These Are the Best Foods to Stockpile for a Possible Quarantine
Having a well-stocked fridge, freezer, and pantry is a good idea in the best of times. But in emergency cases, whether it be illness, storms, or just hard times, a full cupboard can help keep your family well-fed and safe in the event you need to spend a few weeks inside your doors.
First and foremost, it's important to distinguish between panic shopping and being prepared. Yes, you should have enough food and supplies (including medications) to last two weeks in case of quarantine. But, no, you do not need to be hoarding toilet paper and other essentials.
To explain the best options for stocking your cupboard, fridge, and freezer, we spoke with dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of "Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen" and Lainey Younkin, MS, RD, LDN, dietitian, and founder of Lainey Younkin Nutrition. Here are their recommendations, plus a few of our own.
How To Stock Your Pantry, Freezer and Fridge
What you buy is just as important as how much you buy. So while it can be tempting to load your pantry full of guilty pleasure treats, try to focus on foods with a high nutritional value. A healthier you means a healthier immune system.
"The main thing is to have plenty of canned and frozen fruit and veggies to get your vitamin C, plus canned beans and fish for protein and zinc. Cereal, popcorn, rolled oats and other whole grains are important too. Be prepared, not panicked," says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN.
Dried or Canned Beans
Beans and legumes are shelf-stable and packed with protein and fiber, which keep you full. Fill your cart with canned beans like black beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans, which you can use to make a bean salad, chili, or vegetable quesadillas. After an overnight soak, dried beans make a great base for pureed dips, soups, and stews. Store dried beans in airtight containers in a cool, dry pantry for up to a year.
Related: Get recipes for beans and lentils.
Rice and Grains
For centuries, cultures have relied on the magical combination of rice and beans to provide an inexpensive way to keep bellies full with complete protein and dietary fiber.
Rice and whole grains — like quinoa, farro, barley, wheat berries, or bulgur — can be cooked in bulk and used throughout the week in salads and soups, Younkin says.
Rice and whole grains stored in airtight containers will last for up to 6 months in a cool, dry pantry or the freezer for up to a year. However, ground whole grains will deteriorate faster and can be stored in the pantry for 1 to 3 months or up to 6 months in the freezer.
Root Vegetables and Hardy Vegetables
In addition to frozen options, many root and hardy vegetables have a long shelf life and will provide your family with much-needed sustenance. Good choices include potatoes of all varieties, whole carrots (baby carrots do not have the same shelf life), winter squash, heads of cabbage, celery, and brussels sprouts. Store potatoes and other root vegetables in a cool, dry, dark spot with good ventilation. Keep carrots with the green tops removed, celery wrapped in foil, and brussels sprouts on their stems in an open plastic bag in the fridge for two weeks.
Stocks and Broths
Stock and broths are available in cans, cartons, or space-saving bouillon pastes and cubes. They make an easy base for a variety of soups, stews, and risottos or as a flavor booster for sauces. Look for low-sodium versions since you can adjust the salt and other flavorings to your taste.
Canned or Jarred Fish
Since you may not have access to fresh meat and chicken, look for alternative proteins like canned fish. Canned tuna and canned salmon make a delicious and nutritious addition to salads or croquettes. A tin of sardines packs a flavorful punch as an appetizer on crackers or as an ingredient in pasta sauces or rice dishes. In addition, canned fish is a great source of zinc, which boosts your immunity and can be an excellent addition to a heart-healthy diet.
Corn and peas are always great canned vegetables to have on hand, but canned tomatoes are the hero of your pantry, no matter what the circumstance. Buy a variety of tomatoes: diced, crushed, and whole. They are often more flavorful and tender than fresh tomatoes, even in season, and are the start of everything from soups to sauces.
It is a great idea to have some canned soups on hand for quick and easy meals. Condensed soups will save pantry room, but ready-to-eat soups mean you don't have to add water you might want to keep for another purpose.
Jarred Pasta Sauce
A jar of pasta sauce is merely a pot of cooked pasta or rice away from a meal but is also a perfectly seasoned base for other recipes. For example, add chicken stock and chopped vegetables to make minestrone, cook rice in the sauce for a rich tomato side dish or use it as a topper for baked potatoes.
Dried pasta is one of the best things you can keep on hand since it is shelf-stable, comes in various shapes and sizes, and has a version for every diet. In addition, pasta works well with all sorts of flavors, so you can use it in everything from classic Italian to Pan-Asian cuisines. Once cooked, it can be served hot or cold, as an ingredient in a larger dish, or as the star of the show.
Related: Browse all pasta recipes.
Crackers, Crispbreads, Rice Cakes
These pantry staples are essential snacking material. Keep them in airtight containers, so they don't go stale.
