We are currently homebound due to the Coronovirus pandemic. A lot of people went a little crazy when it came to preparing to be in this situation, which anyone who watches the news is aware of by now. However, this made me think about how I normally stock my kitchen.
Being from Arkansas, I grew up in a world where grocery store panics tended to happen whenever snow was predicted. In their defense, their lack of experience driving in snow and on ice spells disaster if they actually venture during even the slightest ice or snow event, so these people should prepare to be homebound in such scenarios. However, it often reminded me of the run on the bank in It’s a Wonderful Life. So March 10, when people started talking more about possible quarantines and such, I went grocery shopping a few days earlier in the week than I normally would.
To be clear, I did not go crazy and try to buy up all of a particular item or buy insane amounts of any item at all. However, I wanted to make sure my kitchen was stocked with our basic staples. We already had quite a bit of meat and other items in our deep freeze, so I wasn’t panicked we would not be able to eat, even if we needed to stay in for several weeks. I just wanted to make sure we had some basics to keep it interesting.
I took inventory of my cabinets and made a list prior to going. We eat pasta a couple of times each week, so I made sure we had a half dozen varieties of pasta noodles. I stocked up on items like chicken broth, vegetable broth, variations of canned tomatoes, tomatoe sauce, and tomatoe paste. I picked up a couple of meat items, for variation, that were on sale. I made sure we have baking supplies such as flour, sugar, oil, butter, and nuts. I stocked my spice cabinet on anything that was low at my local spice shop. I checked, and we already had a pretty decent supply of dried beans and frozen vegetables. I purchased a couple of vegetables we usually eat fresh like brocolli and brussel sprouts, just so that we’d have variety if we didn’t want to go to the grocery store.
I’ve also been saving things like the normally-discarded bones and pieces of chicken from deboned thighs or wing clips, as well as skin/fat and similar parts from beef trimmings. This way, I can make stock if I run out of the packaged broths I purchased. We had a few frozen pizzas, and I picked up a couple freezer aisle foods just for those times when we really wish we could have appetizers.
Since we’d be eating at home and not going to work, I didn’t worry as much about lunch meat and such, as it probably would be passed up for leftovers since I cook when I’m stressed or bored. I did pick up a couple packages of cheese in case we want to feed the kid grilled cheese, as it is one of her favorites. In fact, since our local bar/pub is closed, I am planning to replicate her favorite meal from there (grilled cheese and a side of corn) despite the fact that I think it is a terribly unhealthy meal!
We eat a lot of fresh fruit, but in case we aren’t leaving the house to get fresh produce, I picked up some frozen fruit, and we bought some apples as they last longer than most fruits. I probably should have picked up more root vegetables, as they last longer, but we don’t normally eat a lot of them, so it didn’t occur to me.
The only items I purchased that I would not normally get were organic milk and evaporated milk. Organic milk lasts longer because it is usually ultra-pasturized, and evaporated milk works great in cooking. We don’t actually drink milk, and no one eats cereal, so we really only need it for recipes.
I didn’t clear any shelves. I didn’t pack my freezer full of processed or packaged foods that take up space. I admit, I was fortunate in that I constantly stock up on basics and keep my freezer stocked with a decent variety of meats my husband and I like to eat in a variety of dishes. We also generally keep a good stock of shelf stable basics like rice, beans, pasta, various “cream of” soups and frozen vegetables. I basically shopped planning for 2 weeks instead of one, knowing that ultimately, even if I cannot or don’t want to go back out for an additional week or two, my basic stock could get us through. So I bought 4 cans of broth instead of 2 and 3 kinds of pasta instead of 1 or 2.
Because I normally try to make sure we are stocked in a manner consistent with being able to eat for a week or more, my version of stocking up was pretty simple. In the end, I utlimately even took a portion of what was in our freezer (some prepared meals from previously cooked soups and such) to my oldest daughter and made sure she was stocked on some basic staples. I did all of this without buying crazy quantities of any particular item and knowing that the items I bought will be eaten and not go to waste.