenging. I miss seeing my family and friends, by my staying home is an important responsibility. If only one life is saved or it just insures that one person does not become ill, then I know my contribution to the fight was vital and absolutely worth it. As our community works together, respects the Pause, then, together we are saving lives.
So, this article is really supposed to be about keeping our kitchens stocked, but not bunker-style stocked. Remember the concern is limiting time in shared public spaces. Rather than going to the grocery store a few times a week, we are trying to go only once a week, and ideally, every other week to limit our exposure to the possibility of the virus.
Before the Pause, I often bought items that were on sale, especially if it was a Buy One, Get One Free. I also reluctantly admit that I bought items that intrigued me or were simply impulse buys. Once a year, I need to go through the shelves and weed out items that expired. I’m not proud of this habit and honestly would never share this secret publicly…until now.
The fear that our pantries must be able to provide nutritious meals for months at a time is understandable. We feel powerless. No one is able to tell us when things will go back to normal. So, we panic shop. Nobody wants to run out of toilet paper. With time on our hands, a lot of people have discovered the lost art of baking bread at home and have discovered that beans are pretty darn delicious.
Here are things to keep in mind when you plan your next grocery trip. First, remember that the stores will remain open. Our roads are working, our supply chain is intact, and stores are open. Think about what you will really need for at least a week and ideally two weeks. Keep in mind how often you usually buy items. For example, think about how many mouths you have in your house when you’re buying toothpaste. How many tubes per week do you really need? (Now, apply that logic to toilet paper)
Resist the urge to hoard. It’s a real feeling. It’s not born out of selfishness, but rather our feelings of worry, isolation, and uncertainty. When I pass the flour shelf, I am tempted to put a bag in my cart even if I don’t really need it because the flour shelf was bare the last two times I went shopping. Now, everyone has enough flour and the shelves are filling up again. Rice, pasta, and beans are reappearing. Now, I’m just waiting for the yeast to come back!
I read somewhere, “Store what eat, and eat what you store.” That’s a great guiding principle for creating your shopping list. I’ve discovered that planning my list takes a lot more time and even more thought. Now, I plan out at least two weeks worth of meals. First I browse the pantry shelves and freezer to see what meals are already available. This is exactly the right time to use those items that are getting close to their expiration date. Then, as I plan a meal, I write down the items I’ll need. Checking a recipe, especially if you are fairly new to cooking meals with beans, is a good idea.
Next I check other necessities and plan to purchase just the items and amount that will really be needed in the next two weeks. With my first draft of a list, I organize the list so that I can make one efficient trip by following the floor plan of the store. Finally, I wait at least a day or two before shopping. I’m always surprised how far I can really stretch the time between trips.
Here are some other important things to consider as you shop:
- Avoid purchasing products with a WIC label. Look on the price tab on the shelf displayed usually below an item. The label indicates that the particular product and brand are an approved WIC purchase and is eligible to be used to feed mothers and children with low incomes. Remember that these families may not make substitutions.
- Dried or canned beans, canned vegetables and fruit, rice, and pasta are ideal items to purchase. Remember, stock up, don’t stockpile!
- Your freezer works most efficiently when air is able to circulate. Stuffing the freezer blocks the air vents and will cost you more money. So, fill it, don’t stuff it.
Please remember, many people in our community are impacted economically by the COVID crisis and are not thinking about stocking up on food, but instead are worried about their next meals. Food banks in our area continue to need your donations. As you shop, please consider adding non-perishable items to your cart and drop them off at your local food bank. Here’s a link to find your local food pantry: