We’re a few weeks into social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., and I think it’s safe to say we’re all feeling a lot of feelings. One place that’s seen a lot of action is the food scene—grocery stores in particular have been running low on certain items such as disinfectant, toilet paper and some shelf-stable foods due to overbuying. It seems many of us are somewhere in between not wanting to hoard and wanting to be prepared in case we need to quarantine for an extended period of time.
So how do we grocery shop safely, nutritiously, efficiently and thoughtfully during a time like this? There are many answers to this question, but because we are all juggling multiple priorities right now, the IFIC team thought we’d help by gathering a few of our best tips to make grocery shopping a little easier for you during this challenging time.
Make a list… and stick to it
While we don’t recommended hoarding or over purchasing food, it is important to have a clear idea of what you need before you enter the store. Remember, there’s no evidence that COVID-19 is spreading through food or food packaging, but it is spreading person-to-person via close interactions. Making a grocery list and sticking to it can help you get in and out of the store as efficiently as possible.
Appreciate food in all forms
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: all forms of food can be healthful. Now is not the time to pit fresh versus frozen or frozen versus canned foods. Instead, make sure you have a variety of foods in each form in case you can’t get to a grocery store or don’t want to go to the grocery store as frequently as you normally do in the weeks ahead. Here’s a simple list of nutrient-dense staples that come in canned, dried, frozen and packaged forms, as well as a few fresh items that have a longer shelf-life:
- Frozen foods like berries, veggies, smoothie mixes and lean proteins such as meats, poultry and seafood
- Canned vegetables like corn, green beans, mushrooms and tomatoes and proteins such as chicken, salmon and tuna
- Packaged grains like bread, cereal, oats, pasta, popcorn and rice are sources of fiber and whole grains, which support heart health.
- Dried foods like fruit, nuts and seeds can be great sources of key vitamins and minerals and healthy fats.
- Eggs are rich in protein, vitamins and choline. Some brands of eggs also may be enriched with vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Dairy items like yogurt, cheese and sour cream provide important nutrients for bone health, including calcium, vitamin D, potassium and protein.
- Cooking oils like canola, olive and soybean oils are an excellent source of heart-healthy fats.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors are always a good idea to have on your list. Make a plan to use them (and stick to it!) so they don’t go to waste.
And remember, it’s okay to have a few treats on your grocery list as well!
Be kind to yourself
This is an uncertain time, and it’s causing anxiety for many of us. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Eating “perfectly” is a myth anyway—there is no “perfect” way to eat. Give yourself permission to indulge every so often. To help alleviate stress you may be feeling about food, try incorporating tenets of mindful and intuitive eating, like removing distractions while you eat, acknowledging your emotions, listening to your hunger and fullness cues, and eating for satisfaction.
Don’t buy more than you need
While most of the country has been ordered to stay at home, we’re still able to visit grocery stores because they are considered essential services. When you do venture out, it may be tempting to buy everything in sight. Fear of scarcity is understandable. And, yes, you may be buying a bit more than usual, but it’s still important to consider the needs of others and not go overboard. Not only will this prevent unnecessary food waste, but it will also help ensure that those in the highest-risk category (those 65+ years old and/or who have an underlying medical condition) are able to buy enough food—as they are visiting grocery stores less often and during smaller windows of time. Remember: the U.S. food supply is the most abundant in the world, and even if it seems like there’s a shortage of a particular food or household item, you can have confidence that shelves will be restocked quickly. By not overbuying, we can all do our part to waste less food while ensuring that everyone has access to the food they need during this difficult time.
This article contains contributions from Kris Sollid, RD.