Are you stressed about what to buy and how to feed yourself and your family during this crazy time? I can relate… It’s taken me a few weeks of my own trial and error, conversations with clients, and researching best practices online but I’ve finally narrowed it down to a few key tips for dealing with busy, low stocked stores, crazy lines, and the anxiety around what and how eat.

Feeding yourself (and your family):

Almost more important than what you’re eating is remembering that food is a lot more than nutrition and nourishment. It’s comfort, control, release, excitement, connection, and much more. Our relationship with food is complex, so if you’re extra hungry, not hungry, super into food or not at all into food right now know that it’s completely normal. It’s part of your stress response to this collective world trauma we’re experiencing. Have compassion for yourself, no matter what your relationship with food looks like right now. It won’t be like this forever.

You’re probably home more now, eating out less, and forced to stay inside. We’re collectively anxious and concerned about a lot – especially food. I’ve compiled some suggestions to help you find a little more peace and comfort in your food environment if you’re feeling a little squirrelly about it all.

PREP: You’re probably going to get bored living off tuna sandwiches and cereal (just a guess?). Prioritize some time to prep a few large batch meals – think soothing, comforting foods you enjoy and maybe some that freeze well such as turkey chili, veggie lasagna, or casseroles. Check out these 9 recipes using quarantine friendly foods, as well as this one with 10 more. Community and connection is super important right now so get the whole family involved in cooking – people may grumble at first but will probably start looking forward to it.

STAPLES: Fresh fruit with peels like bananas and oranges tend to last a little longer. Frozen fruit can be added to smoothies, morning oatmeal, or pancakes. You can also buy fresh fruits and veggies and freeze them yourself. Other versatile staples to think of include nut butter, mixed nuts, dried fruit, frozen pizzas, boxed mac & cheese, pasta + sauce. FROZEN VEGGIES (or buy fresh and freeze). They’re easy to add to pasta, eggs, a quesadilla, stir fry or roasted in the oven with olive oil.

JUST FOR FUN SNACKS: chips, cookies, ice cream, your “fun food” favorites! You’re going to want it, be realistic and honest because carrot sticks just don’t quite hit that spot sometimes! See my recent post with the Cadbury eggs if you’re questioning this or it makes you nervous, or this post about how to stop overeating and conquering “trigger” foods. Maybe get your baking on with this gluten free zucchini bread that uses a combo of zucchini and gluten free flour (especially if your store is consistently out of regular flour).

A note about processed food. It’s really okay nutritionally if you’re relying a bit more on frozen foods or boxed mac and cheese right now. It’s about finding how to do the best you can with what you have and adding more for nutritional value but knowing processed foods are not the enemy we’ve been brainwashed to believe they are (see this post for more peace with processed foods).

Think flexibility – adding nutrient dense foods to what you’re already eating – such as chopped pepper and onion to your scrambled eggs with some avocado, broccoli to your mac & cheese, peas and mushrooms to your pasta with some parmesan. My personal favorite – salad on TOP of your frozen pizza. Think: what can I add to this meal to increase the nutrition? Whether it be vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein or nutritious fats.

At the end of the day, be gentle with yourself. This is all temporary and all we can do is take it one day at a time and do the best we can. I’d love to hear your suggestions for meals, snacks and the like during quarantine! Comment below and please share this post with anyone you think would find it helpful!

Okay now that we know WHAT to get, let’s talk about how to get it.

Pre-corona, I actually loved going to the grocery store. I love food so much I made a career out of it, so being surrounded by food in a grocery store is typically a pretty soothing experience for me. Add a global pandemic, toilet paper frenzies and a fear of going into public and I now dread our tri-weekly trips to the store.

I’ve learned a few things that make it easier.

Make a list. I know this sounds obvious but when you’re masked up and afraid of an invisible disease in public, sound reasoning around what we need to purchase goes out the window. Having an organized list to consistently come back to throughout your trip helps to alleviate anxiety, give you a sense of control and keep you (and your purchases) on track.

I’ll recommend how to organize your list, but first step is to ask yourself, “What am I in the mood for over the next few weeks? What kinds of foods or dishes haven’t I had in awhile? If it’s getting nicer out (like it is for us here in Boston) do you want some veggies for kabobs to grill with veggie/turkey burgers or maybe more salads or fresh veggies with dip? Do you need something warm and comforting, maybe your grandmother’s family famous lasagna recipe?