Cooking Oil and Condiments
Its a necessity to have condiments such as mayonnaise, mustard, relish, vinegar, hot sauce, and soy sauce in your pantry. Be sure to read the labels to see which sauces can be stored in the pantry after opening and which should go into the fridge.
Tip: Learn how to make your own salad dressing to save money and space.
Salt, Pepper, Spices
Figure out what you use most of the time and keep it on hand.
Garlic and Onions
Be sure to buy some aromatics like onions, garlic, ginger, and chili peppers to help amp up the flavor — all will last a long time in your fridge or a cool spot in your home. Onions and garlic can be stored in a cool, dry, dark spot with good ventilation. Do not store them in plastic bags as the humidity will cause them to mold or rot.
You'll have some time on your hands to bake, so load up the storeroom with all-purpose and bread flours, packaged yeast for baking bread, and make sure your baking powder and baking soda are up to date. For long-term storage, keep flour in airtight containers in the freezer. Get plenty of eggs since they are great for both meals and baking projects, and they last a long time in the fridge.
Whether for a quick snack, a topping, or baking, having a variety of nuts around will be an essential addition to your pantry. Almonds, walnuts, and peanuts are all great choices, but cashews and hazelnuts are great to have as well. Fresh nuts are loaded with natural oils that deteriorate with time, so it's best to store them in the fridge or freezer.
Peanut butter is natural to have on hand and is a good source of easy protein, especially for kids or when you are on the go. But don't overlook other nut butters like almond butter, which makes for a great change, or tahini sesame paste, which can be a wonderful addition to homemade hummus or salad dressings.
In combination with boredom, having lots of sweets and junk foods on hand can create a constant temptation. Pretzels and popcorn are healthier choices than chips for salty snacking and think about squares of dark chocolate or fruit leathers instead of candy.
Whether dairy or plant-based milk, shelf-stable milk is good to have on hand. Although some have to be refrigerated once opened, so be sure to read and follow package directions. Evaporated milk in cans can be a good substitute for half and half in your coffee.
If you are a regular at your local coffee or tea house, make sure you have supplies for your daily dose at home.
Without grocery store access, you can still prepare a well-rounded meal with plenty of vegetables by taking advantage of the frozen food aisle. From basic frozen vegetables like broccoli or peas to beta-carotene rich carrots and squashes and staples like frozen chopped onion, having a well-stocked freezer will help ensure that you maintain a diet rich in plants. Since you will likely be missing fresh lettuces after your first few days, be sure to have a variety of leafy greens as well, like frozen spinach, kale, or collards.
Having frozen fruit means you are just a blender away from fresh smoothies, and there is no better time to learn how to make homemade pies and jam than when you are home all day.
Related: Get recipes using frozen fruit.
The best bread to freeze is whole unsliced loaves of sourdough, loaves with fruit and nuts, english muffins, and bagels. For specialty bread like Ezekiel bread these should be stored in the freezer anyway.
When properly wrapped, hard and aged cheeses like Parmesan, Cheddar and Swiss will last a while in your fridge, as will cured meats like ham, bacon, and salami.
Eggs store very well in the fridge and can be used for every meal of the day. From your breakfast scramble to your lunchtime quiche, to your fried rice at dinnertime and many baking projects in between. A great source of protein, you can keep some raw for cooking and some hard-boiled for snacks or easy egg salad.
Apples and Citrus
Fresh fruit can be complicated, but apples and citrus both last a long time when refrigerated. If you need a self-stable backup, dried fruits of all kinds are terrific for snacks and are filled with fiber. If stocking canned fruit, go for the ones packed in 100% juice and not syrup; or no-sugar-added all-natural apple sauce.
These dairy protein powerhouses last up to a month in the fridge, make for great breakfasts or snacks, and can even be used as ingredients in other dishes like pancakes or sauces.
If you are going to be baking and cooking, you do not want to run out of butter. Look for the brands that make half-sticks and store them in the freezer, taking out what you need as you need it.
The Rest of the House
Preparing your medicine cabinet is just as important as your pantry, so try to keep a two-week supply of any medications or supplements you take regularly and have your preferred flu and cold relief meds on hand for any seasonal illnesses.
If you have children, stock up on essentials like diapers, formula, and some canned and bottled products like Pediasure and Pedialyte in case they get sick and need an easy protein sources or electrolytes replacement.
Finally, if you do get stuck at home for a couple of weeks, you probably won't be as active as usual, so try and move as much as possible. Walking around the house, stretching, doing yoga, dancing around the room, or using an app or online exercise video can help reduce stress and keep you healthy.