This self isolation thing is going to go on for at least another month and since we are supposed to be going out as little as possible, it’s more important than ever to stock your pantry with shelf stable goods and fill your fridge and freezer with things that will carry you through. Gone are the days of stopping by the market every day for salad greens and produce for dinner so we need to think strategically about stocking up on things that will allow us to grocery shop less. What we are aiming for, in these days of social distancing, is minimizing the amount of time we need to spend shopping and, also, making store employees have to shop for us. I have been using a combination of Loblaws home delivery and store pick up and Buggy so that I can order from some of my other favourite stores but these services are getting overloaded so you now need to start planning a week or so ahead. Some new, more local services are cropping up to fill in the gaps too. These are not always budget choices but these are mostly producers who normally supply Toronto restaurants or sell at farmer’s markets so you are getting top quality food items and, so far, they can deliver in a more timely fashion to fill in the gaps. If you get in a groove, you can eliminate or severely cut down on the number of times you have to leave the house.
You also might want to consider ordering wine and beer from Ontario wineries and breweries, many of whom are offering free or very cheap delivery. Some places are even offering discounts if you order from them. I got a case of wine from Rosewood Estates and it came two days later. I got to support one of my favourite Ontario wineries (they are offering 10% off and free shipping with a minimum order of 4 bottles) and I didn’t have to brave the LCBO, so I consider that a win.
You can still order home delivery and now you can even get alcohol with your order – Can I get an order of fries and a case of merlot please?? There is little to no evidence that the Coronavirus is passed through food but if you are nervous, just either wipe down the containers with a Clorox wipe or immediately pour your food out into your own container and/or a pot and heat it back up until its piping hot. Throw the pizza into a hot oven and get rid of the pizza box. As always, wash your hand before and after handling the food packaging and for the really cautious, almost everyone is offering a touch free delivery where you pay when you order and they just leave it at your door.
I will be sharing recipes in the coming days and weeks that will make use of your well stocked pantry but if anyone has any requests, let me know in the comments and I will do my best to accommodate.
This list is NOT vegan because I am not well versed enough in the vegan diet to give a comprehensive list so before you yell at me , leave your vegan pantry suggestions in the comments so we can all learn more valuable knowledge. This list is also MY list so some items won’t fit your dietary preferences or needs so, again, I would love to hear your own tips and tricks in the comments
Shelf Stable Stuff:
Boxed broths: I use low salt Campbells Chicken Broth, Campbell’s Mushroom Broth, Vegetable Broth but at this point, I am buying whatever they have and I have a cupboard full of PC Ramen Broth, Pho Broth etc. You will use this for soups, stews, risottos, pasta dishes and more.
Canned fish: tuna, salmon, sardines if you roll like that. Not just for sandwiches, you can throw tuna in a simple pasta dish, make salmon cakes, fry scallions, garlic, ginger and canned salmon, throw that on a bowl of rice with a drizzle of sesame oil and hot sauce and Bob’s your uncle.
Canned or Bottled Tomatoes: Buy as many cans of plum tomatoes or jars of passata as you can. A quick dinner of tomato sauce made from olive oil, garlic and a can of tomatoes will save your sanity. Tomatoes are also great in soups and Indian curries.
Rice: try to get different kinds of rice. A big bag of basmati, jasmine, arborio – some store brands just call it Italian style, sushi rice, brown rice. If you get stuff from an Asian market, it’s time to try red and black rice. If you are going to eat a lot of rice for a month or so, get some variety
Dried beans and legumes. Chickpeas, white beans, black beans, kidney beans, pinto beans, red lentils, green lentils, split peas – yellow and/or green
Dried pasta, noodles: Stock up on your favourite dried pastas and be prepared to try some new shapes because the pasta section is often picked over
I did a big order from the Galleria Supermarket, my fave Korean market, and ordered a ton of Korean ramen. Yeah, it’s full of sodium but you can use just half the flavour packets and soup it up with sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce and hot sauce. Throw in a handful of veggies, some firm tofu, a bit of leftover meat and a soft boiled egg and you have got yourself a hearty meal. Pretend you enjoying lunch out at Kinton and treat yo’self.
if you are ordering from an Asian market, get buckwheat soba. It’s healthy and you can turn it into anything. Rice noodles of all thicknesses are great, throw some into broth with a handful of veg and one of those PC Asian broths and you’ve got lunch.
Sauces and condiments: stock up on your preferred sauces and condiments that don’t require refrigeration til opened. For me, that means soy sauce, sesame oil, hot sauces, mayonnaise, mustards, coconut milk (I also have lots of dehydrated coconut milk in brick and or powder form), curry pastes like Thai green/yellow/red curry paste, Indian
Spices – I like to use fresh herbs when I can but desperate times… this, again, is personal. For me it means lots of spice mixes like za’atar, ras al hanout, togarashi, Korean chili, chili flakes,various middle eastern and Asian spices, Kosher salt, black pepper corns etc
Oils and Vinegars i always have olive oil, grapeseed or canola oil, white balsamic, balsamic at the very least.
Canned and boxed soups
Canned evaporated Milk and dry milk powder: I have flats of Carnation 2% milk at all times because one of the recipes I use in one of my popular cooking class requires it for mac and cheese but in a pinch, I put this in my coffee. My mom used it in her coffee and it reminds me of her. You can use it any recipe the calls for cream. Dry milk powder is for the really dark days.
Flour, Sugar, Yeast I am going to share some really easy bread recipes as we go along and eventually, you are going to want to bake, so order big bags.
