It's usually in those times of need, like the recent crisis involving the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, when you can discover what you are and are not prepared for. In turn, these situations, however dire they may be, can provide valuable lessons that can equip you for whatever the future may bring.
One lesson of the current global crisis is to have prepared pantries so that you will always have proper nutrition on hand. This article provides some tips on how to eat healthy and have plenty of nutritious food on hand no matter what situations your life may bring.
Cooking experts suggest that there are certain staple items you should always have in your pantry or refrigerator that can create many meals. These items include:
- Olive oil
- Chili paste
- Canned tomatoes
In addition to such items, it's also beneficial to have on hand:
- Bouillon cubes (chicken, beef, and/or vegetable)
- Garlic powder
- Brown sugar
- Ground cinnamon
- Canned beans
- Canned tuna fish
- Peanut butter
- Powdered milk
These items are shelf stable for several months, and even longer for spices. The exception is mayonnaise and canned meats or vegetables that will have to be refrigerated once opened. Mustard is good for about two months unrefrigerated.
Pantry items like white rice, salt and powdered milk, for example, are good for a very long time as long as they are stored properly in a cool, dry and dark place. Therefore, such items would be good ones to stock up on (not hoard) to have nutritious staples on hand.
Healthy eating basics
Experts at the American Heart Association recommend the following basic tips for healthy eating:
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables
- Consume fiber-rich whole grains like whole grain bread, brown rice and oatmeal
- Include skinless chicken, turkey and fish in meals whenever possible
- Plan fiber and protein-rich nuts, seeds, beans and lentils in meals and snacks
What are some simple healthy meals I can make with pantry basics?
- Rice and beans:
- Simple soup:
- Protein-packed sandwiches:
Combine quick oats, milk powder and water to create a filling and fiber-rich breakfast meal option. You can add a teaspoon or two of brown sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon or a tablespoon of peanut butter to give your oatmeal a unique and delicious flavor.
This healthy combination is easy to make and cheap to buy, but packs complementary proteins and rich fiber content good for heart health, especially if you use brown rice.
Combine prepared bouillon, frozen vegetables of your choice like carrots, corn, peas, or green beans and your favorite protein diced or shredded such as chicken or turkey. Simmer for about an hour with a bay leaf or two and a dash of pepper or other spices for a delicious soup that can feed you for days. Not to mention the vegetables and protein in such soup is a balanced meal that will help provide you with plenty of nutrients.
Peanut butter, tuna fish or canned low sodium chicken mixed with light mayonnaise can provide a protein-rich base for a sandwich meal. Add vegetables like lettuce or sliced tomato for extra fiber and nutrients.
What to avoid buying if you want to eat healthy at home
With the pandemic-related grocery shopping rules that make lines longer and make it hard to find basic items, you may want to avoid the store at all. It can therefore be tempting to buy frozen meals or order take-out food to make your life easier or less stressful. However, eating such foods on a regular basis are bad for your health because of their higher sodium, sugar and sometimes high fat content.
So, what can you do if you need to go to the store, but don't want to?
Fortunately, there are many grocery shopping services that will allow you to grocery shop online for what you need and you can have it delivered to you. Many grocery store chains like Kroger, Walmart, Safeway, and Whole Foods as well as Amazon Fresh online offer delivery services. Other popular grocery delivery services include:
For a monthly fee of $14 or annual fee of $99, you can choose the local grocery store of your choice, create your shopping list online and have your groceries delivered in as little as one hour. Orders $35 or more have free delivery, while orders less than that have a $7 delivery fee. You can sign up online for a membership to get started.
For a monthly fee of $9.99 or an annual fee of $99, you can enjoy services of the Instacart Express program in which members get free delivery on orders $35 or more, reduced service fees, no busy pricing fees during peak delivery hours, and shopping at a variety of stores with free delivery on the entire order. Non-members will pay delivery fees ranging from around $3.99 to $7.99 and may incur other service fees as well. You can sign up for Instacart online.
If you prefer to shop in bulk, then Boxed will provide a bulk grocery shopping experience without a membership card or having to go to the store. There's a minimum order of $49 for free shipping on your order, $7 delivery fee for orders below $49, and an optional membership fee of $49 per year for free delivery on all orders. You can start shopping with Boxed online at this site.
Does being comfortable using technology improve access to healthy food, especially in times of crisis?
Knowing your way around a computer can help you eat healthier, especially in times of crisis. But what if you don't know how to use a computer?
If you have access to a computer, but are just not sure how to use it, start with sites like Skillfulsenior.com to teach you basic skills like using a mouse and touch typing. Then once you've mastered those skills, visit the Goodwill Community Foundation site to learn skills such as using email, the internet, as well as using desktop applications that can help you create text documents like Microsoft® Office.
Final note on having a healthy pantry
You can't predict when a crisis is going to happen, so it's always good to be prepared. Being prepared can help you feel a sense of control that can reduce anxiety and in turn help you feel more at ease during such hard times. Preparing your pantry so you can eat healthy no matter what life brings you is one way to do that.
It's one thing to have food to eat during crisis. However, it's another thing to have nutritious food to eat on hand so you can keep your immune health strong and stay as physically healthy as possible during hard times. If you feel like you can't afford healthy meals, please call programs like Meals on Wheels so you can have healthy meals delivered to you at low to no cost.