Hunkering Down – Smarter Food Shopping

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This morning over a “diner style” breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hashbrowns, my boyfriend asked me, “How are you able to have so much fresh stuff on hand to cook with? Aren’t you scared it’s going to go bad?” I told him I’m not.

Friends – it’s strategy. While in an ideal, healthy world it’s great to hit up the grocery store several days a week and get the freshest ingredients possible for you and your family, these are unusual times. All the warnings we have gotten the last couple of days is it will get worse before it gets better – this pandemic and the crisis in our area has not peaked, we could be weeks, probably longer, from leveling that curve. In Bergen County, New Jersey, where I live, we have the highest number of coronavirus cases in New Jersey, and we are only a few miles from New York City, which is currently the unfortunate epicenter of the pandemic. Our county parks have closed, and all the warnings heed staying home as much as possible, only go out if you absolutely have to.

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“Diner-Style” Breakfast – all long shelf life ingredients – eggs, cheddar cheese, bacon, and frozen hash browns

Part of staying healthy is following a healthy diet. You have the most control when you’re preparing your own food, and avoid processed ingredients as much as you can. This can be difficult when you’re stockpiling for days and ideally, weeks, but the good news it’s not impossible.

In addition to the hefty amount of items I currently house in my pantry, today I stockpiled fresh foods. I do not intend to go to a grocery store again for a couple of weeks minimum. The key to doing this is to choose items that have a long shelf life, or things that can freeze beautifully.

Don’t know where to start? Here are some of my go-to’s and how long they could last, if properly stored. This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the foods out there, but it can get you through several weeks and possibly even months without a grocery trip.

  • PRODUCE
    • Citrus fruits – 3-4 weeks
    • Butternut Squash – left whole, this will keep about a month
    • Onions and Garlic – about two months
    • Cabbage – several weeks up to 2 montns
    • Carrots – lasts 3-5 weeks
    • Cruciferous vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, etc) – up to 2 weeks
    • Bananas – last about a week if “green” when purchased. Freeze well
    • Hearty Greens (Kale, Arugula, etc) – these raw veggies will usually last about a week to 10 days
    • When in doubt, buy frozen – especially berries as they are highly perishable. Plus frozen produce is almost always as nutritious as fresh
  • DAIRY
    • Organic milk – ultra pasteurized milk will last about two months
    • Hard Cheeses – parmesan, etc. can last for a couple of months
    • Yogurt – if unopened, can be eaten a couple of weeks after sell-by date
    • Sour Cream – similar to yogurt
    • Cream Cheese – months
    • Semi-hard Cheeses (cheddar, mozzarella, swiss, etc) – months. These also freeze well
    • Eggs – usually will last a few weeks after sell-by date. Try this water test to be certain of the freshness
  • MEAT
    • Vacuum-sealed meats typically have a much longer shelf life than what the butcher will cut and package for you. For example, I purchased a couple of ribeye steaks today that are vacuum-sealed has have a USE BY or FREEZE date of April 22. That’s nearly a month!
    • Poultry is typically more perishable than beef, pork, lamb, etc. If you’re not planning on using within 3-5 days, I suggest freezing until you’re ready to cook with it
    • Cured meats – bacon, ham, sausages, etc. naturally have a longer shelf life. Some will even last months and all typically freeze well
  • SEAFOOD
    • I avoid buying fresh fish and seafood if I’m not going to cook it within a day of purchase. If I find a sale, I may purchase and cut/portion out myself and wrap to freeze. I especially like to do this with salmon. I will take the fish out of the freezer when I’m ready to actually use it
    • Shrimp is something I almost always have in my freezer. In some water they take next to no time to thaw and also cook up super fast. Plus, in this country almost all the “fresh” shrimp you buy has been previously frozen, so just skip that and buy already frozen
  • BREADS/BAKED GOODS
    • I will typically bake my own stuff, but I don’t make sandwich bread. English muffins will keep for weeks in the fridge. I also really like rye bread in the fridge. Tortillas and wraps typically have a long shelf life (possibly months). Softer breads (white, whole wheat, etc), if you’re not going through them quickly, freeze well. Double check the shelf life. While organic can be better for you and have fewer preservatives, organic sandwich bread gets moldy FAST.

Bottom line – in these unprecedented times, don’t impulse shop. A little planning will keep you home safe for a very long time 🙂