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Eating Clean in a Pandemic: How to Shop in Times of Scarcity

Updated: Mar 26, 2020

As the new coronavirus continues to spread at an alarming rate, people are being instructed to stay home and only go out when it's absolutely necessary. Under these circumstances, we want to minimize trips to the grocery store and only go every few weeks or less. In addition, many traditional grocery staples are currently difficult to find. Combined, these limitations present a unique challenge when it come to maintaining a healthy diet.


This blog post is dedicated to empowering you to make healthy choices at the grocery store, despite this unprecedented situation.


PANDEMIC SHOPPING TIPS


Grocery stores are struggling to keep shelves full, especially when it comes to frozen food, eggs, milk, and meat. Here are three tips to ensure a successful shopping trip!


1. Utilize the Bulk Section.

Most people are flocking to the canned goods, frozen food, and pre-packaged items right now, and as a result, these shelves are bare. Instead, I recommend shopping in the bulk section! It contains many of the same non-perishable items, like beans, rice, oats, other grains, dried fruit, etc. and is more likely to be in stock right now! If you're unsure how to prepare these foods without the package instructions, a quick google or pinterest search will help you out. The cooking directions are often on the bulk section label at the store as well (snap a quick photo with your phone!).

[Photos: Empty grocery store shelves compared to the well-stocked bulk section]


My favorite bulk items include:

1. organic quick oats

2. quinoa

3. brown rice

4. chickpeas

5. raisins

6. apricots

7. dates

8. nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds)

9. seeds (chia, flax, pumpkin, hemp)


2. Purchase Fresh Produce.

I've noticed that the fresh fruit and vegetables have been fairly well-stocked at the store, which means people are skipping this area. I believe there are a few reasons for this: 1. People don't want to buy food that will go bad quickly and 2. They are afraid it is contaminated. My advice: DON'T SKIP THE FRESH PRODUCE! First, evidence indicates that COVID-19 is NOT transmitted via food, which is great news. You can be extra safe by thoroughly washing fruit and vegetables when you get home as well. Second, not all produce spoils within a week. In fact, MANY fruits and vegetables stay fresh for weeks or even months!


Here are my favorites:

1. apples

2. cabbage

3. citrus fruits (i.e. clementines, oranges, grapefruit, lemons)

4. onions

5. squash (i.e. butternut, acorn, spaghetti)

6. potatoes

7. carrots

8. cauliflower


While researching this topic, I found THIS GUIDE to storing produce very useful.


My last recommendation in relation to produce is that you should still buy "fast-spoiling" foods like berries, bananas, grapes, tomatoes, avocados, etc. even though they need to be eaten quickly. Getting these nutrients and health benefits every couple of weeks is better than never at all! And remember, you can easily freeze items like greens and fruit if you can't finish them before they go bad.


3. Be Open-minded to New Foods.

The reality is your favorite foods and normal grocery staples may not be in stock when you visit the store. I encourage you to go into your shopping experience with a flexible, curious attitude. For example, if you can't find black beans, try black eyed peas or pinto beans instead! Or maybe you love jasmine rice, but they only have arborio... why not give it a go? You may discover a new variety of your favorite food that you end up loving! Being adaptable and open-minded will keep you calm during these stressful times, in the grocery store and otherwise.


Speaking of being flexible...


PLANT-BASED ALTERNATIVES


So let's say you are at the store and cant' find eggs, meat and.or cow's milk. I suggest trying plant-based alternatives! Many of these are shelf-stable and easily replace animal products in cooking and baking.


1. Egg Alternatives (each=one egg):


For baking and cooking:

1. 1/4 cup applesauce

2. 1 Tbs ground flax seed & 3 Tbs water (mix, let sit for 10 min)

3. 1 Tbs ground chia seeds & 1/3 cup water (mix, let sit for 15 min)

4. 1/2 mashed banana

5. 3 Tbs peanut butter


For scrambled or omelets:

1. 3 Tbs chickpea flour & 3 Tbs water

2. JUST Egg (made from mung beans)

3. Tofu (add turmeric for egg color, best for scramble)

4. For an egg scramble or breakfast hash, consider just leaving the eggs out! You can still make a delicious breakfast with only veggies and potatoes.


2. Meat Alternatives:


1. Burgers/meatloaf: lentils, tvp, tempeh, tofu, cauliflower/walnuts

*TAP HERE for my lentil burger recipe on instagram

2. Shredded Chicken/Pork: jackfruit, chickpeas (great for "chicken" salad or curries)

*Check out my vegan chicken tortilla soup recipe on instagram

3. Ribs: Tofu (recipe coming soon!)

4. Pork/Ham Roast: Homemade seitan, Celebration Roast

5. Deli Meat: Tofurkey, seitan

6. Chicken Wings/nuggets: cauliflower, tofu

*This is my favorite cauliflower bites "chicken wings" recipe

7. Sausage: seitan, Field Roast or Beyond Meat product


3. Milk Alternatives:


1. Canned coconut milk

2. Refrigerated plant-based milk

3. Cashews (soak or boil & then blend to replace cream in recipes)

4. Plant sources of calcium, like dark leafy greens and beans


In conclusion, remember: shop the bulk section, continue to buy fresh produce, keep an open mind about trying new grocery items, and consider plant-based alternatives to animal products! Following these guidelines will ensure a successful shopping trip, despite this time of scarcity. There's so much you cannot control right now, BUT when it comes to health, you still have the power to consume nourishing food that will help you not just survive, but actually THRIVE during the coronavirus pandemic.

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