Oats: Oatmeal is delicious and filling and cheap and I use oatmeal in my Irish Soda Bread so I always have a big bag of this
Pancake Mix: Yeah, I know it’s easy to make but I am rationing my flour for bread and it’s easy to just mix up a small batch for a couple of pancakes.
Lemon Juice in a bottle: I grabbed a big bottle of Italian Volcano and once I open it, it has to go in the fridge but it will last forever.
Coffee and Tea
Herb Plants: I bought a thyme plant, a rosemary plant and a basil plant in my PCExpress orders over the last couple of weeks. For the price of a bunch of fresh herbs, I have live plants on my windowsill that will keep on giving me what I need
Butter – buy extra because you can freeze it and it lasts for a long time in the freezer
Eggs – eggs last about a month in the fridge and are a great source of protein
Milk – we don’t drink milk, it’s just for cooking and coffee, so I bought bagged milk and froze it. The fat separates a bit but you just give it a good shake before using it. I don’t have one of those plastic milk containers for the bags so I open the bags, fill up a couple of smaller tupperware containers, leaving room for expansion, and freeze it like that. When it thaws, I give it a good shake and transfer it into a glass canning jar for the fridge. This has stopped our weekly run into the store for milk for coffee.
VEGETARIAN * Obviously, if you don’t do dairy, stock up on your favourite alternative milk but try to buy shelf stable boxes of it if you can.
Better Than Bouillon: You can buy jars of this stuff in chicken, beef or vegetable. It’s a good quality soup base but you can throw a tsp or two into anything to boost the flavour.
Bean Pastes – Miso and it’s spicy, Korean cousin, Gochujang add a ton of flavour and umami to otherwise boring dishes. The food doesn’t need to be asian to benefit from a spoonful of miso added to it.
Long lasting produce: cabbage, carrots, beets, parsnips, brussels sprouts, kale, and beets last a long time in the fridge. Not always the sexiest stuff but this is not going to last forever and it will keep you going. Potatoes and squash will last a long time if you keep them in a dark, cool spot.
Fruits that also last a long time if stored in the fridge or a dark, cool spot like apples are great. I also order oranges with each delivery although they go quickly.
Tofu – I keep a couple of firm tofu packages in the fridge and you can also throw them in the freezer.
Paneer is a hard pressed Indian cheese that keeps for a long time, can also be frozen and a handful of paneer can add a good wollap of protein. You can also grill it, fry it and bake it… very hearty stuff
Cheese – a chunk of parmesan or pecorino romano last forever in the fridge. I have been ordering the big bars of old cheddar and Monterey Jack because they last for months before they are opened so you can keep a couple in the fridge. Nothing like a grilled cheese sammy when you are watching your fifth episode of Tiger King in the afternoon. Think long lasting, hard cheeses.
Chopped garlic, garlic/ginger puree in a jar Now is not the time to get all snobby. I went a week and a half without being able to order garlic cloves. If you can get your hands on a bag of peeled garlic cloves, get those and throw them in the freezer. You’re welcome
Protein Chicken (unless you don’t eat chicken) I bought a giant club pack of boneless, skinless thighs, repacked them for the freezer in packets of four. I also bought a big clubpack of ground beef and Italian sausages and froze it in 1 lb portions because I use it to make pasta sauce and meatballs. You know what you and your family likes to eat. I would love to have a pork butt in the freezer but there is no room. Think compact and maximum yield. 2 or 3 chicken thighs in a soup or stew go a long way.
If you are vegetarian, stock up on whatever products you like to eat – frozen veggie patties, veggie sausage or meatballs, chicken free nuggets etc
I don’t have a ton of freezer space so I am not buying other frozen foods that take up a ton of room, just trying to buy things that I can turn into lots of other dishes. If you do buy stuff in boxes, consider taking the inner package out of the box if your freezer is getting full – you can save some valuable space that way.
Frozen Juice: I have a couple emergency frozen, concentrated orange juice in the freezer for the zombie apocalypse portion when we aren’t able to get fresh fruit so we won’t get scurvy. If things never get to that point, they will make some fine mimosas. You can also scrape off a couple tbls of the concentrate and add it to stir fries and marinades in place of fresh orange juice.
Frozen vegetables: My #1 go to are frozen peas but if I have room, I get frozen, chopped squash and cubes of frozen spinach that I can throw into dishes by the handful.
Bread – you can absolutely freeze bread but the hardier the bread, the better it will hold up. You can freeze bagels, english muffins and buns too
Frozen Fruit: berries and other fragile fruits don’t last all that long so you can buy a bag of frozen fruit and use it in smoothies or desserts, oatmeal and pancakes.
Luxury but nice to have: maple syrup, a Soda Stream or similar machine to make soda water out of tap water, an electric pressure cooker like an Instant Pot although let’s be honest, many of us are no longer in a hurry to get dinner ready but it’s handy for beans and soups. If you have a vacuum sealer, it’s a god send. You can vacuum pack your beans, rice, lentils etc into smaller bundles and keep them safely stored in your cupboard or even a bin in the closet. This is also the time to try out some of those shelf stable packs of stuff like Palak Paneer. I have found that when I order from my local Loblaws, those types of things are always available and they make a great, quick lunch with some rice. I think of them as Indian MREs and I find knowing there are a few of them in the cupboard comforting.
If my husband was writing this list, he would have Haagen Daz, chips and dip, Kraft Dinner and coke zero at the top of the list. We all need to have our treats, so make sure you always order a few things that just make you happy.