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Pandemic or not, here's how to keep the cupboard full
On the table

Pandemic or not, here's how to keep the cupboard full

Many of us, until recently, enjoyed the luxury of stopping at a local grocery or market for a few necessary items as often as we choose. Rarely was there a shortage of our favorite foods, unless at holiday time or major sale.

Things changed with the arrival of the novel coronavirus. In my home, we’ve become proficient in playing the game of “How long can we eat without leaving the house?”

Concessions must be made, and creative meal solutions are essential.  Fortunately, we are not picky eaters. Except running low on toilet paper and flour, the stress of fewer shopping trips and some food shortages has been minimal.

But it has put the spotlight on the need to stock for emergencies, which boils down to being prepared, as opposed to hoarding.

Let’s face it, emergencies can range from a pandemic to simply working late and needing a quick, delicious meal at the end of a hectic day.

The first step is to take inventory of what you have in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Toss out anything that is outdated, or you know you won't eat. This will give you space for what you need. The goal is to have staple items available to make meals that you and your family enjoy, while still meeting health goals. So stock up on healthier options that will bolster the immune system and help you better face the emergency.

To make this process simple, consider meals you are make regularly. Keep a running list of what you must replace when you’ve made a recipe, so you’ll be prepared the next time.

Emergencies, which may demand ingredient substitutions and creativity, are not the time to learn your family likes quinoa, for example. So stock it and other items you’ll eat routinely. Rotating items in your cupboard to keep the food as fresh as possible.

As you review the list of staples, consider trying some new foods and recipes when you’re not stressed, possibly expanding your cultural horizons without leaving home.

With that in mind, these are some items to have on hand:


  • Dried or canned beans
  • Rice
  • Whole grains (quinoa, barley, bulgur)
  • Canned foods (tuna, salmon, sardines, chicken, meat, vegetables, fruits in 100% juice, soups)
  • Stocks and broths
  • Garli
  • Onions
  • A variety of potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Pasta sauce and pasta and noodles
  • Baking supplies (flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, vanilla)
  • Salt, pepper and spices
  • Crackers, crispbreads and rice cakes
  • Condiments
  • Shelf-stable or powdered milk
  • Coffee, tea, bottled water
  • Healthy snacks (dark chocolate, popcorn, granola bars, dried fruits)
  • Chocolate chips (mix with dried fruits and nuts to make trail mix)
  • Oats and whole-grain cereals


  • Nuts and nut butters (refrigerate once opened, to avoid becoming rancid)
  • Yeast
  • Eggs
  • Cooking oils (extra virgin olive oil for dressings and low heat cooking and avocado oil for high heat cooking)
  • Vegetables (carrots, celery, peppers, cabbage, Brussels sprouts)
  • All-natural applesauce
  • Cheeses and cottage cheese
  • Fruits (especially apples and citrus since they keep longer)
  • Butter
  • Yogurt


  • Frozen vegetables and fruits
  • Breads (double wrap to prevent freezer burn and use within three months)
  • English muffins and bagels
  • Meat, poultry and seafood
  • Larger quantities of nuts
  • Flour, whole grains and rice, stored in airtight containers 
  • Homemade soup stocks or broths
  • Prepares meals such as meatloaf, lasagna and spaghetti sauce

Whatever your emergency, it is possible to eat well and enjoy new food combinations while minimizing stress. Be sure to have at least one or two special treats on hand, because everyone likes a surprise. Lucky for me, ice cream freezes well.

Carol Slager is a licensed pharmacist, author, blogger and health coach in Northwest Indiana. Follow her monthly in Get Healthy and at Opinions expressed are the writer's.


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