3 Tips for Stocking Your Pandemic Pantry

by Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Last Updated: April 12, 2020

Whether you’re preparing your pantry for COVID-19 quarantine or simply looking to refresh and refine your diet by making more meals at home, try looking to the pantry for complete and healthy meals. Each time you fill your online cart, consider including additional shelf-stable versions of your favorite products. Cooking more with healthy shelf-stable foods might also contribute to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, and depending on the amount and frequency in which you consume these, improved weight and blood sugar management.
  1. Save fridge space by opting for shelf-stable milk.

    Shelf stable and/or powdered milk can be a great way to stock up on a dairy alternative without monopolizing your fridge space. These products are beverage, smoothie, or cereal-ready in seconds, and the fact that they are ultra-pasteurized and stored in a sterile package makes them impervious to light, air, and the potential to cause foodborne illness. Despite being lesser in protein content, one serving of your favorite plant-based milk still replaces a serving of cow’s milk as they contain micronutrients such as calcium, vitamin E and vitamin D. Soy milk is the closest alternative to cow’s milk containing 6-7 grams of protein per cup. These milks are shelf-stable, but they can come with different storage instructions, so be sure to check the labeling on the container. Many drinks, such as flax milk, can be stored at room temperature before they are opened, but generally should be refrigerated and consumed within 7-10 days after opening. In addition to their nutritious and shelf-stable features, they are also compatible with most diet regimens:
    • Most of these are vegan, dairy-free, and some soy-free (not soy milk, of course)
    • Dairy alternatives provide heart-healthy omega-fats and contain no saturated fats
    • Choose ‘no added sugar’ or ‘unsweetened’ varieties

    Shelf stable cow’s milk comes in the form of powdered milk. Just add water and then use it in baking, for smoothies, or any other way you’d use regular milk.
  2. Vary your protein routine.

    Protein can be found in each of the food groups (however, it is nearly absent in fruit). Storing meat and seafood in the freezer can be a great option for ensuring you have plenty of protein on hand in case you are unable to visit the grocery store. Meats can last for years in a freezer while still retaining their quality. Frozen seafood is flash-frozen at the peak of its freshness, making it a delicious, quick-thawing option for lean protein. When meat supply or storage is limited, or when you need a quicker more convenient option, consider trying shelf-stable plant-based grains and proteins. These options can be prepared by themselves or combined with meats, seafoods, or other plant-based proteins in order to provide the recommended ~15 grams of protein per meal for adults. These consist of, but are not limited to:
    • Wild rice: 7 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked
    • Beans: (no-salt-added canned or dry)-15 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked
    • Lentils: 18 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked
    • Chickpeas: 15 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked
    • Nutritional yeast: 14 grams of protein per 1 ounce
    • Ancient grains like spelt and teff: 10 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked
    • Green peas: 9 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked
    • Quinoa: 9 grams of protein per 1 cup cooked
    • Oatmeal: 6 grams per half cup serving
  3. Plan meals that center around shelf-stable foods.

    According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a healthy meal consists of at least three food groups. So, when planning to use shelf-stable fruits and vegetables, look to canned, pre-packaged, or dried forms which have no added salt or sugar. Try combining your favorite fruits and vegetables with recipes that contain shelf-stable proteins. Not the creative type? Look to www.kroger.com to provide some suggestions. Locate the recipes tab on the homepage, and search keywords corresponding to the ingredients you have on hand. You can even filter by select diet types (i.e. vegan/vegetarian). For some tasty flavor boosters you can make with what’s in your pantry now, click here.

When you have planned your meals and have your recipes ready, ensure you read packaging for all storage and cooking directions and be sure to follow these carefully. This will lessen the chance of foodborne illness and ensure proper cooking for best results. For more information on food expiration, check out this blog. After you become comfortable with preparing a new variety of shelf-stable food items, you can easily adopt these items into your regular routine. Whichever way you enjoy them, take comfort in knowing that healthy meals can be found in the pantry.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Tiffany Naticchioni, RDN, LD

Tiffany is a compassionate dietitian with experience in nutrition throughout her lifespan along with empowering those with diabetes and heart disease to use food as medicine. A believer in total body wellness, she has a decade of experience as a licensed massage therapist. With a passion for healthy living, she practices hot yoga, enjoys most any fitness activities, stays active in the community, and loves spending time with her family.