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Coronavirus (COVID-19)

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What to Buy? Grocery Shopping During a Pandemic

Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Author name: Lee Health

We’re now a few weeks into the pandemic, and those groceries you managed to binge-buy a month ago are dwindling. It’s time to restock the pantry.

But what should you buy this time around? And what’s the secret for keeping food fresher longer? Although you can still go to the grocery store if you need to, you still might be a little hesitant or find that some items are in short supply.

Time to concentrate on the essentials and develop a grocery list that fits your budget and still satisfies your family’s appetite and health needs.

Lee Health Solutions is here to help. Julie Hill, a registered dietitian with Lee Health, offers some tips for meal planning that will help stretch your food dollar and reduce the stress of grocery shopping during COVID-19.

First, in the land of plenty there’s plenty of food to go around.

“Food production and manufacturing are widely dispersed throughout the U.S. and there are currently no widespread disruptions reported in the supply chain,” says the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency is keeping an eye on that supply chain for any changes, too. So, go ahead and make that list!

Plan for all the people in your household, Hill advises.

“And when you do, write out that plan. Take pen to paper,” she says. “This will help you stick to it and help you keep within your budget. It’s too easy during times of stress to make impulse purchases of foods that offer comfort but may not be healthy for you and your family.”

Essential foods

These vital foods include protein (unprocessed meat, fish/tuna, beans, tofu), fruit and vegetables, starches and grains, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats such as avocados and olives.

“Choose fresh or frozen items as much as possible and buy canned and packaged foods you regularly use. But avoid purchasing non-essential foods,” Hill says. “These include soda, alcohol, desserts, sweets, processed or fried snacks, and flavored or carbonated water. They can be expensive and non-nutritious.”

Freeze meals

When you make a fresh meal, plan for making a double batch and freeze the leftovers in glass or reusable containers. This approach will help you save money and offer you relief when you don’t have the energy to cook.

“The meal should contain a vegetable, protein source, and sometimes a carbohydrate or starch, although sometimes it’s best to omit the starch/carbohydrate and make it fresh while you thaw out the rest of the meal,” Hill says. “Plan for complete meals specifically for freezer, such as soups, stews, spaghetti sauce, and curry.”

Tips for keeping perishable food longer

Eat the foods you’ve purchased based on spoilage, Hill says.

“Eat fresh vegetables or prepared foods first. Heartier vegetables and fruits can last in the refrigerator longer,” she notes. “Freeze protein foods if you’re concerned about spoilage before you can cook it.”

To keep illness-causing germs at bay, Julie also recommends that you follow the FDA’s four steps for perishable items: clean, separate, cook and chill.


Lee Health Solutions’ Registered Dietitians are offering phone consultations. If you need help meal planning or how to shop for the family, call 239-424-3120.

And, as always, when shopping remember to follow the safety precautions of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help keep you, your family, and others safer.

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