Cooking can be a form of self-exploration, can reduce stress, and be almost meditative (if you like it). Lean into that – ask what sounds comforting both emotionally and nutritionally. If you need some ideas check out these 19 recipes using quarantine friendly foods mentioned above, links here and here.

Organize your list, and therefore your shopping experience.

  • Get anything in high demand first such as toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, sanitizing wipes, etc. The stores have a daily supply but with demand so high they only put a certain amount out daily so it’s typically gone first thing. The other day we went shopping when the store opened at 7am, went right for the TP (we were totally out – NOT hoarders!) and walked by 10 minutes later – it was gone.
  • Frozen fruits and veggies next. Again, things in high demand should be shopped for first to increase your likelihood of getting what you need. As the store gets busier throughout the day, supply goes way down of course. You need have no guilt around frozen fruits & veg – they’re picked at the PEAK of ripeness and immediately frozen – so the nutrients are “locked” in.
  • Anything else frozen – like frozen pizzas (add a salad on top, one of my fave), frozen burritos (add avocado and tomato salsa), or sweet potato fries (as a starchy vegetable addition to any meal)
  • Non-perishable food staples like beans, rice, quinoa, pasta, oats, canned or boxed soups, tortillas
  • Meat, eggs, cheese, milk, non-dairy milk – a common thing we’ve been seeing in stores is a 2 item limit on these. Eggs last about 3 weeks in the fridge so are a great source of protein to add to stir fries, breakfast burritos, or make a quiche or frittata for dinner. If there’s a limit on # of meats you can buy, I recommend getting two of the biggest ones possible and freezing half of each. For non-dairy milk, I recommend the cartons with a longer shelf life vs. the refrigerated ones – or maybe one of each.
  • Since they tend to not go as fast, save fresh fruits and veggies for last. Anything you couldn’t find frozen, you can find fresh and freeze yourself (blueberries, spinach, kale, peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, etc.) I’ve been thinking about getting a blend of frozen and fresh – eating the fresh first of course, freezing whatever fresh we don’t get to, and relying on the frozen towards the end of our tri-weekly supply. On fruit: buy green bananas, firm avocados, and others that aren’t so ripe yet – It buys you more time with them.

Best time to visit the store? Early – as soon as they open and after the senior hours (or go during the senior hours if you qualify) and during the week, not weekends. Trust me on this, I’ve done my own research going at all different times and days of the week as well as asking clients, family members, friends and the internet. Less people, more stocked aisles, less stress. Like I said – we got toilet paper at 7am, went back 10 minutes later it was all gone.

Sanitary practices:

  • wear a mask
  • no reusable bags, use the store’s
  • when you get home (wash your hands), and sanitize your items using disinfectant wipes
  • stay 6 feet away from other shoppers
  • sanitize your wallet/purse and credit card with a disinfecting wipe when you get home

Prefer to grocery shop from home? A note about Amazon Fresh/Prime Now, Instacart, and other grocery delivery services…

The delivery times are now “not available” or not until “next week” which can be difficult if you need groceries now of course. If you want to utilize these services, just know delivery time is pretty delayed so place your order far ahead of when you actually need them.

Local (Boston area) grocery delivery/pickup options:

Russo’s in Newton/Watertown – does a $55 (basic) or $100 (big) grocery box with touch-less pickup. Includes milk, eggs, veggies, pasta, garlic, ginger, fruit, fresh bread, and more. Pull up, open your trunk, they load it up, you drive away without ever having to step foot in the store. Check their box options out here.

Walden Local Meats – CSA for meat and dairy products – delivered to your door

I hope this helps! Feel free to comment below any tips, tricks, suggestions, or comments – I’d love to hear what’s working for you!

Worried about quarantine weight gain? Check out this post

Worried about stress or boredom eating? Check out this post

Feeling shamed or guilt about your food choices? Check out this post

Interested in healing your relationship with food and your body and finding more peace with your health? Click here to book a free intro call today. Blue Cross and Harvard Pilgrim insurance plans accepted!

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