We are no longer completely locked down due to the pandemic, but we are living in a time where we may be safely out and about or may be closer to quarantined at home. Given this new, "new normal," how do we make sure we are best stocking our fridge, pantry, and freezer with possible COVID surges on the horizon?
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inside refrigerator

When we all hunkered down in March, our lives were all about rice and beans and stocking our pantry with things that could last us for a very long time. We'd venture to guess that your pantries are still filled with a variety of funky shaped noodles, cans of beans, and semi-panicked purchases you may or may not have needed. As we enter the new phase of normal, we are seeing moments in time where we are free to roam about wearing a mask, times where we may be quarantined with sickness or exposure, and times where we may be bracing for another complete lockdown. That's not to add some kids in school and extra curriculars, others at home, some parents at work, others at home, and a whole lot of other moving parts. Phew! So, with all of this uncertainty, how do we best stock our fridge AND prepare meals that might find us on-the-go or at home? How do we stay healthy during this time as well?

We spoke to personal chef and caterer Mila Furman of Girl and the Kitchen and Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read It Before You Eat It - Taking You from Label to Table about their tips for this new limbo phase of the pandemic.

Actually Buy What You'll Eat

Gone are the days of panic shopping – clearing the shelves of just about any canned food, oodles of noodles, and grains like amaranth that you had never heard of before or even cooked. "I had to laugh when my husband came home with so much dried pasta," said Furman, whose family eats a very low-carb diet always. Now that we know there are ways to get groceries, and that the food supply will likely be okay, there is no need to buy up random supply. It doesn't hurt to stock up on what you will eat, just stop getting what you won't. "If you've never made quinoa before," she says, "you likely won't be making it nightly now." If you want to try something new, that's great, just be realistic this time around about what you actually eat and focus on having a few extra boxes around if that makes you feel better.

Utilize New Ways of Shopping

Some people feel comfortable going to the grocery store now, others still don't. One of the benefits to come out of this pandemic is new ways to shop. Sure, you can use a grocery delivery service, but you'll also find that many farms are now delivering their produce in peak freshness and even some restaurants have turned into bodegas or small marts to help their purveyors get rid of stock. You'll get super high quality with these guys and feel good that you are supporting your local farmers as well.

Restock Your Spices and Condiments

We often say that variety is the spice of life, but spice fuels the variety in cooking, too. Having a fully stocked spice drawer can help you from falling into meal boredom. Taub-Dix tends to have a number of Middle Eastern spices like Zaatar on hand while Furman likes to keep dried thyme and rosemary for in a pinch when she can't use fresh. Condiments like chili crisp can really liven up everything from eggs to vegetables and everything bagel spice can add pizazz to a plain piece of toast, grilled cheese, or even roasted salmon.

Pull Double Duty

In an effort to save both time and waste, it's great to have items in your fridge that can pull double duty. For example, many marinades can easily turn to salad dressings. Furman likes to use a combination of avocado oil, balsamic, and soy sauce (or tamari) for a marinade and will add Dijon mustard or garlic to make it a dressing. Taub-Dix adds whatever vegetables she has around to mini turkey burgers or meatloaf, or throws them in a giant frittata at the end of the week, so nothing goes to waste. If you have an abundance of vegetables, you can also pickle them or take fruit and turn it into a quick jam.

When you shop, think about proteins that can be easily multi-purposed throughout the week. Maybe you grill or smoke chicken with a vegetable for one night and throw the extra chicken breasts in a salad a few nights later. Or take leftover salmon and create salmon burgers. This can help with times that you are on the go, or to make sure you have food available on days where going out to the store is not an option.

"Even nuts are great as a snack, a salad topper, baked into something," says Taub-Dix.

Make Friends with Your Freezer

During our original quarantine many of us just stocked the freezer with anything we could find – meats, vegetables, loads of ice cream, you name it, it went in there. We shouldn't forget about our freezer, but now (and every 2-3 weeks says Furman) is the time to make sure it's organized and filled with stuff we will actually eat whether it's a night we just don't feel like really cooking or a night on-the-go. One of Furman's best suggestions – double the recipes you love. If you are making meatballs, make extra and freeze them for another night. Chilis and stews are great to make once and freeze the extras. Taub-Dix also recommends taking some of that amazing summer produce – asparagus, berries, and freezing it for the winter when the fresh produce selection is less abundant. This way when you do need to call on your freezer, it's filled with stuff you can easily use, not just a whole lot of stuff.

Healthy Up Your Comfort Eating

Times are stressful and even if we are trying to follow a healthy diet, there will be times where a few sweet or salty treats are in order. It's ok to have a little dark chocolate or ice cream around for those cravings. Having favorite treats on hand can help you avoid stress shopping and putting all the cookies and chips in your cart.