Three Things to Anwer Before Braving the Grocery Store

Reduce time, touch, and therefore exposure in the grocery store by asking (and answering) these three questions to plan for an efficient, low touch trip to purchase the nourishment you need.

What should I eat during a global crisis of isolation? 

What should I have stocked in my kitchen right now?

How should I approach grocery shopping during the Covid-19 crisis?

Look for the button below to download seven simple meals and a grocery list that I use in my own household!

What should I eat during a global crisis of isolation? 
My currency is nutrition. But as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I have never really enjoyed telling people what they “should eat.” What happens when I tell people exactly what to eat is that they may follow it for a while like a diet or a plan that they stop and start. Food is not something you stop and start. Food is necessary nourishment to enable our bodies to do all we demand of them. 

Isolating at home asks us to shift our mindset to purpose-driven food choices. We can design deliciously for a nourishing offensive that will also defend our bodies if we get sick. In isolation, this means going back to our kitchens and learning how to use available nourishment. Plan like you have never planned before. Planning will help you to make sure you have ingredients on hand to make nutritious meals. Plan to eat three small meals and three snacks each day. Keep meals simple with protein, grains, and plenty of vegetables. 

Snack on fresh fruit between meals first. Fruit is a super multi-tasking food that provides water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and good energy. If hunger between meals still hits, add a protein source like nuts, seeds, hard-boiled eggs, or our house favorite, sardines on thin-stack rice cakes! Stocked in the pantry, sardines are a great source of protein and have immune-boosting omega-3 fatty acids that are in short supply in the American diet. Salty, crunchy, and sweet cravings will emerge. Don’t deny them. Simply limit your packaged foods snacks to once per day. If you want potato chips, my personal favorites are salt and pepper Kettle Chips. Take the bag out of the pantry, put some in a small bowl, tie up the top of the chip bag, and put it back in the pantry. This shifts from mindless snacking to the (gasp!) bottom of the bag while you are watching Netflix on the couch to purposeful snacking to meet a reasonable afternoon craving with intention. 

Cook simple meals. My favorites are bowls, potato bar, and stir fry. Each of these meals has ingredients you can interchange, vary throughout the week, and make ahead of time. Have a solid pantry stock of your favorite grains. For me, that is brown rice, chickpea pasta, and quinoa. Because potatoes are so starchy, I interchange those for grains and have a bulk bag of sweet potatoes and russet potatoes on hand. Chickpea pasta may be new to you, but I love it because it has similar taste and texture to wheat pasta but also has fiber and protein. I love foods that multitask with multiple nutrients for a more nourishing impact.

What should I have stocked in my kitchen right now?
Stock up. Don’t hoard, thank you very much. I like a pantry that goes three-to-four cans deep for my family of four. The idea is to have what you need on hand for as long as possible to limit trips to the store and time in the store. If you are currently “one deep” for items on your shelf, build it up over time. You don’t need to go to the store right now and buy it all at once. Think canned tuna, chicken, salmon, and anchovies.  

Keep frozen vegetables and fruits on hand for morning smoothie time. At my house, smoothies include spinach, mango, berries, a scoop of collagen, and a scoop of maca root. Finding a stocked frozen foods aisle may be hit and miss right now, so get what you can, when you can. You can also freeze fresh vegetables to use the next week.

Protein options to stock the pantry depend on whether or not you are vegetarian. Personally, I am “flexitarian,” eating plenty of protein variety from both plants and animals. Include a variety of beans (white, chickpea, kidney, pinto, black beans) and lentils. If you buy them dried, soak before cooking. You might have more time on your hands to do that nowadays. 

You can also stock protein in the freezer, purchased already frozen or fresh-to-frozen when you get it home. Baked tofu and tempeh, in fact, have a better texture after being frozen, thawed, drained, dried, and baked in the oven. Try Yottam Ottolenghi’s fan-fave tofu recipe, popular for even the non-tofu eater, on page 44 of Plenty. I actually have yet to make it with peppercorns and onions. Instead, I add whatever fresh veggie I have on hand and season with garlic. Of course, if you are a meat eater, buy in bulk and freeze.

Once you have the shelf-stable and freezer items sorted and stocked, you can make quick, efficient trips for fresh fruits and vegetables. You might also have a local delivery or pick-up option for these items, like a community veggie box or local food hub. Fresh produce is the best preventive medicine. In a bowl, you can add endless sides of roasted, steamed, and sauteed options. Dig out the cookbook, follow the instructions, and you will discover it is easier than you think. You have the time. Experiment, but don’t burn it and waste valuable nourishment! 

How should I approach grocery shopping during the Covid-19 crisis?
When I finally did have to brave the public and go to the grocery store, I had a panic attack in the parking lot.

It is hard to know what will be out. Stay flexible by knowing some alternatives ahead of time. I will also tell you that from now on, I am going with the Austrian recommendation that says anyone going into the grocery store must have a cover for nose and mouth. Here in the mountains, a simple buff does the job if there are no masks. 

Having a plan and a list saved me. I looked at my list and said to myself,  “What if I only have emotional wherewithal to get through part of the list? What is the most important?” 

Here are my must-haves:


  • Sweet potatoes, (Or if there are none, any potatoes.)
  • Rice
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Rice cakes


  • Oranges
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Berries


  • Greens for salads and sides


  • Eggs (And if there are none: bacon, tofu, pork, chicken–fresh is best but canned if all out)
  • No-eggs alternatives for baking: ground flaxseed, apple sauce, bananas
  • Milk or milk equivalent (Soy milk is the closest, nutritionally.)
  • Beans
  • Peanut butter (Or sunflower seed alternative for allergies

Freezer Items

  • Frozen fruits and veggies for smoothies

Fats for sauteing, baking, or roasting

  • Olive oil
  • Butter or coconut oil
  • Sunflower seed oil


This entry was posted in: Nutrition


Nutrition Strategist and Registered Dietitian with twenty years of experience creating nutrition strategies that influence and inspire people to accomplish big things.